Graduates rejoice at 260th Commencement

June 5, 2007 2:12 p.m.
President Tilghman

Top left: A student put her own twist on the traditional graduation garb.
At left: Friends gather to capture the moment.

Graduate degree recipients
Salutatorian Maya Maskarinec
Valedictorian Glen Weyl
Hugs and cheers at the campus gate
Elyse Umeda's mother Verna greeted her with a lei
Nicole Scott with her cousin

1,843 undergraduate and graduate students awarded degrees

Senior in 2007 sunglasses

Princeton University awarded degrees to 1,127 undergraduates and 716 graduate students at its 260th Commencement Tuesday, June 5.

President Shirley M. Tilghman, the 19th president of Princeton, presided over the exercises and addressed graduates. Approximately 7,000 guests attended the morning ceremony on the front lawn of historic Nassau Hall.

Posing for a picture

During her address, Tilghman expressed concern about recent proposals by the U.S. Department of Education that "for the first time in American history" could impose standardized testing on colleges and universities. She said that the best way to measure the value of a college education is not by any standardized test, but by the ways graduates put their degrees to work once they leave the University.

Tilghman shared the podium with two Princeton seniors: valedictorian Glen Weyl, an economics major from Los Altos Hills, Calif.; and salutatorian Maya Maskarinec, a classics major from Honolulu.

Looking back on his time at the University, Weyl said, "The purpose of the passion for intellectual inquiry that Princeton gave us is the use of ideas to improve the world we share. In each area of study at this university and in every profession you will enter, there are questions so important that it is, or should be, hard to think about anything else. By making present and immediate in our lives these most important challenges, Princeton has compelled us toward the nation's service and the service of all nations."

Seniors seated at Commencement

Maskarinec delivered the salutatory address in Latin, a Princeton tradition dating to an era when the entire ceremony was conducted in Latin. The Latin Salutatory, Princeton's oldest student honor, began as a serious, formal address, but today it often contains humorous tributes, recollections and a farewell to Princeton campus life.

"As we prepare to scale the walls that surround us and escape into the many worlds that await us, or for the more practically minded, walk through the open FitzRandolph Gate, it is appropriate that we should cast our gaze back to that most hallowed of institutions in which we have squandered our days and years; I refer, of course, not to Princeton University, but to the library of Firestone," she quipped.

Honorary degree recipients

The University also conferred honorary doctoral degrees upon seven individuals for their contributions to humanitarian efforts and athletic achievements, aerospace and public service, science, literature, medicine, history and the arts: Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer and humanitarian; Norman Augustine, the former chief executive officer and chairman of the aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp.; Elizabeth Blackburn, a pioneering molecular biologist; Robert Fagles, a celebrated literary translator and Princeton's Arthur Marks '19 Professor of Comparative Literature Emeritus; LaSalle Leffall Jr., a leading cancer surgeon and researcher; Fritz Stern, a renowned historian of modern Germany; and Twyla Tharp, an award-winning choreographer and director.

President's Awards for Distinguished Teaching

As it does each year, Princeton honored excellence in teaching at the Commencement ceremony. Four Princeton faculty members received President's Awards for Distinguished Teaching. Four outstanding secondary school teachers from across New Jersey also were recognized for their work.

New Jersey secondary school teachers

Other honors for the new graduates were presented over the last few days of the academic year. Five graduate students were honored for excellence in teaching during the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni's Tribute to Teaching Dinner June 1. Seniors were recognized at Class Day ceremonies June 4, where the keynote speaker was Emmy Award-winning actor Bradley Whitford. He discussed how politics has been tainted by show business, and he encouraged the members of the class of 2007 to get involved in world affairs because "we need you."

At the Baccalaureate service on June 3, John Fleming, the Louis W. Fairchild '24 Professor of English and Comparative Literature Emeritus, urged the "Class of Destiny" -- as he dubbed them -- to recognize the privilege of a Princeton education and to use it to improve the world.

Celebrating seniors

Class of 2007 by the numbers:
594 men, 526 women
955 bachelor of arts
165 bachelor of science in engineering
1,120 total class of 2007 undergraduate degrees awarded
7 degrees were awarded to graduates from earlier classes

Class of 2007 honors
499 received honors (44.6 percent of the class)
97 highest
156 high
246 honors

Graduate degrees
332 doctor of philosophy
231 master of arts
60 master in public affairs
21 master in architecture
18 master in public policy
17 master in finance
14 master in public affairs and urban and regional planning
10 master of science in engineering
7 master of engineering
4 master of fine arts
2 master in Near Eastern studies

Seniors toss their hats