Alumni Day 2016: Something for Everyone
By Howard Zien, Class Treasurer
February 20, 2016
At Princeton, there are really 3 major on-campus alumni events during the course the year: Homecoming in the fall, Alumni Day in February and, of course, the annual Reunion in late May. And the Reunion comes in two flavors: the off year reunion and the major reunion which we celebrate this year and every fifth year anniversary of our graduation.
Each of these events has a different vibe. Certainly, of the three, Alumni Day has the lowest participation level by most classes. I have been to the last 4 or 5 Alumni Days and find the relatively low turnout surprising. I am willing to give those of us who live more than a few hours away a pass on attending Alumni Day annually. But for those of us who are proximate to Princeton, you should really make plans to attend next year. And here is why.
Of course there were the Madison and Wilson awards given to an economist and to a 4-star general, respectively. Each of the recipients delivered addresses that exhibited their motivation, unique perspective, and sharp intellect. And they left me and the other attendees with new ideas and approaches on some of the thorniest problems of our time.
Alumni Day has more of an academic perspective than the other on-campus alumni events. There are enlightening sessions to attend that remind us of the pursuit of knowledge we experienced 45 years ago. There are sessions in physics, economics, healthcare and psychology to name a few. And even better, there are no papers or exams. It is truly thought for thought's sake.
As I walked around campus from one location to another, I was greeted more than half a dozen times with an enthusiastic and totally authentic "welcome back" by staff, students, and others. Corny? Maybe. But very heartwarming none-the-less.
The last non-athletic event of Alumni Day is the Service of Remembrance, a memorial service for classmates and fellow alumni and students who have passed in the prior calendar year. This service is touching, moving, beautiful, and multi-denominational. The high point of the service is when the representatives of each Class march in procession to the alter and place a carnation in the Memorial Wreath honoring their classmates and other Princetonians who have passed. When the wreath is filled, President Chris Eisgruber dedicated the wreath followed by the whole assemblage singing Old Nassau. The whole Service reminds us at one time how fragile and beautiful life is. The phrase "It seems like only yesterday..." runs through our minds again and again. And to experience this in the context of the Princeton Chapel and the Princeton Campus is poignant indeed.*
School is in full swing. One sees students studying, conversing, and laughing. It is easy to see ourselves some years ago doing these same things. How much time has transpired between today and when we were students? Was it 45 years... or 45 minutes?
There were many athletic matches, for both men and women students. And this year I attended quite a few. Women's squash, men's Lacrosse, women's Hockey and men's basketball to name a few. I was impressed at the degree of performance excellence. But I was even more impressed at what seemed to be a sense of sport for sport's sake. In all of the above events, the two teams, Princeton and the "guests" shook hands with one another with genuine respect and admiration both before and after the match. It felt like amateur athletics at its best, far away from the multi-billion television contracts and athletes whose closest connection to their sponsoring Universities is the laundry on their back.
There was a closing reception at Chancellor Green. In this setting, it is easy to engage alums from other years. I had the opportunity to chat with those from 2014 and 1987. We exchanged tales of our undergraduate days and I learned what the "Vietnam"of their years was. Trust me, our Vietnam was worse.
When the day drew to a close, I remembered that last year, Alumni Day 2015, there was a substantial snow storm and accumulation by the end of the day that made the ride home quite challenging indeed. But this year, the weather was dry and in the fifties. It was as sublime as the events of the day.
You should try to attend next year.
Clockwise Jack and Ronnie Hittson, Maria and Rich DiFedele, Ginger Davis, Jamie Pitney, Doug Pike,
Ray Ollwerther, Howard Zien, Alan Usas, and Podie Lynch. Also present Scott Berg.
Click here for more photos of the 2016 Alumni Day.
* Jack Hittson represented our Class at the service and contributed these thoughts.