Category Archives: Tiger of the Week

Tiger of the Week: Rick Hamlin ’77 Commemorates a Milestone with Songs

A screen shot from one of Rick Hamlin ’77’s #60SongsIn60Days videos. (Courtesy Rick Hamlin)

A screen shot from one of Rick Hamlin ’77’s #60SongsIn60Days videos. (Courtesy Rick Hamlin)

Rick Hamlin ’77 turned 60 this year and is celebrating the occasion with a creative twist: Since May 22, Hamlin has recorded himself singing one song each day on his phone and has been posting the videos on social media. Now on day 41, Hamlin plans to continue until he reaches day 60, and even came up with his own hashtag for the project – #60SongsIn60Days.

“I’ve always had lots of songs spinning around in my head, and often a song is linked to a place,” said Hamlin, who began singing when he was a child and was a member of the Glee Club, the Footnotes, and Triangle Club while at Princeton.

Each of Hamlin’s videos is unique because he sings each song in a different location. Most of them are recorded in Manhattan, where he lives and works, and backdrops range from the George Washington Bridge to Times Square to Wall Street. His dedication to the project is unfaltering — Hamlin continued to post songs regularly when his family took a trip to Hungary and Austria mid-June, where he sang “lots of Sound of Music.”

Despite the vast distances he has traveled to record his videos, Hamlin doesn’t necessarily know what song he’ll be singing or where he’ll be performing when he wakes up each morning. “I’ll check the lyrics beforehand, but that’s all the planning I do,” he said.

Hamlin said he often chooses the song based on geographical cues, depending on where he happens to be during the day, but he also has sung special songs relating to holidays or weather conditions. He did a rendition of “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” by Noël Coward during a heat wave in New York last week.

Surprisingly, Hamlin said his favorite place to sing was not in front of any of the churches or castles he visited in Europe, but is instead in a location much closer to home.

“The subway tunnels — I love the acoustics,” he said. “But I have to time [the recording] before a train comes, because once it pulls in, its too much noise. But it’s worth it, you get really nice acoustics.”

Before the 60 days are up, Hamlin plans to tap into his Princeton roots by singing “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)” by Brooks Bowman ’36 and “Goin’ Back to Nassau Hall.”

“But I’m still taking requests!” he said.

 WATCH: A video from Hamlin’s #60SongsIn60Days (Cole Porter’s “At Long Last Love”)
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Tiger of the Week: Journalist Ben Taub ’14

Ben Taub ’14 (Brad Catleugh)

Ben Taub ’14 (Brad Catleugh)

Earlier this month, Ben Taub ’14 published what for many journalists would be considered a crowning jewel in their careers: a 9,000-word investigation into the European jihadi pipeline that ran as a cover story in the June 1 issue of The New Yorker.

In a sense, Taub had already begun working on the piece two years ago, when he first spent a summer on the Turkish-Syrian border in 2013, supported by a grant from Princeton’s Council of the Humanities. He returned to that dusty town of Kilis, Turkey, in the summer of 2014, where he met two middle-aged Belgian fathers.

“One of them, Dimitri Bontinck, was trying to help the other, Pol Van Hessche, plan a trip into parts of Syria controlled by ISIS, to search for Pol’s runaway jihadi son,” Taub wrote in a blog post for the Overseas Press Club of America. “Dimitri had previously undertaken a similar hunt. In early 2013, his own son, Jejoen, a teen-age Muslim convert, traveled to Syria to fight against Assad’s army, expecting to ‘fall martyr within a short time.’ ” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Jay Xu *08, Expanding the Reach of Chinese Contemporary Art

Jay Xu *08 (Courtesy Asian Art Museum)

Jay Xu *08 (Courtesy Asian Art Museum)

When PAW profiled Jay Xu *08, director of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, in 2012, the Ph.D. alumnus spoke about bringing museum visitors into closer contact with emerging Asian artists. “Asia is one of the most dynamic regions right now in terms of opportunities and challenges,” he said, “and this museum will be a wonderful platform for visitors to explore that.”

Xu’s work toward that goal continues with “28 Chinese,” an exhibition of works by 28 contemporary Chinese artists that opened earlier this month. While established stars (Ai Weiwei, Huang Yong Ping) are included, the gallery also aims to introduce a new generation of artists. A review in SFWeekly hailed the “provocative photography, installations, painting, and new media,” and the San Jose Mercury News noted the “undeniable impact” of works in the exhibition, including several by artists who use traditional materials in nontraditional ways.

