Tag Archives: Burton Malkiel

Forum in New York honors Bogle ’51

John C. Bogle ’51 (Courtesy John C. Bogle ’51)
The story John C. Bogle ’51 often tells of his senior-thesis journey is something to which nearly every Princeton senior, past and present, can relate. It started in Firestone Library and ended before graduation in a 133-page document.
Holed up in then-newly built Firestone Library, Bogle paged through a December 1949 copy of Fortune magazine looking for inspiration. An article on page 116 caught his eye. It was titled “Big Money in Boston,” and it discussed the “tiny but contentious” mutual-fund industry. Bogle realized he had found his thesis topic as he read about an industry that appeared “totally untouched by academics and the press” at the time.
Bogle’s thesis, titled “The Economic Role of the Investment Company,” outlined a strategy to make investing in mutual funds more accessible to individual investors with lower costs made possible through indexing rather than actively managing funds.
The idea eventually led to Bogle’s founding of the Vanguard Group in 1974, an investment-management company that took advantage of low-cost indexing. Vanguard now manages approximately $1.6 trillion dollars in assets, according to a February 2011 estimate.
At a Jan. 31 gathering that celebrated Bogle’s influence on the financial world, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker ’49 said, “[Bogle] is still living off an undergraduate thesis he wrote at Princeton. He got the thing reprinted! And it sells 50 years later!”
Bogle replied, “Never underestimate the power of luck.”

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Names in the news


Princeton economist Burton Malkiel *64 shared strategies for getting the economy back on track. [Fox Business]

Steve Forbes ’70 and former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker ’49 sat down to discuss causes of the financial crisis. [Forbes.com]

W.S. Merwin ’48, the new U.S. poet laureate, "brings a strong environmental viewpoint to his new post," according to a recent profile. [Los Angeles Times]

European basketball standout Judson Wallace ’05 is taking his talents to the Canary Islands. [ACB.com]

A recent Q&A with Jodi Picoult ’87 and Jennifer Weiner ’91 covered the controversial topic of how women authors are perceived by book critics. [Huffington Post]

At the start of the school year, Harvard economics professor N. Gregory Mankiw ’80 shared his "advice for students of all ages." [New York Times]

Supernova serendipity

Princeton astronomer recalls a once-in-a-lifetime star sighting

On Jan. 9, 2008, Alicia Soderberg, a postdoctoral research associate in astrophysics at Princeton, was studying the X-ray emissions conveyed from space by NASA’s Swift satellite when she recognized an extremely bright light on the screen of her computer, saturating the satellite’s view “as if we had pointed a digital camera directly at the sun.” That light, Soderberg and colleague Edo Berger later confirmed, was a supernova — an explosion of a massive star.
Seeing a supernova is not unusual — the stars are brighter than 100 billion suns. But in the vastness of space, there generally is a delay of days or weeks between a supernova’s explosion and its discovery by astronomers. By then, “most of the fireworks are already over,” Soderberg said.
Soderberg is the first astronomer to observe a supernova in the act of exploding. Her finding, named Supernova 2008D, is described in a paper to be published in Nature May 22, and in a May 21 teleconference, she described the experience as being at the right place, at the right time, with the right telescope. “I truly won the astronomer’s lottery,” she said.
Soderberg had been studying another supernova, SN 2007uy, in the spiral galaxy NGC 2770, located 90 million light years from Earth in the constellation Lynx. Seeing two supernovae in the same galaxy in a matter of weeks is extraordinarily unusual — a one-in-10,000 chance, she estimates. A typical galaxy produces one supernova every 100 years.
The Princeton group’s discovery sparked a campaign of observations from telescopes in the United States and beyond, including the Hubble Space Telescope.
The use of an X-ray flash, rather than optical observation, to detect a supernova marks a “paradigm shift” and could lead to more discoveries, according to Robert Kirshner, a professor of astronomy at Harvard University and one of Soderberg’s mentors. Kirshner also stressed that luck was only part of Soderberg’s find. “If you’re active and you’re energetic, it helps a lot because you manufacture your own luck, in a way,” he said. “There’s nobody who’s more focused and energetic than Alicia Soderberg.”

