Category Archives: Alumni News

Essay: Making a Comeback

Illustration by Ron Barrett

Illustration by Ron Barrett

Amir Parsa ’90 is associate professor and director of academic transdisciplinary initiatives at Pratt Institute. (Photo: Janett Parra)

Amir Parsa ’90 is associate professor and director of academic transdisciplinary initiatives at Pratt Institute.
(Photo: Janett Parra)

By Amir Parsa ’90

My 24th reunion turned out to be my first. I had not planned it so. Not senior year. Not after missing the first, the fifth, or even the 10th. As the years went by, though, a weekend at Reunions began to take on all the weight I’ve come to associate with all sorts of “returns.”

Ever since I can remember, the concept of The Return (capital T and R) has been central to my existence. I emigrated from Iran around the time of the 1979 Revolution, and at gatherings with other Iranians those first years, most conversations focused on returning. All along, the expatriates and the new exiles would profess: “Things will change, and we’ll go back.” That was the anthem. This glorious return, though, was endlessly delayed. Two months turned into two years, then 20. New lives. Settling in the suburbs of America. Children. Grandchildren, even.

What was deeply taking root in me, too, I realized, was the feeling that any return became saddled with anxiety and excessive philosophizing. Any return prompted extensive deliberation and soul-searching. Princeton Reunions would not be spared. Continue reading

The Princetoniana Committee: Keepers of Traditions Old and New

ptoniana-jacketsIf you’ve ever noticed the quotations rendered in large block letters on the walls of Frist Campus Center, watched a freshman Pre-rade and Step Sing, or viewed the Reunion and beer jacket exhibits in Maclean House, then you’ve experienced the handiwork of the Princetoniana Committee.

“The Princetoniana Committee is focused around the history and traditions of Princeton, familiarizing people with those and constructing traditions as they go along,” said former committee chair Gregg Lange ’70. “One reason we do that … is to give people a sense of belonging, a sense of import, and a sense of context to what they’re doing and why.”

More than archivists, members of the Princetoniana Committee are actively contributing to the University’s traditions. Just 11 years ago, the committee inaugurated the Pre-rade as a way to welcome freshmen to the Princeton community. A few years later, the committee added a Step Sing on the steps of Blair Arch after the Pre-rade as a way to ensure that freshmen knew the words to “Old Nassau.”

According to current chair Sev Onyshkevych ’83, the Princetoniana Committee was founded in 1981 after the death of Frederic Fox ’39, who was the University’s recording secretary for 17 years and earned the title “Keeper of Princetoniana.” Fox’s classmate Hugh (“Bud”) Wynne established the committee under the Alumni Council as a way to continue Fox’s work in preserving Princeton traditions.

“What one person did, we now have a committee of 40 doing,” Onyshkevych said. Continue reading

Names in the News: Advice for Grads from Schmidt ’76, Obama ’85, Kopp ’89, and More

Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator LISA JACKSON *86, now the vice president of environmental initiatives at Apple Inc., will deliver Princeton’s Baccalaureate address at the University Chapel May 31. But Jackson is not the only alum speaking to graduates this spring. Below, read commencement advice for the Class of 2015 from six other Princetonians.

Eric Schmidt ’76 delivered the Commencement address at Virginia Tech. (Courtesy Virginia Tech)

Eric Schmidt ’76 delivered the Commencement address at Virginia Tech. (Courtesy Virginia Tech)

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At Virginia Tech, Google chairman ERIC SCHMIDT ’76, drew on inspiration from Metallica lead singer James Hetfield, who has said, “I choose to live, not just exist.” Schmidt expanded on that idea: “Choosing to live means life is not lived in the glow of a monitor. Life is not a series of status updates. Life is not about your friend count — it’s about the friends you can count on.”

Be True to Yourself

In more than six years as first lady, MICHELLE OBAMA ’85 told Tuskegee University graduates, she has endured a range of criticism and name-calling — some of it particularly cruel — but she came to realize it was “just noise.” “It did not define me,” she said. “It didn’t change who I was. And most importantly, it couldn’t hold me back.  … So, graduates, that’s what I want for all of you.  I want you all to stay true to the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves.” Continue reading

Without the Wa: Muller ’05 Sings a Nostalgic Tribute

Where’s the Wa?

Reunions visitors may be asking that question next week as they wander west in search of sandwiches and snacks from the familiar Wawa convenience store on University Place. The store relocated in November to a new home at the new Dinky station.

One alumna — Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Nikki Muller ’05 — even composed a song about the demise of the old Wa, released earlier this month:

Muller, whose song was inspired by a story in the Dec. 3 PAW, says that Wawa was her “go-to place” during stressful, sleep-deprived stretches or after a night out on the Street. She will be back for her 10th reunion next week and plans to check out the new Wa.

After Reunions, Muller and collaborators from her musical improv team are slated to debut a new musical, Timeheart, at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. For information about show times and tickets, visit

Names in the News: Milley ’80 Tabbed for Army’s Top Post, Felten Returning to D.C., and More

Gen. Mark Milley ’80 (U.S. Army)

Gen. Mark Milley ’80 (U.S. Army)

Four-star Gen. MARK MILLEY ’80 is President Barack Obama’s nominee to become the next Army chief of staff. Milley, a Princeton ROTC graduate and 35-year veteran, told PAW last year that while he wanted to serve his country, he hadn’t intended to make a career in the military. “But then I really liked it,” he said. “I got this sense of commitment and of being involved in something that had a sense of purpose.”

The Obama administration called on another Princetonian earlier in the week when it named professor of computer science and public affairs EDWARD FELTEN as deputy U.S. chief technology officer, a post in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. He will take a leave of absence from the University, as he did in 2011-12 to serve as the chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission. The Washington Post called Felten “one of the tech world’s most valuable players.”

LORI DICKERSON FOUCHÉ ’91, chief executive of Prudential Insurance Group, sets a high bar for managers in her company. “I expect my leaders to listen,” she told The New York Times in an interview for the Corner Office column. “I expect them to ask questions. I expect them to understand what’s going on. I am somewhat infamous for saying, ‘So how’s it going?’ And they’ll say, ‘Great.’ Then I’ll say, ‘How do you know?’” Continue reading

Names in the News: Fishman ’78 Releases Bridge Scandal Indictments; Blount ’12 Writes About Race

Paul Fishman ’78 (U.S. Department of Justice)

Paul Fishman ’78 (U.S. Department of Justice)

PAUL FISHMAN ’78, the United States Attorney for New Jersey, made headlines last week with the announcement of indictments in the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal. According to The New York Times, Fishman said that aides to Gov. Chris Christie and a Christie-appointed Port Authority official “callously victimized” citizens of Fort Lee, N.J., exacting political retribution on the town’s mayor by closing lanes near the bridge and creating traffic jams for four days in September 2013.

For JULIA BLOUNT ’12, what began as a post to Facebook friends became a widely circulated essay on race relations in America in the wake of unrest in Baltimore. Blount’s post, “Dear white Facebook friends: I need you to respect what Black America is feeling right now,” was adapted into a story for and to date has been shared by more than 800,000 people.

ALAN LUKENS ’46, who as a young U.S. soldier helped to free victims of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, returned to mark the 70th anniversary of its liberation. Lukens, who later joined the U.S. Foreign Service and became an American ambassador, spoke at a May 3 gathering of survivors and public officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It was a terrible shock to see how much you, the survivors, had suffered,” Lukens said, “from starvation, disease, brutality, and freezing conditions — and to learn that 31,000 had died here earlier.” He wrote about that experience in a 2010 essay for PAW.