Category Archives: Tiger of the Week

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

Tiger of the Week: Four-Star General Mark Milley ’80

Gen. Mark Milley ’80 (U.S. Army)

Gen. Mark Milley ’80 (U.S. Army)

Gen. Mark Milley ’80 has been described as “an Ivy League graduate and career grunt” (Army Times), “a soldier’s soldier” (defense adviser Maren Leed), and “a warrior and a statesman” (Defense Secretary Ashton Carter). He’s also Princeton’s first four-star general and, pending Senate approval, will soon head the Army as its next chief of staff. Carter introduced Milley as President Barack Obama’s choice for the post at a press conference in Washington May 13.

Milley, a politics major, ROTC cadet, and varsity hockey player at Princeton, was commissioned after graduation. In the last decade, he served on the secretary of defense’s staff at the Pentagon and oversaw NATO operations in Afghanistan. He currently directs the U.S. Army Forces Command, known as Forscom, the Army’s largest command. Based in Fort Bragg, N.C., Forscom includes more than 750,000 active-duty, reserve, and National Guard soldiers.

In a 2014 interview with PAW contributor E.B. Boyd ’89, Milley spoke about the pressures of being responsible for the lives of soldiers, specifically the 100,000 NATO troops who were under his command in Afghanistan:

“It’s incredibly high stress. You’re looking at four hours of sleep, maybe five on a good night. Usually it’s interrupted. I had 122 [U.S. and NATO soldiers] killed in action while I was over there, and several hundred more seriously wounded. That weighs on you heavily — every day, day in and day out — and it’s never far from your mind. But through training, through experience, through a strong sense of purpose and a strong sense of the moral rightness of your cause, you learn to deal with the stress.”  Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Sarah Sherman ’08, Studying Earth From Space

Sarah Sherman ’08 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dutch Slager)

Sarah Sherman ’08 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dutch Slager)

When the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite launched smoothly on Jan. 31, Sarah Sherman ’08 had cause to celebrate. As the mission’s launch-phase lead at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Caltech-managed NASA center in Pasadena, Calif., Sherman was in charge of putting procedures and contingency plans into place, as well as executing dress rehearsals of the launch.

SMAP uses the radar and radiometer it has on board to gather soil moisture data, which can be used to monitor droughts, predict floods, and improve weather forecasts, among other things. Sherman is now doing operations for the satellite, which involves being on console as a systems chair and overseeing the 90-day commissioning phase that precedes the beginning of the three-year science, or data-collection, phase.

Perhaps that seems like a lot of responsibility for someone who hasn’t yet hit 30. In reality, however, Sherman has been working on SMAP for almost seven years, since the summer after she graduated from Princeton. Before that, she worked in the summers of 2006 and 2007 as a Caltech research fellow analyzing wind models of Titan and developing control algorithms to steer a hot air balloon in its atmosphere. Her next project will be as a mechanical engineer on the Sample Caching System of the Mars 2020 Rover. Continue reading