Alumni Day 2014: Slick, Inspiring, Memorable

By Howard Zien, Class Treasurer

Photo credit: Howard Zien. Click here for more photos.


At some point during Alumni Day Saturday it was mentioned that this was the 100th Alumni Day. After 100 years, the event has become very slick indeed. And I mean this in the most positive and complimentary way. Wonderful speeches, stimulating presentations, great food, a plethora of campus events, with everything occurring exactly on time.


But this year the term "slick" took on new meaning. After the lingering snowfalls and snow drifts of the past several weeks, the temperature finally ascended above freezing on the Thursday and Friday prior to Alumni Day. But the thaw was deceptive.


Overnight, the resulting melting water formed a glaze of paper-thin ice over the walkways. As I walked to the campus from my car, I must confess that I was lured by the early morning sun into thinking that winter was a distant memory. I mistook the glaze covering the sidewalk for a dusting of snow. In so doing, I came precipitously close to making an unanticipated 3-point landing on my rear end.


And our class President PODIE LYNCH independently echoed my experience. I wonder how many of the 1,000 or so attendees experienced a similar fate.


Happily as the day progressed, the temperature approached the mid 50's and warmed the attendees, the sidewalks, and the spirit of the day.


The representation of our class was a mere shadow of our representation last year when our own MITCH DANIELS received the Woodrow Wilson Award. We had ten attendees, one table's worth including guests: LEPORE, PIKE, CHARAPKO, OBERMANN, LYNCH, ARMIGER, ZIEN, and OLLWERTHER. But the conversation was lively. And the intimacy of the group enabled us to acquaint and reacquaint ourselves more easily.


The two featured award winners and speakers gave enlightening and engrossing talks.


First, Hunter Rawlings III *70 spoke about the triumphs and challenges of higher education in America. Among his major points was that in today's day and age, we try to measure quality in quantitative terms. He questioned the wisdom of this and in so doing quoted Albert Einstein as having famously said, "Everything that is countable does not count --- And everything that counts is not countable."


Following Hunter, Sonia Sotomayer '76 spoke about her personal commitment and the Princeton slogan "In the Nation's Service." She said that she thinks about two things every night before she goes to bed. No, brushing her teeth is not one of them. She thinks about:

      1. Who has she helped today. And

      2. What has she learned today.

Simple but admirable thoughts for an accomplished fellow Princetonian and a member of the nation's highest court.


Finally, I attended the memorial service for deceased Princetonians including, of course, our Classmates. I sheepishly confess that I have never attended this memorial service in the past. In fact, in my 4 years as a student and 43 years as an alumnus, the only event I have ever attended at the Chapel was in 1970 when we gathered there to voice our outrage at the Vietnam War.


I found the service to be both beautiful and inspirational. Still ringing in my ears is the mournful and haunting organ music punctuated by the occasional trumpets in an unmistakable expression of triumph. Both sounds were in keeping with the spirit and spiritual nature of the event. The organs eulogized those who have past, and the trumpets celebrated their achievements. Incidentally, there were also bagpipes, in the Princeton Scottish tradition.


The most startling thing for me occurred during the beginning and ending processionals. Along with the compelling music, the somber marching of members of each class, the University President and others, there were four wind kites, each the size of a small automobile. The kites were held aloft on long flexible fiberglass poles and deftly manipulated by 4 students. These kites soared and swooped above those attending the service and beneath the vaulted Chapel ceiling. They appeared as giant tropical fish and created the sensation that the Chapel was an enormous aquarium filled with water. How else could the fish float about so gracefully and graciously?


In watching the kites glide, climb toward the top of the Chapel arches, and then dive towards the assemblage, they could easily be mistaken for the very spirits of those students past. The movement of the kites under control of their deft handlers was both majestic and furtive, joyful and mournful.


If you have never seen this service or the kites, I urge you to view a clip of the memorial service from 2012. (The one for this year is not yet posted).

Upcoming Events

San Diego Mini-reunion

February 17, 2019


Alumni Day

February 23, 2019


Class of 1971's 48th Reunion

May 30 - June 2, 2019


Future Class Reunions

49th Reunion, May 28-31, 2020
50th Reunion, May 20-23, 2021
51st Reunion, May 19-22, 2022


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