I’ve heard it dozens of times in the past few days since
my son Daniel received his “big envelope” from the Princeton
University admission office. He has been admitted by early decision
to the Class of 2010.
It was a spring day in 1973 when I received my acceptance letter
to Princeton’s Class of 1977. It was the affirmative answer
to a prayer I could only whisper. It was the promise of a life beyond
the Bronx. There should have been great joy and hearty celebration
at home. I had forgotten until this week that my admission to Princeton
was joyous only to me. It was upsetting and shameful to my parents.
I would be the first woman in my family to attend college.
The necessity of my continued education eluded my mother and father.
My leaving their home before marriage was an utter disgrace to them.
Princeton was unknown to my parents. They saw no honor in
my admission to such a prestigious institution, and they were confident
that I should be investing myself in other things. It wouldn’t
have mattered where I wanted to go away to school. They were adamant
that a young girl’s place is in her parents’ home, until
she is in her husband’s home. European immigrants and
concentration camp survivors, my parents couldn’t understand
why at 18 years old, I didn’t direct my efforts towards finding
As a very young child, I understood that my parents were different.
The memories of Auschwitz for my mother and Bergen-Belsen for my
father would haunt them all their lives, and often render me feeling
more than one generation removed from them. The explanation of how
I would benefit from a Princeton education fell on their deaf ears
and paled in comparison to their fear of the horrors that could
befall me if, as an unmarried daughter, I lived other than under
their roof. They wanted nothing to do with my college application
and refused to sign the required financial documentation. For many
years, filing my application to Princeton as an emancipated minor
made me feel strong and independent.
Thirty-two years later, I feel sad that my parents couldn’t
accept the pleasure and pride of having a daughter at Princeton.
Through loans, grants, and working multiple jobs on campus and during
summers, I paid my own way through school. The cost of a Princeton
education today is more than 10 times what it was in 1973. I have
long dreamed that someday I might be the proud parent of a Princetonian.
It will be a (very expensive) pleasure to pay my son’s University
All freshmen begin their undergraduate experience hoping that
they will fit in, make friends, and succeed academically. I remember
that the support and encouragement from family was often the thing
that carried my classmates over their early adjustment hurdles.
I was fortunate to find a sympathetic roommate (the granddaughter
of an Orthodox rabbi), a caring Schools Committee alumnus (who has
remained a lifelong mentor), and happiness singing and dancing with
the Triangle Club.
Perhaps more than many of my classmates, I could well have used
the support and encouragement of my family. I knew that as a New
York City public school graduate, I was insufficiently prepared
for the academic rigors of Princeton. I knew that socially I was
far less skilled in cocktail party etiquette than my prep school
classmates. What I didn’t know was how to respond to well-intended,
enthusiastic exclamations like, “Your parents must be so proud
Am I proud of my son Daniel and his admission to Princeton’s
Class of 2010? I am so proud I could burst!