Earlier this year, Xu was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — one of 16 new members from the arts and humanities. Xu, the first Chinese-American director at a major American art museum, joined the Asian Art Museum in 2008 after chairing the Department of Asian and Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Engineer David Billington ’50

In presenting honorary degrees at Commencement, Princeton honors a wide range of notable individuals, from Supreme Court justices to entertainers and athletes. The tradition also allows the University to spotlight exceptional people on campus — a list that in recent years has included former men’s basketball coach Pete Carril and departing Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman.

David Billington ’50, right, with President Eisgruber ’83 at Commencement. (Beverly Schaefer)

David Billington ’50, right, with President Eisgruber ’83 at Commencement. (Beverly Schaefer)

Last week, a few days after his class marked its 65th reunion, longtime engineering professor David Billington ’50 received an honorary Doctor of Science degree for his inspiring work in the classroom and the lab. “[H]e introduced us to the engineering pioneers who revolutionized the world and opened our eyes to the creativity of engineering at its best,” the degree citation read.

Billington, the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, taught at the University from 1960 through 2010. Early in his career, he was chosen to teach a class on structures in engineering to graduate students in the architecture school. The architects grew bored by the technical formulas, Billington told PAW’s Kathryn Beaumont ’96 for a 2003 feature, and clamored to “study something beautiful.” They showed him pictures of Swiss engineer Robert Maillart’s thin, concrete bridges sweeping across ravines and through the mountains of the Swiss countryside. “We all have some aesthetic sensitivity and respond to beauty in various forms,” Billington says. “But then I wanted to see if this was good engineering. And I realized that Maillart was the best technical engineer.”

Billington’s teaching celebrated Maillart and others who blended technical expertise and aesthetic beauty. And like a graceful, well-constructed bridge, his work has spanned generations: At his retirement celebration, the professor received a poetic tribute from Randy Evans ’69 and his daughter Annie ’04, two alumni of his courses.

READ MORE: The full degree citation for David Billington, Doctor of Science Continue reading

Tigers of the Week: Veneka Chagwedera ’09 and Jared Crooks ’11, Nourishing Children

Veneka and Jared (Courtesy Veneka Chagwedera)

Veneka Chagwedera ’09 and Jared Crooks ’11 (Courtesy Veneka Chagwedera)

By Agatha Gilmore ’04

In 2011, Jared Crooks ’11 was working at the National Academy of Sciences while Veneka Chagwedera ’09, now his wife, was starting an MBA program at the University of Virginia. With busy lives and an interest in staying healthy, the pair began making their own snack bars in their Washington, D.C., kitchen. They leaned on Crooks’ science background to cook dates, chocolate, and cashews into organic bars. Chagwedera’s growing expertise in entrepreneurship and the pair’s longtime interest in humanitarianism led them to found Nouri, which donates a portion of the proceeds of each bar to provide hot meals for children at school.

Nouri bars, made with all-natural ingredients from farms in the United States and manufactured at a facility in California, are sold at Whole Foods, local stores, and online. Crooks helps run the company while attending a joint masters-degree program in public policy and mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton. Chagwedera works at the University in the development office.

Nouri, which has 10 employees and is profitable, has sold more than 100,000 bars and provided the same number of meals to children at schools in Botswana, the Philippines, Guatemala, Detroit, and Oklahoma City.

The couple eventually hopes to produce the bars in other countries as well, using local labor and ingredients to promote development, job creation, and sustainability. Children are “more able to focus on classes when their stomachs are full, and it gives them more incentive to attend school,” Chagwedera says. “We hope that they can go on to graduate and make a difference as well.”  Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Star Sculler Gevvie Stone ’07

Gevvie Stone ’07 (Courtesy TeamUSA.org)

Gevvie Stone ’07 (Courtesy TeamUSA.org)

When PAW’s pages last featured Gevvie Stone ’07, the elite rower was on the verge of competing for the United States in the London Olympics — and also midway through medical school at Tufts University.

Three years later, Stone is continuing to balance a career in medicine with her athletic goals. She completed her M.D. last year, and she remains the top American woman in the single scull. Earlier this month in West Windsor, N.J., a few miles from Princeton, she won her event in the National Selection Regatta, a key step on her quest to return to the World Championships. (Stone finished ninth at Worlds in Amsterdam last year.)

In the National Selection Regatta finals, Stone was pushed early by former U.S. champion Emily Huelskamp, but she took control and won by more than seven seconds. “It was fun,” Stone told U.S. Rowing. “Emily put together a good fight, and I really had to execute my best piece. And I did.”

If Stone can follow up her selection-regatta win with a top-7 finish in one of the remaining World Cup races, she’ll earn a place on the 2015 U.S. National Team that will compete at the World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France, Aug. 30-Sept. 6. She’s also among the top contenders for the next Olympic team, which will row in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016. Continue reading