Class of '71 Warmly Welcomes '21 to Campus and Launches Mentoring Program

By Howard Zien '71

After its Opening Exercises at the University Chapel, the Class of 2021 marched together for the first time in history through East Pyne, past Joseph Henry House and in through FitzRandolph Gate in front of Nassau Hall, en route to the steps below Blair Arch. Led by the University President and many faculty members, and heralded by the University Band, assorted drummers and the banners of each of the residential colleges, this was a fitting place to introduce the Class of 1971 as the "Mentor Class" to the matriculating students. These same students will next march out through FitzRandolph Gates as a Class following their Commencement in June 2021, just a few days after we finish celebrating the Class of 1971's 50th Reunion.

The image of the 71-21 mentoring relationship is embodied on a new class banner and logo (shown above), websites and, of course, the custom designed gifts our Classmates presented to each member of the Class of '21 that were produced and distributed as an expression of welcome. The water bottles with the new logo -- both useful and designed to carry a key component of life -- form an enduring brand for our Class relationship and set an exceptionally high bar for future mentor classes to meet.

The banner in particular has the numbers 225 and 275 as subtitles. They represent the intervening years between graduation of 1971 and that of 2021 since the Princeton's founding in 1746.

As with virtually all Class of 71 events, there is the glamorous side and the back office side. The outlines of the celebration were authorized by the Executive Committee last Spring under the supervision of Vice President Gary Walsh, then the insulated metal bottles were designed and ordered over the summer by Jack Hittson and Stu Rickerson. Amy Hepler did a phenomenal job of designing the 71-21 "brand" and logo. Then the bottles were manufactured and shipped to John Winant's home (and vineyard) in Princeton. There were 28 boxes, approximately 50 pounds and 50 bottles each . The boxes were 30 inches by 28 inches wide and a water bottle in height. Several of us convoyed to John's house to pick up the boxes. We then returned to the University to convey the bottles from the old U-Store parking lot on University Place to the area beneath Blair Steps where the bottles would be distributed.

One need not go back 225 years to find where the Pre-Rade tradition began. It began only 7 years ago. As each year passes, the tradition of the Pre-Rade becomes a more indelible part of Princeton. This is now the third time our Class has passed through the FitzRandolph Gate, and we thought it would be the final time when we led our 25th Reunion P-Rade in 1996. Now, carrying our traditional P-Rade Class Banner and auxiliary banners, some of us marched through the Gates once more.

Opening Exercises begins in the Chapel with the welcoming address from President Eisgruber. At the conclusion of the service, the students march in unison to Nassau Street, walk along the sidewalk to and through FitzRandolph Gate. They are joined by the school administration and faculty accompanied by music from the Princeton Marching Band. Just before entrance to the Campus, the students are joined by the mentoring classes of 1971, 1996 and 2016. It is here that our Class involvement in the Pre-Rade officially began. The 11 attending Classmates and their guests proudly marched with our Class banner, 71-21 banner and our reunion banners to the unexpected cheers of more than a thousand onlookers. In attendance to welcome the Class of 2021 were Chris and Dixie Beuhler, Paul Fitzgerald, Jack and Ronnie Hittson, Podie Lynch, Ray Ollwerther, Stu Rickerson (who has added P21 to his Princeton affiliations in recognition of daughter Lucy, an incoming freshman), John Winant, Howard and Marj Zien.

Immediately behind us were the students. All of us made our way in the direction of Blair Arch and Steps, the destination of the P-Rade. On the way, the University had prepared a bar-b-que lunch for the students (and those of us who wanted to partake).

One striking observation for me was how impactful the residential colleges have become at Princeton. Each residential college had distributed to their respective students a colorful T-shirt signifying their allegiance. The shirts were vivid in color and design: bright red (Forbes), powder blue (Butler), blue (Whitman), maroon (Mathey), green (Rockefeller). It created the impression of belonging to an entity within the University. Swarms of students wearing their vivid colored shirts looked like schools of tropical fish moving about in groups. Can you imagine if we were issued T-shirts signifying Dodd or Brown or Witherspoon?

Gradually, the students descended Blair Steps where they were give black T-shirts with an ingenious orange design signifying their involvement in the greater whole, Princeton. With their, by now, uniform look, the students took on the air of a new and better class of Princetonians.

At this point the students, all 1,350 of them, found a location on Blair Steps. Truthfully, there was not enough room for all of them on the steps. I think the University will have to build yet another structure with more "step" capacity to handle the growing classes.

For about 20 minutes, there was singing and cheering, all spirited and surprisingly well-organized and structured. Then, Tom Meeker, a member of the Class of '56 taught all in attendance the Princeton "Locomotive" cheer. Curiously, even 46 years later I personally cannot not seem to get my sis's, rah's, ah's, and tiger's down right. The Class of '21 got it right their first time out after Tom had given a few amusing hints on how to remember the order.

Next, our Class President Podie Lynch officially welcomed the Class of '21, explained briefly what we hope the Mentor Class relationship would mean for them, and invited them to receive their gift of a water bottle. Moments later, the students swarmed from the steps to enthusiastically and yet remarkably politely and orderly receive their gift. Fortunately, we had members of both the Women's and Men's Rugby Team volunteers to help us distribute the bottles and handle the crowds.

And the water bottles were great. Twist off cap so they won't come open accidentally. Insulated so hot and cold drinks maintain their entropy. Large opening so ice cubes can be inserted as desired. And adorned with the beautiful 71-21 double Tiger image.

Also, the reason we know that bottles were great is that some students came by later because they had missed the original distribution. I'm thinking they skipped the step sing thinking it was (ahem) not a college level or Ivy League caliber activity. But when their first year friends returned to the dorm and showed them the cool bottles, they ran down to our distribution point to get theirs.

As the crowd of students moved on, most of the bottles were distributed. We had some 200 or so left over and, with student's help, conveyed them to storage.

Your Class attendees then retreated to Peacock Inn for rest, suitable refreshments, dinner and shared memories. Many of the rugby players decided to join us and told stories on what it is like at Princeton today, which we compared with our own, different and yet surprisingly similar experiences that started just 50 years earlier in September 1967.

Reunions and the P-Rade happen every year. But this is Pre-Rade. It is the Class of 71's first and last that features and honors our Class alongside the new freshman. I know everyone of us was grateful to have attended.

See the rest of the photos from the Pre-Rade in the Photo Gallery.

[Note: Further information about the 71-21 mentoring program will be forthcoming. If you would like to join in to help plan ways the Class can connect with and support '21, please contact Class Vice President Gary Walsh (]

Upcoming Events

Click on date for more info

Conversation With President Eisgruber

December 5, 2023
Hong Kong, China

Conversation With President Eisgruber

January 10, 2024
Los Angeles, CA

San Diego Mini-Reunion

February 3-4, 2024

Alumni Day

February 24, 2024

Conversation With President Eisgruber

February 12, 2024
West Palm Beach, FL

Conversation With President Eisgruber

February 14, 2024
Naples, FL


53rd Reunion

May 23-26, 2024

Future Class Reunions

54th Reunion, May 22-25, 2025

55th Reunion, May 21-24, 2026

Join this site!

There are several features of this site only available to those who login. If you are a member of the Princeton Class of 1971 and don't have a login for the Class website, it's easy to sign up! Just click here for instructions.

Who is Near Me?

Search for classmates by distance from your town or any place else.

Home | Contact | Privacy & Use | Feedback
© 2015-2023 Princeton University Class of 1971. All rights reserved. Design by