Seniors celebrate with laughs and honors at Class Day; Hooding held for Grad School

Class Day index

Members of the class of 2011 gather on Princeton's Cannon Green to celebrate the accomplishments of their peers and share reflections on their Princeton experiences at the Class Day ceremony Monday, May 30. Above, new class president Jonathan Gary holds the symbolic, oversized "key to campus" presented by Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman to invite students to stay connected to the University after graduating.

Photo by Brian Wilson

Class Day Shields + SMT

Class Day speaker Brooke Shields (left), wearing the class jacket of her 1987 Princeton graduating class, and Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman talk on stage before the Class Day ceremony.

Photo by Brian Wilson

Members of the class of 2011 gathered on Princeton's Cannon Green to celebrate the accomplishments of their peers and share reflections on their Princeton experiences at the Class Day ceremony Monday, May 30.

The graduating seniors also hailed their Class Day speaker, actress and 1987 alumna Brooke Shields, by making her an honorary member of the class of 2011.

Class Day Shields

Brooke Shields, an actress, author and advocate, delivers the Class Day keynote address wearing the class jacket of her 1987 Princeton graduating class -- and orange-and-black sunglasses. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

Senior class president Alex Rosen joked about some of the lighthearted elements of campus culture, such as preppy pastel clothing and a fondness for adding a "bro element" to social interaction. He also emphasized the strong sense of fellowship and shared experiences of the graduating class, complete with "bromances."

"After graduation, we'll probably have to refrain from our habit of inserting the word 'bro' into other words," Rosen said. "I doubt our colleagues at McKinsey will find it humorous or cool if we introduce ourselves as a 'brosultant,' with friends who work at 'Broman Sachs,'" Rosen said of future jobs at the consultant and investment banking firms. "But our Princeton experience has been so much more. … Our time together has been defined by superior academics, stimulating extracurricular activities and the beginnings of lifelong friendships. We have shared Pre-rades and P-rades, late meal and Wa runs, intramural dodgeball and Ivy League championships, student performances and Lawnparties performances, freshman formal and senior class pub nights."

Class Day students crowd

Seniors applaud during one of the many humorous speeches given on Class Day. (Photo by Brian Wilson)

Rosen and student speakers chosen by the senior class gave entertaining advice for the years to come. Class Day, a tradition dating back to as early as 1856, provides an opportunity for Princeton seniors to wax philosophical while staging their own graduation exercises. 

Class Day Alex Rosen

Senior class president Alex Rosen receives a late, on-stage contribution from a classmate to the University's annual fundraising drive, which results in the class of 2011 breaking the record for senior class participation with more than 94 percent of seniors donating. (Photo by Brian Wilson)

Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman, who referred to herself as "Mamma Tilghman," offered the graduating class some insights to prepare them for their exit from the "orange bubble" of Princeton -- where so much is paid for or free -- and entry into the realities of the working world.

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"Summer will come and you will …," she said, pausing for effect, "just keep going to the office. No University-funded research on sustainable restaurants in Ibiza, or self-directed photography projects in Madagascar." She added, "I am confident that you, armed with this last-minute advice, will be able to thrive. … So go forth and puncture the bubble. Be in the nation's service and the service of all nations. ... Make us proud, class of 2011."

Class Day honorary member

Class Secretary Shaina Li (left) presents Tony Cifelli, supervisor building services foreman, with a certificate as he is named one of 11 honorary members of the class of 2011, five of whom were recognized at Class Day. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

Though filled with humor, the day was also poignant. Senior Daniel Maselli, one of the student speakers, said, "I thought the hardest part about Princeton would have been getting in. But the hardest part is getting out. I love it here. I will miss my classmates, and I don't want to be far from you."

Between speeches, seniors were presented with awards for community service, athletics and leadership. The class also named its honorary class members, including University staff, faculty members and Shields.

Shields noted that Class Day brought back the excitement and anxiety of her own Class Day, just as the letter inviting her to speak at the University was reminiscent of her acceptance letter from Princeton.

"I got it on April 1st," she said of the speaking invitation, "so I naturally thought it was an April Fool's joke. I put it aside. I re-read it. I felt the embossed letterhead. Maybe I should just double check. I had my mom call to confirm. It was real!"