Courtesy of NASA/Swift/Skyworks Digital/Dana Berry
This digital animation shows an artist’s rendering of the shock wave discovered by Princeton University’s Alicia Soderberg and a team of scientists. A supernova is born when the core of a massive star (the blue orb) runs out of nuclear fuel and collapses under its own gravity to form an ultradense object known as a neutron star. The shock wave erupts and ripples through the star, emitting X-rays (seen here as bright white light). The remnants of the explosion cool (the white light gets smaller), and then the visual light from the supernova glows (seen as yellow clouds). The fading white dot in the middle of the animation represents a newly born neutron star.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the frequency at which supernovae occur in a galaxy. It is about once every 100 years.

Down and up, 1,000 times

On May 5, with his hands pressed against the hardwood of the Princeton Seminary gym, Ryan Bonfiglio ’01 completed 1,000 push-ups in 20 minutes and 50 seconds, besting a mark from The Guinness Book of World Records set by fitness guru Jack LaLanne on the national television show You Asked For It in 1956.


The high-speed push-ups, completed in sets of 25, were recorded by a digital camera that also captured Bonfiglio’s “official timer” – a wristwatch positioned on the floor.
Bonfiglio, a former Princeton wrestler, is not new to breaking world records. In 2004, he set the record for most pull-ups in one hour: 507. That record was broken when a competitor chinned-up over 600 times in 60 minutes. Bonfiglio contested the mark, arguing that chin-ups and pull-ups use different muscles and therefore are different exercises, but the Guinness Book officials were firm in their refusal to differentiate.
LaLanne’s “quickest completion of 1,000 push-ups” category has been retired by the The Guinness Book of World Records, so Bonfiglio is looking to challenge a related mark: most push-ups in one hour. Record-holder Roy Berger, a Canadian who was proclaimed “Mr. Push-up” by Muscle & Fitness Magazine, completed 3,416 push-ups in an hour in 1998.
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Robinson

Names in the News

With the Boston Celtics rolling toward the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, ESPN told the story of how Celtics CEO Wyc Grousbeck ’83 came back home to Boston and stepped into one of the most cherished corner offices in town. … Wendy Kopp ’89‘s Teach for America continues to grow, according to a recent AP report, and Kopp expects even more expansion in the next two years, as the group aims to increase its corps of first- and second-year teachers from 5,000 to 8,000. … Princeton musicologist Simon Morrison *97 is helping to revive Prokoviev’s ballet “Romeo and Juliet” for a series of July performances at Bard College. … Two hundred years ago, China was the world’s greatest economic power, Princeton economics professor Burton Malkiel *64 told CFAs at a recent conference. Malkiel expects that China will regain that position in the next 20 years. … William Zinsser ’44 wrote a May 18 New York Times essay about the most peculiar Manhattan office he ever occupied and its most memorable perk: a fireman’s pole that connected the fifth and fourth floors.

The Countdown:


Days until Reunions 2008

The Sellout question

Kennedy ’77 examines ‘the politics of racial betrayal’

