They filled tents, lawns, gardens, classrooms and the venerable stone arches and courtyards throughout the campus. They hugged, cheered and introduced new family members. They listened intently at panel discussions with faculty and alumni. And most of all, they celebrated Princeton traditions such as donning their class jackets — or anything in orange and black.
Nearly 25,000 Princeton University alumni and friends are on campus for Reunions 2015. The event began Thursday, May 28, and will end Sunday, May 31.
Amir Parsa, a member of the Class of 1990 and a native of Tehran, Iran, said he was looking forward to wearing his class jacket — along with his requisite orange socks and a black T-shirt — and reconnecting with friends at his 25th reunion. He returned to campus last year for the first time since graduation.
"The 'return' to my 24th reunion ended up being very revelatory and comforting," said Parsa, the director of academic transdisciplinary initiatives at the Pratt Institute in New York City. "There was an initial and strange sense of anxiety and dread, but it all dissipated once I was on campus. It felt like no matter how long you're away or how far, you're always connected."
Parsa only had to travel from New York to get to Reunions. Charles Slack, a 1950 alumnus and 1954 graduate alumnus, and his wife, Sue, flew halfway around the world from Perth, Australia, for his 65th reunion. The last time they visited campus was 10 years ago, for Slack's 55th.
A retired psychologist and pastor who is chairman of B-Attitudes, a drug rehabilitation program, Slack said he was looking forward to "showing I can still fit in my Class of '50 uniform — with the same belt size."
Thursday's events ranged from the annual Princeton University Band barbeque and Princeton Shakespeare Company's performance of the abridged "Complete Works of Shakespeare" in East Pyne Courtyard to a social media tutorial, a meditation session with the Princeton Buddhist Student Group, and the Gary Walters '67 Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet. Attendance at the curator-led tours at the Princeton University Art Museum doubled from last year, to 300 from 150.
At a reception hosted by Career Services to thank the alumni who work with them through the year, Suzanne Israel Tufts, a 1977 alumna, and Nina Lytton, a member of the Class of 1978, admired the newest gallery space on campus — in Career Services' revamped headquarters at 36 University Place. The gallery will feature rotating collections of student art throughout the year.
"We were neighbors across the arch in Little Hall," said Lytton, referring to Tufts.
"First we were archway friends, now we're Facebook friends. We had cool discussions then and we're still having cool discussions."
Lytton and Tufts attended a "Career and Life Vision" workshop earlier in the day, in which alumni and undergraduates exchanged feedback on their aspirations. "Princeton adds light to your life and gives you a chance to shine that light back," said Lytton, whose nephew is a member of the incoming Class of 2019.
On Friday morning in Dillon Gym, alumni and their families reflected the University's commitment to service by packaging meals for the Kids Against Hunger Coalition, an international organization whose mission is to reduce the number of hungry children in the United States and around the world. The Class of 1990 organized the community project.
Julie Camp, a 1990 alumna, said she came because "this is a great opportunity to give back and help others, and I wanted to bring my children as well."
Rory Truex, a 2007 alumnus and assistant professor of politics and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, served as the moderator at the alumni-faculty forum "What China Stands For in the New World Order." He asked the panelists to comment on the contradictions China faces — such as "human rights issues, its foreign policy in the South and East China Seas that borders on the absurd, and socialist rhetoric" — as its presence on the global economic stage grows.
Panelist William Fung, a 1970 alumnus, group chairman of Li & Fung Limited and chairman of Global Brands Group Holding Limited, said China is expanding the traditional Silk Road to further its "economic growth, direct investments and political influence" in two directions.
"There is the Silk Road economic belt in one direction, extending from central China through Pakistan and Turkey into Europe … and the maritime Silk Road extending through Southeast Asia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and India to the east coast of Africa," Fung said. "All emphasis in terms of China's new economic relations is based on that."
Walking into McCosh Hall, Room 10, for the alumni-faculty forum "The Crisis in Public Education," Artilie Wright, a 2006 alumna, said she looks forward to Reunions every year — and has brought her sister with her to three Reunions. "I'm excited to connect with classmates, be back on campus and engage in intellectual conversations," she said.
Michael Royster, a 1964 alumnus and the founder of the Princeton alumni club in Brazil, flew from Rio de Janeiro to accept the S. Barksdale Penick Jr. '25 Award at the alumni awards reception. He said the award, which recognizes the recruiting activities of the regional Alumni Schools Committee (ASC), shows Princeton's appreciation of the importance of recruiting Brazilian students.
"The more [students] we admit, the more we'll get our name in front of potential students," Royster said. Joining him were Brasília resident Craig Leon, a 1985 alumnus and filmmaker whose award-winning film "Modern Nature" was screened at a morning panel, and Monica Ramirez de Arellano, a 2010 alumna and recent graduate of New York University School of Law. She met Royster while doing senior thesis research in Brazil and now conducts ASC interviews by video for prospective students in Brazil.
With rain in the forecast, Royster said he was looking forward to wielding his glow-in-the-dark Class of 1964 umbrella, along with all his official class gear — hat, jacket, tie and belt — and to getting the long-distance award from his class.
The fun and festivities will continue through the weekend. Highlights will include:
• A conversation with President Christopher L. Eisgruber at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday in Richardson Auditorium;
• The P-rade beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday;
• Alumni-faculty forums and department open houses Friday and Saturday;
• Evening performances by student groups Friday and Saturday; and
• The University Orchestra's lawn concert at 8 p.m. Saturday on Finney and Campbell fields, followed by fireworks at 9:15 p.m.
Alumni and University representatives are required to have wristbands for entry to Reunions headquarters sites for evening entertainment as well as for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Wristbands are not required for alumni attending lectures or performances, watching the P-rade, or attending the concert and fireworks.
Alumni should visit the Reunions 2015 website for information about changes to registration and wristband pick-up locations for this year. The wristbands are not transferable, and applicants and guests must be 21 or older and have proof of ID.
Reunions attendees can access event schedules and other key content via the Reunions 2015 website and the Reunions Mobile website for mobile devices, as well as call 609-258-1900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alumni and their family and friends are encouraged to engage in Princeton Reunions social media by using the hashtag #PrincetonReunions and visiting the #PrincetonReunions tagboard to see real-time posts, as well as Princeton Reunions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.