Category Archives: Alumni News

New History Covers Swimming and Diving’s 110 Years

Future Olympian Jed Graef ’64, center, dives into the water on the Feb. 8, 1963, cover of PAW. (PAW Archives)

Future Olympian Jed Graef ’64, center, dives into the water on the Feb. 8, 1963, cover of PAW. (PAW Archives)

About 300 alumni of the Princeton swimming and diving teams returned to campus last weekend to commemorate the program’s 110th anniversary. The celebration included receptions, a dinner, and a preseason scrimmage meet. It also served as the impetus for a new and expansive history of the program, written by Sanford Thatcher ’65, longtime secretary for the Friends of Princeton Swimming and Diving and a former director of the Penn State University Press.

Thatcher, who still swims at about a dozen masters meets each year near his home in Frisco, Texas, began researching Princeton swimming history in the 1970s, for a column in the Friends’ newsletter. He drew on those notes, as well as contributions from recent alumni, to create a 99-page history. It covers the great seasons, legendary coaches, and top-ranked swimmers, but it also touches on less traditional topics — marriages between swimming alumni, the achievements of former Tigers after college, and other historical tidbits, such as diver Alan Routh ’59’s role on the first Navy SEAL team. “That is what makes this, I think, a document that is unique in sports histories [at Princeton],” Thatcher told PAW. Continue reading

Will *68: Campus Culture Needs ‘Small Groups With Good Arguments’

College campuses, with their homogeneous culture, “are in danger of becoming boring,” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will ’68 warned at a talk in McCosh Hall Sept. 29.

Will, speaking at an event sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, touted Princeton as an institution where the freedom of exchange of ideas is not an ideal but a reality.

Professor Robert George, director of the Madison Program, reflecting on his experiences teaching on other campuses, said he noticed that at Princeton “we don’t shut people down. Our students feel comfortable expressing their opinions on term papers, junior papers, senior thesis, even if they dissent from campus orthodoxies, in most cases even if they deviate from the point of view from the professors who will be grading the exams or papers.”

Both Will and George lauded Princeton for its intellectually heterogeneous culture, not allowing one point of view to dominate the intellectual discourse. George cited John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of seriously considering opposing points of view to enhance one’s understanding of the subject matter and one’s own position. Continue reading

Eisgruber Discusses Sexual-Assault Policies, Grading at Alumni Town-Hall Meeting in Philadelphia

By Art Carey ’72

More than 500 alumni and friends of Princeton attended a town-hall meeting with President Eisgruber ’83 Tuesday night at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. It was, organizers said, the largest gathering ever of Princeton alumni, family, and guests in the City of Brotherly Love.

There was, of course, the usual profusion of orange and black as well as distinguished-looking “locks of gray.” But the gathering, hosted by the Princeton Club of Philadelphia, also included many young representatives of the “new Princeton,” whose presence symbolized the University’s commitment to diversity.

Eisgruber, in his second year as president, fielded questions from classmate Mark Bernstein ’83, senior writer of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, about a variety of hot-button topics — grades, sexual misconduct policies, admissions, socioeconomic diversity, the possibility of expanding the size of the freshman class to make “the gift” of a Princeton education available to more, and whether Ivy League students are “excellent sheep.” Continue reading

For the Princeton Band, a Friendly Face in the Cockpit

(Courtesy Carolyn Havens Niemann ’89)

(Courtesy Carolyn Havens Niemann ’89)

When the Princeton University Band flew home from the football team’s opener in San Diego yesterday, the men and women in plaid found a friendly face in the cockpit for their cross-country leg from Los Angeles to Newark: Michael Niemann ’90, a pilot for United Airlines and former member of the band. He’s pictured above next to drum major Mary Gilstad ’15.

The flight assignment was a happy coincidence for Niemann, who met his wife, Carolyn Havens Niemann ’89, when the two were in the band’s trash percussion section in 1986. Thanks to Carolyn for sharing the photo.

Princeton, 1996: Campus Headlines From the Year the Class of 2018 Was Born

This week, Beloit College’s annual Mindset List noted several interesting tidbits about members of the incoming Class of 2018: Since most were born in 1996, their lives never overlapped with those of Tupac Shakur or Carl Sagan; the terrorist attacks of 2001 happened when they were in kindergarten; and they’ve never known a world without The Daily Show.

clintonBut what was happening at Princeton when the Class of ’18 was still in diapers? Quite a lot: 1996 is the year when the Tigers upset UCLA in men’s basketball and said farewell to Pete Carril; President Bill Clinton delivered the Commencement address as Princeton celebrated its bicenquinquagenary (250th anniversary); and alumnus Richard Smalley *74 shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of a novel type of carbon molecules.

The Pyne Prize that year went to Derek Kilmer ’96, now a U.S. Congressman from the state of Washington, and Daniel Walter ’96, who went on to earn a Ph.D. from Princeton’s physics department. Kilmer’s Congressional colleague Jared Polis ’96 also was on campus. PAW wrote a column about his ambitious course load, which included 25 classes in his first two years (just over six per semester). Continue reading

Solomon ’14 Revisits Thesis About Comedy and Mental Illness in the Wake of Williams’ Death

Amy Solomon ’14 (Courtesy Amy Solomon)

Amy Solomon ’14 (Courtesy Amy Solomon)

Earlier this year, Amy Solomon ’14 wrote a senior thesis that explored the “sad-clown” stereotype that permeates the world of comedy — the idea that humor and mental illness often are two sides of the same coin. Her research, which included interviews with more than 30 working comedians, landed her a spot on the Aug. 8 episode of The Gist, a Slate podcast hosted by Mike Pesca. A few days later, reporters were calling Solomon for her thoughts about the death of one of her comedy idols, Robin Williams, who committed suicide Aug. 11.

The experience was both “really weird” and somewhat uncomfortable for Solomon. “It’s a difficult topic to talk about in definitive terms, because everyone wants to know — in a sound byte — ‘Is the connection between mental illness and comedic genius true?’ ” she told PAW. “I think there’s a lot of nuance, and in my thesis, I got to explore that.”

For example, when she asked comedians if they thought the link between depression and humor was real, they gave a resounding “yes.” But many doubted that the rate of depression or mental illness was greater among comics than it would be for, say, plumbers. Comedians, they told her, “are just the people who are allowed to talk about it and who have that platform.” Continue reading