Even his name has become equated with disloyalty: To “pull a Clarence Thomas” is to sell out. But Randall Kennedy ’77, a Harvard law professor, Princeton trustee, and author of the new book Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal (Princeton University Press), told an audience at Princeton Thursday, March 6, that the charge is unfair. Kennedy had harsh criticism of Thomas’ judicial rulings, but he disagrees with critics who believe – largely because of Clarence’s opposition to affirmative action – that the justice has betrayed his race.
“Attacking Thomas’ view because he himself was a beneficiary [of affirmative action] is not a good argument,” Kennedy told about 40 people at a short lecture and book-signing at Chancellor Green. “Why should he be disabled from attacking it because he’s a beneficiary? What does that have to do with the merits of the policy? I criticize Clarence Thomas because he’s wrong.”
All groups have anxiety about disloyalty and betrayal, Kennedy says, though he focused on African-Americans in his book and Princeton appearance. W.E.B. DuBois was called the “black Benedict Arnold” in 1917 for suggesting that black Americans should subordinate to the war effort their protest against white supremacy; Barack Obama’s campaign has been dogged by the suspicion “in some parts of the black community that he must be a sellout – or what else explains his white support?” Golfer Tiger Woods, tennis star Arthur Ashe, superlawyer Vernon Jordan – at one point or another, Kennedy says, all have been accused of selling out.
To Kennedy, none of these people are sellouts – he reserves the term for someone who intentionally seeks to harm his or her group, or pursues a course of conduct that is inimical able to that group.
And group coercion to prevent selling out isn’t always bad, Kennedy argues – the Montgomery bus boycott succeeded in part because even when some black residents grew tired and wanted to ride the buses again, pointed persuasion made them think twice. Nonetheless, fear of the “sellout” label means that important viewpoints are never placed on the table, and policymaking suffers as a result.
Kennedy should know. He’s been called a sellout, too. By Marilyn Marks *86

Orange and black in Iraq

When television host and producer Aaron Harber ’75 traveled to Iraq in February, he was able to take part in a unique reunion of Princeton alumni, including the very familiar face at the center. From left, the alumni pictured are Harber, Lt. Greg Cullison *99, Ylber Bajraktari *06, Capt. Jeanne Hull *07, Gen. David Petraeus *87, Andrea McFeely *07, Nick Holt *06, Pei Tsai *06, and Sean Kane *05.
Cullison is a reservist with the Office of Naval Intelligence, and Hull is assigned to the Army’s Intelligence Transition Teams. McFeely, Holt, and Tsai work as foreign service officers at the U.S. embassy in Iraq, while Kane is a political affairs officer with the United Nations. Bajraktari is a presidential management fellow for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Journal entries from Harber’s trip are available at his Web site.

Football’s Ancient Eight

For Love & Honor Productions recently announced the completion of “Eight: Ivy League Football and America,” an original feature-length documentary film that will premiere with a screening, hosted by the Ivy Football Association, at the Yale Club in New York City April 24.
i-f267100672c604f9b55fe2b1781f88c5-ivydocumentary.jpg“Eight,” produced by Erik Greenberg Anjou and Mark F. Bernstein ’83, senior writer for PAW, tells the history of Ivy League football from its earliest days to the present. It is narrated by two-time Tony Award-winning actor Brian Dennehy (Columbia ’60) and features interviews with Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier ’52, former Secretary of State George Shultz ’42, Academy Award-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones (Harvard ’69), Penn State coach Joe Paterno (Brown ’50), Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik (Penn ’49), actor and Heisman Trophy runner-up Ed Marinaro (Cornell ’72), and others.
The film was directed by Anjou and edited by Karlyn Michelson. It features an original score by Grammy-nominated guitarist Gary Lucas. Additional details are available at the production’s Web site.

Names in the news

Economics professor Burton Malkiel *64 fielded questions about investing in China from readers of the Financial Times Feb. 29. … Peter Kaminsky ’69 wrote about one of his favorite fishing holes, a water hazard on a Florida golf course, in a March 3 New York Times story. … In an interview for Time magazine’s March 10 issue (also available as a podcast), author Jodi Picoult ’87 said that while she may write about dark subjects, she had “absolutely no trauma” in her childhood. “If anyone ever assumed that my books were autobiographical, they’d be sorely disappointed,” Picoult said.

