A leopard can’t change its spots, so they say, but a Princeton Tiger apparently can shed its orange and black stripes. Case in point: Princeton Project 55, which began 22 years ago when the Class of 1955 was challenged by its leading activist, Ralph Nader, to focus its energies on public service projects that would contribute to society at large.

Over the years Project 55 broadened its scope to include Princeton alumni of all ages. A year ago the organization re-branded itself as Princeton AlumniCorps and expanded its mission to include “the Alumni Network” (TAN), an effort to encourage civic engagement opportunities for alumni of any college considering a mid-career transition. As part of its new focus on second careers, AlumniCorps will host an “Engaged at Every Age” conference in McCosh Hall on the Princeton campus on Friday, February 25, at 8:30 a.m. Cost: $55. Register at www.alumnicorps.org.

The keynote speaker at the conference will be Marc Freedman, author of “Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life” (2007). A graduate of Swarthmore College (Class of 1980) and Yale Business School, Freedman is the founder of Civic Ventures, a think-tank focused on baby boomers, work, and social purpose. Civic Ventures helped create Experience Corps, a national nonprofit service program for people age 55 and over.

Freedman will speak at the morning session along with Princeton President Shirley Tilghman and a panel on “Surprising Opportunity in Mid-Life.” After a lunch break (included in the price of admission), the conference will continue with workshops on volunteer strategies, mentoring, and professional opportunities in public service fields.

Affiliated institutions of the Alumni Network include Tufts, Bucknell, Dartmouth, and Northwestern, among others.

The keynote speaker, Freedman, describes the motivation. “The encore career pioneers are heading toward a different shore” from previous generations, Freedman writes in his book. “They have asked the same question, ‘Why work?’ but they have come to a different conclusion. Instead of the freedom from work, they are searching for the freedom to work; instead of saving for a ‘secure retirement,’ they are underwriting an encore career. Instead of accepting the notion of a career as an arc that rises in youth, peaks in midlife, and declines into retirement, they are charting a new trajectory — one that for many will reach its apex of meaning and impact when others in past generations were headed for the sidelines.”

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