Large Crowd of Princetonians
Greet President Eisgruber '83 in NYC
By Howard Zien '71, Class Treasurer
Monday November 16, President Eisgruber was the featured and well-received
speaker at Chelsea Piers on the extreme Westside of Manhattan. Since our graduation in 1971, I have been a
New Yorker and have attended numerous events at the Pier. These include ice skating, youth soccer and
basketball and a host of other athletic activities. But I had never attended a ceremony, banquet,
reception or presentation there.
Eisgruber's event was all of these, and more.
This is not only my opinion. I
was merely one of over 1,300
Princetonians representing what appeared to be every class. With a group of this size, hopefully I can be
forgiven for not locating, let alone connecting with any of our classmates.
gathered in a very large reception area overlooking the Hudson River and the
Jersey Shore off in the distance. It was
6pm so the sun had long since retired for the evening. The view over the water consisted primarily
of the distant lights, their reflection in the gentle current of the Hudson
River and the occasional utility or
sightseeing boat floating by.
I have come to expect from prior events of this type, the variety of food and
drink prior to the speech were beyond my already heightened expectations. It seems with each event that the organizers surpass
their prior efforts. And it all seems so
7pm we migrated to the adjoining room for the presentation. In addition to the President himself, there
were 4 or 5 large screens with his presence featured larger than life. I have seen President Eisbruber make several
presentations over the years and I am continually impressed by his enthusiasm,
energy and dynamism. He seems to step
from behind the academic podium and reach out to each of the attendees.
presentation was organized in three parts.
included a recounting of successful efforts on the athletic field by Princeton
men and women alike. These also included
the designation of Princeton Professor Angus Deaton as the recipient of the
Nobel Prize in Economics.
attended a similar event in 2014. This
was President Eisgruber's first. At that
event last year every attendee was give a paperback book as they left the event
and headed home. The subject of the book
was The Honor Code. At that time, I had no idea why we were
issued the book. And I sheepishly
confess I have still not read it.
year, we were also issued a book, one entitled Whistling Vivaldi. But this
year, the President's speech put the book in perspective. It turns out that, three months ago in September of 2015, this
book was sent to all incoming Freshmen.
Their assignment was to read the book and come to campus prepared to
discuss it. President Eisgruber even
crashed a few of the discussions to teach and learn about the experience.
his presentation at Chelsea Piers President Eisgruber wryly noted that his
presentation was not a book review, but he knows that in every group of 1,300
Princetonians, there are always one or two who do not do the assignment.
turns out that this book was written by a black man who attended the University
of Chicago. When he walked about after
dark, others he encountered would perceive him as a potential threat to their
safety and well-being. They would often
cross the street, tense up, or otherwise convey a clear sense of
discomfort. By accident, or perhaps out
of fear himself, the young man began to whistle Vivaldi's Four Seasons...and he
was quite a good whistler.
whistling completely relaxed the strangers that he encountered. Most of them smiled, exchanged friendly and
knowing nods of recognition, even respect and admiration.
book goes on to explore the social and psychological dynamic that we all encounter
and face every day. It does so in
scientific terms. And the Princeton campus, as a microcosm of our larger
society, is no exception.
it to say that this year, I was given the book on my way out, I read the book
and found it to be as illuminating as advertised.
third part of President Eisgruber's presentation was devoted to the discussion
of the legacy of Woodrow Wilson. On
Campus, and also in the news media, his legacy is being challenged. His positive accomplishments have been well
known for decades. But recently his
social and political views are being questioned, challenged and even vilified.
discussion reminded me of our years in College back in the late sixties and
early seventies. Then as now, it was and
is impossible to prevent "real world" thoughts from seeping into the fabric of
campus life. In our day it was
Vietnam. Today, it is other issues.
is difficult to get an impartial perspective on these types of events. It was true back then. And it is certainly true today. I get my first hint of news every morning
with a quick glimpse of Google News.
Then I move on to more in-depth coverage. On many mornings I see a Google clip about
the Woodrow Wilson controversy. And I
wonder if all 330 million Americans are seeing this same clip or is this news
being filtered, sliced and diced by Google for my individualized ready consumption.
Q and A
that, there was a perfunctory question and answer session and the formal presentation ended. The attendees
retired to the reception hall for sweets and coffee.
thereafter, with my Whistling Vivaldi
book in hand, I headed home nourished in both mind and body. I was indeed proud to be part of the
retrospect, I had one lingering observation.
It is impossible to make good coffee for 1,300 people.