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
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
2. What has she learned
Simple but admirable
thoughts for an accomplished fellow Princetonian and a member of the nation's
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
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
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).