Random thoughts on a Princeton Reunions weekend:
Reunions are getting worse, but they are also getting better. They are worse because bigger classes in recent years mean more returning alumni than ever before, all crowded into the same tented courtyards that have not grown one square inch in area. They are worse because the annual P-Rade, which begins in front of Nassau Hall at 2 o’clock sharp on Saturday afternoon, is now so long that it takes a full three hours or more before all the stragglers from the most recent classes cross the finish line. They are worse because the aging baby boomers, including my Class of 1969, refuse to acknowledge their age and instead plan evening festivities that roughly recreate the noisy and raucous parties of their youth.
A few days ago I went to the opening reception for Bob Hillier’s new apartment complex in Princeton, the Waxwood, and ran into a college classmate, Jim Floyd, a psychologist who lives next door to the Waxwood. In the quiet setting of Quarry Street, Floyd and I reminisced about the advent of coeducation at Princeton and about the dynamics of our class that might have contributed to that change. I can’t imagine having that conversation on a Friday or Saturday night at Reunions, with a loud band blaring across a crowded courtyard.
On the other hand, Reunions are getting better because someone discovered that most alumni do not drink themselves into oblivion at night and they actually seek something meaningful to do during the day. I have written before about the Daily Princetonian’s annual Reunions picnic, a modest affair held in the open air behind 48 University Place. That little mini-Reunion turns out to be one of many events spread throughout the campus from Thursday through Sunday (see page 22).
Last year I got a call from my freshman and sophomore year hallmate, Dick Schneider, who was coming down from New York to spend a day at Reunions. Now Dick will never be accused of being a Joe College kind of guy — you won’t see him at the head of our class in the P-Rade, leading a “locomotive” cheer: Rah, rah, rah, sis, boom, bah, Tiger, tiger, tiger. Sixty-nine! Sixty nine! Sixty nine! (Or something like that) But last year was our class’s 35th, a major Reunion, so I wasn’t surprised to see him. Schneider came on Friday — early for him. As it turned out, he was attracted by some of those daytime functions.
This year I get another call from Schneider. He’s coming for Reunions again, and this time arriving on Thursday. What’s this all about? Once again, the attraction is one of those daytime functions. I check the schedule: Schneider is not just attending the function, he is also participating, as one of the judges in the $10,000 Business Plan Competition at the Princeton Entrepreneurs Network conference on Friday.
If I were making the Reunions rounds this year I might ante up the $75 to attend that entrepreneurs conference and hear Schneider (managing director of Easton Hunt Capital Partners in New York), Mort Collins (general partner of Battelle Ventures at the Carnegie Center), and 10 other alumni venture capitalists serve as a “lion’s den” into which six start-up companies are thrown.
Or I might catch Michael Aron, my old editor at New Jersey Monthly and now the senior correspondent at New Jersey Network public television, appearing on a panel on “Blogs, Bias, and Bad Ratings: Can Journalism Survive the Media Storms?”
Later on Friday, if I were feeling energetic, I might listen to Edward Witten discuss “Princeton and Einstein’s Legacy.” Since everyone else in town from the bellhop at the Nassau Inn to the tailor at the clothing store has an Einstein story to tell, it might be nice to hear one story from a guy who actually knows what he’s talking about. Witten is on the faculty at the Institute for Advanced Study and a world leader in theoretical elementary particle physics and string theory.
Here’s one for fun: A singing tribute to 1960s folk music, with a 1970 graduate named Ed Labowitz leading a Los Angeles-based three-part harmony folk trio. When I was an undergraduate there was a sports announcer on the student radio station named Eddie Labo. Hmmm.
Given my interest in the media, I’d be sure to catch economics professor and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman at the University Store.
Saturday morning at 9:15 sounds doesn’t sound like the ideal time for a panel discussion, but that’s when Edward H. Tenner ‘65 moderates a discussion of “Whither the Book? Publishing, Writers, and the Book Industry.” I first encountered the Tenner byline when I was a junior in high school, delivering newspapers on Norton Avenue in Endwell in upstate New York. A Princeton alumnus lived on the street and — knowing of my interest in the college — gave me his alumni magazines when he was finished with them. Tenner was a student columnist for the magazine. To my eye he was as much a star as his classmate, Bill Bradley.
Maybe I can get Schneider to go with me. And at the end we can do a locomotive for Tenner. Or maybe not.