The Weekly Blog: 5/16/07

NOTE: This post was originally published at princetonalumniweekly.blogspot.com.

Sculptural setting

Graduate student David Hsu enjoys the late-afternoon sun May 12 as he sits below the Jacques Lipchitz sculpture, Song of the Vowels, between Firestone Library and the University Chapel.

Photo by Frank Wojciechowski

Caps, gowns, and Princeton alumni

Graduation at the University of Pennsylvania had a Princeton feel this year, with Princeton philosophy professor K. Anthony Appiah speaking at the baccalaureate ceremony May 13 and former secretary of state James A. Baker III ’52 delivering the commencement address May 14. Baker called on his experience in government service to talk about the qualities of good leaders. “History will judge you, the Class of 2007, based on your leadership,” he said, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “In fact, it will judge all of us based on our leadership.”

Penn was not alone in turning to a Princeton graduate to impart words of wisdom. More than a half-dozen alumni have addressed or are slated to address this year’s mortarboard-clad grads. May 13 ceremonies included speeches by author Eric Schlosser ’81 at Pitzer College in California, former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke *70 at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ’72 at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Alito also will address St. Mary’s (Ind.) College’s class of 2007 May 19. Tom Kean ’57, the former New Jersey governor and chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will be the commencement speaker at the State University of New York, New Paltz, May 20. Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp ’89 will address Mount Holyoke College graduates May 27, and ABC News anchor Charles Gibson ’65 will be speaking at Union College June 17.

New Jersey verses

In his first published collection of poems, Bridge and Tunnel (Turning Point, 2007), John Hennessy ’87 draws on childhood and adolescent experiences in his home state of New Jersey, capturing images of the industrial skyline in passages like the opening stanza of “The Polish Question,” which describes “Merck’s brick chimneys,/ Exxon’s clear blue flames,/ dirt causeways to the public works,/ the slackened jaws of loading cranes…” Hennessy brings “highly musical truth-telling, wonder, and humor to the unbeautiful industrial landscape,” according to poet Mary Jo Salter, the Emily Dickinson Senior Lecturer in the Humanities at Mount Holyoke College. For information about other books by alumni and faculty, visit New Books at PAW online.

Back in the race

After losing five seniors from last year’s undefeated varsity eight and starting this season with two losses, the Princeton women’s open crew found its rhythm in April and May, winning a four-team race at home April 21 and taking home a bronze medal at the Eastern Sprints May 13. The Tigers’ strong finish was rewarded May 15 when the NCAA Rowing Committee selected Princeton as one of the 12 teams that will compete in all three events at the NCAA Championships May 25-27 at Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Ivy League rivals Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale also will be racing, along with last year’s overall national champion, California. Princeton won the varsity eight national championship in 2006 and finished third in the overall standings.

Alumni in the news: The Time 100

Two Princeton graduate alumni were selected for Time magazine’s May 14 list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Gen. David Petraeus *87, America’s top commander in Iraq, was profiled by Sen. John McCain, who called him “bright, studious, morally committed, physically brave, [and] willing to carry a ‘heavy rucksack’ without complaint and with clear-eyed resolve.” Petraeus was profiled in PAW in January 2004, when he was working to preserve peace in Mosul, a city on the Tigris River in northern Iraq.

Princeton geosciences professor Tullis Onstott *81 also earned 100-most-influential status for his innovative work discovering rare organisms in extremely harsh climates like polar ice or miles beneath the earth’s surface. Such finds could aid astrobiologists searching for life on Mars. PAW took a closer look at Onstott’s research in October 2004.