Follow the flying disc

Princeton and the birth of ultimate Frisbee

The game was created in a parking lot. In 1968, a group of kids from the high school newspaper in Maplewood, N.J., created a team game that used a Frisbee – mixing elements of soccer, football, and hockey – and called it the “ultimate” sport, or ultimate Frisbee.
A few years later, in another parking lot in New Brunswick, N.J., one of those high schoolers from Maplewood, Jonny Hines ’74, joined with friends from Princeton and Rutgers to play the new sport’s first intercollegiate match.
The turnout that day in November 1972 was remarkable, considering that ultimate was still unknown beyond a small network of high school and college students. About 1,000 spectators gathered on the sidelines, along with a reporter from The New York Times and sportscaster Jim Bouton, the former New York Yankee pitcher, who covered the game for New York’s ABC affiliate. Rutgers edged Princeton, 29-27.
i-bb0c52c0a7e2e4ab3f9882259058d459-UltimateFrisbee.jpg“We publicized it well, somewhat as a half-joke, but it was taken seriously,” said Hines, now a Moscow-based partner at an international law firm. “People were surprised to see it was a real sport – a fast-paced, athletic, competitive sport.”
Joel Silver, one of the sport’s co-founders and a Lafayette College student at the time, helped to promote the event. Silver would go on to produce movies, including The Matrix and Die Hard. The third co-founder, Bernard “Buzzy” Hellring ’74, had been a student at Princeton but was killed in a car accident during his freshman year.
In the decades since the game in New Brunswick, ultimate Frisbee has spread and grown at a remarkable rate, particularly on college campuses. Hines said his Frisbee-throwing days dwindled after Princeton, when he devoted his time to law school, his career, and his family, but he still takes some pride in being there at the beginning.
“I’m proud, it was fun, and still fun to think that I had such a part in it,” Hines said in an e-mail. “[But] I’m so absorbed in interesting work as an international lawyer (in New York and now in Russia) – work that’s really fascinating and influential – that I don’t really have time to stop to seek to bask in any such past ‘glories.'”
Read about other Princeton innovations and innovators in the Jan. 23 issue of PAW.
Above, Jonny Hines ’74, left, and Bernard “Buzzy” Hellring ’74 in a photo of the 1970 Columbia High School varsity Frisbee team. Photo by Mark Epstein, courtesy of “Ultimate: The First Four Decades,” www.ultimatehistory.com.

Names in the news

In a Jan. 21 story, The New York Times covered Kevin Gover ’78‘s challenging first months as director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. … The Newark Star-Ledger highlighted the musical compositions of the late Edward T. Cone, a longtime Princeton professor whose work was performed by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra Jan. 20. Cone’s musical executor, Jeffrey Farrington *75, is quoted in the story. … Physics World reported Jan. 18 that theoretical physicist Edward Witten *76 will receive the Crafoord Prize, which is given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and recognizes fields not covered by the Nobel prizes. Witten is “widely regarded as the leading figure in the development of string theory,” according to the article.
A New York Times Magazine feature on Ben Bernanke recalled the Fed chairman’s years as a Princeton professor, drawing on interviews with former colleagues Alan Blinder ’67 and Burton Malkiel *64. … In a Jan. 21 opinion piece in Newsday, associate professor of politics and African American studies Melissa Harris-Lacewell argued that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did a disservice to Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by “openly disavowing the continuing importance of race in America” at a recent debate in Nevada. “King championed justice by fearlessly engaging racial inequality,” Harris-Lacewell wrote, “not by pretending it did not exist.”

Alumni anagrams, decoded

The Jan. 16 Weekly Blog included the names of six of the 26 people chosen by a PAW panel as Princeton’s “most influential alumni,” disguised in anagrams. The answers are listed below.

Indoor owls, wow! = Woodrow Wilson 1879
Banjo nerd, eh? = John Bardeen *36
Turnover tribe = Robert Venturi ’47 *50
Hippie funeral = Philip Freneau 1771
Landlords fumed = Donald Rumsfeld ’54
Harder plan = Ralph Nader ’55

More at PAW Online

Rally ’Round the Cannon – Gregg Lange ’70 provides a list of 10 Really Important Things that you can’t find on the Princeton Web site.
The salesman – Lud Gutmann ’55 recalls the day a scholarship student and his parents went to Langrock’s to pick out a suit for graduation.
Alumni connections – Four alumni are working together at the headquarters of John Edwards’ presidential campaign.
Working the crowd – Cushney Roberts ’76 gave up an engineering job to perform on the stage; his Motown and R&B tribute group tours the country and on cruise ships.