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.
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."
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.
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.
"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."
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!"
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."
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."
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.