Class Day Shields + students

Class Day speaker Brooke Shields (left), admires a framed certificate naming her as an honorary member of the class of 2011, while senior Kristen Davila and President Tilghman look on. As an honorary class member, Shields also received a new class jacket. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

Shields -- a film, television and Broadway actress, an author, and an advocate for women who suffer from postpartum depression -- wore her 1987 class jacket for Class Day. As an undergraduate at Princeton, Shields majored in Romance languages and literatures and graduated with honors; she also was a member of the Princeton Triangle Club, the nation's oldest touring collegiate musical comedy troupe, and one of the independent eating clubs, Cap and Gown.

Shields referred to many of the experiences shared by generations of Princetonians, such as writing the senior thesis and spending time in a carrel at Firestone Library, and fondly remembered hers as "the quiet, cluttered, slightly musty, home away from dorm." She also recalled social experiences at the eating clubs and in her residential college, Mathey College.

But Shields showed that not all of her college experiences were so normal, as she joked about "shared" experiences that were actually distinct to her years at Princeton: "Like when your entire academic record gets printed in Life magazine. Huh, right? No? Or when Japan's Royal Prince Hirohito wants to meet you and the dean comes and gets you out of a midterm and asks you to go to Prospect House and welcome the prince to campus. … Right? These were moments we all shared."

Class Day students

Members of the class of 2011 celebrate the bonds formed during their four years at Princeton by honoring each other's achievements and sharing some amusing stories. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

Shields combined those memories from her four years on campus with advice about how the class of 2011 might put their Princeton experience to use in their professional and personal lives.

"This university does not just teach you about subjects, it teaches you how to have independent thought, it teaches you how to take direction and give it, how to engage in heated debate," she said. "Without the four years of learning and growth that culminated in my degree, I would have never survived my industry. … I would never have been able to adapt or reinvent: from movies, to television, to stage, to author, to mom. I've been lucky, but only because I worked hard and I had the same strong foundation that each of you carries today."

Class Day students crowd

Students laugh and cheer during one of the many humorous speeches of the day. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)


Class Day class jackets

The graduating seniors stand for the singing of the alma mater, "Old Nassau," in their new class jackets, which echo the shape of the Princeton shield with the 2011 numerals. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)



Candidates for masters' and doctoral degrees received colorful hoods like this one, representing the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, which they proudly display during Commencement. Here, Aaron Jackson receives his hood from Chief Marshal Douglas Clark, professor of computer science. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

Hooding ceremony held Monday night

On Monday evening, advanced-degree candidates participated in the Hooding ceremony, held for the first time at Princeton Stadium. Hoods distinguish the wearer by both rank and academic discipline. Masters' hoods generally are shorter by a foot than doctors', and each hood is bordered by a velvet band in the color assigned to the discipline in which the degree is granted.

Tilghman congratulated the soon-to-be graduates on their academic and personal achievements, and asked them to look beyond their own situations.

"But let me suggest that your accomplishments are also larger than yourselves," she said. "Whether you are preparing for a career in academia, government, the private or nonprofit sector, the skills and insights you have gained at Princeton have the potential to change our world for the better."

The Hooding ceremony and Class Day will be available for later viewing on WebMedia.

Princeton's graduation activities culminate Tuesday, May 31, with Commencement ceremonies at 11 a.m. on the lawn in front of Nassau Hall.

Hooding Ching and Wu

Dora Ching (right) and XiaoJin Wu enjoy the Hooding ceremony held at Princeton Stadium. For Ching, the event is a culmination of her 21-year journey to complete a Ph.D. in art and archaeology. She began her degree in 1991, but separate accidents slowed her from completing her dissertation. Along the way, she developed a career in Chinese art and now is an associate director of the University's Tang Center for East Asian Art. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)


Hooding Redman and Rocker

The granting of advanced degrees at the Hooding ceremony May 30 becomes a family celebration as Chief Marshal and Professor of Computer Science Douglas Clark places a cap on the head of Ph.D. recipient Ingeborg Rocker's (left) daughter, Lea. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)