Pierce to be valedictorian, Dru to be salutatorian

May 28, 2002 1:12 p.m.

Lillian Pierce, an accomplished violinist who has won many of Princeton University's top honors and will study mathematics as a Rhodes Scholar next fall, has been named valedictorian for Princeton's 2002 Commencement June 4. The salutatorian will be Josephine Dru, a classics scholar who loves the study of languages and will give her address in Latin, following Princeton tradition.

Lillian Pierce , from Fallbrook, Calif., has excelled in her two passions: mathematics and music. As a mathematician, she researched problems relating to the Riemann hypothesis, one of the great unsolved problems of mathematics. As a musician, she has served as co-concertmaster of the Princeton University Orchestra, founder and first violinist of the Nassau String Quartet and soloist with professional orchestras. Her thesis adviser, Elias Stein, the Albert Baldwin Dod Professor of Mathematics, called her "truly a modern embodiment of the 'Renaissance man' ideal."

"It is simply impossible to imagine a person better qualified to represent the class of 2002 and the University as this year's valedictorian," said Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel.

For her thesis, she focused on the pair correlation of the zeroes of the Riemann zeta function, an area on the frontier of research on the interrelations between analysis and number theory. The work whetted her appetite for research, and she will use her Rhodes Scholarship to conduct research in pure mathematics at Oxford University. After her two years at Oxford, Pierce plans to return to the United States to pursue a doctorate in mathematics and to become a university faculty member.

The daughter of Michael and Elizabeth Pierce, Pierce is not the first in her family to be Princeton's valedictorian. Her brother, Niles, an assistant professor of applied and computational mathematics at the California Institute of Technology and a former Rhodes Scholar, gave the valedictory address nine years ago. Officials believe it is the first time in University history that a second member of one family has been chosen for the Commencement honor.

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Josephine Dru , from Lansdale, Pa., got her start as a classics scholar when her eighth-grade history teacher introduced his subject during the first class of the year. "He talked about how knowledge of the past is really valuable to knowledge of the present," Dru recalled.

That observation -- and four years of studying Latin in high school -- has shaped Dru's interest in the classics department since she arrived at Princeton four years ago. In her senior year of high school, Dru won the National Latin Exam Scholarship, which required her to continue with classical languages at Princeton. She began by taking Greek, which she loved, and studied the language for two and a half years. She added Chinese in her second year, returned to Latin in her third, and began German in her fourth. And this summer she will begin a three-semester intensive program in biblical Hebrew at the Westminster Theological Seminary. Next year, she plans to study the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew on her own.

Dru, the daughter of James and Jocelyn Dru, is considering attending graduate school, but did not apply this year because "I didn't know which direction to go in. But I've realized that whatever I do will have to do with biblical texts and biblical languages," she said.

She was awarded the President's Award for Academic Achievement in 1999 and 2000, and for the last four years was chosen as a Bakke Scholar by the Mustard Seed Foundation, which provides scholarships to Christians pursuing advanced education.

Her thesis examined the metaphor of clothing in two sets of New Testament readings, the epistles of Paul and the Apocalypse of John. Fritz Graf, the Andrew Fleming West Professor of Classics, served as Dru's thesis adviser. He was impressed by her perceptive selection of a topic, her keen insights and her hard work. "She has a terribly patient eye for details, and she took something that nobody had seen and made observations that turned out to be highly relevant and interesting," he said.

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Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601