Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 22
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
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Princeton University Graduates Urged to Serve

Anne Levin

Princeton University’s 264th Commencement Exercises concluded on Tuesday with the awarding of degrees to 1,202 undergraduate members of the Class of 2011, and 815 graduate students. University President Shirley M. Tilghman was among the speakers who encouraged members of the Class of 2011 to make a commitment to public service.

Held over a balmy Memorial Day weekend, the festivities began on Sunday, May 29 with the traditional Baccalaureate Ceremony in the University Chapel. The speaker was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who urged the graduates to make public service a constant in their lives. “Give back, and you will be repaid many times over,” he said. “And in everything you do, work hard. Take risks. Do what you love and also figure out a way to get paid for it. Never stop learning. Never compromise your integrity. Never give up.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s daughter Emma graduated from Princeton in 2001. “Parents: I’ve been there,” he said in some of his lighthearted remarks to the crowd of approximately 2,000 family members seated outside the University Chapel watching the proceedings on a jumbo screen (students and faculty were inside). “When my daughter, Emma, graduated,” the mayor continued, “I was dying to know what the inside of this chapel looked like.”

A gift from the Bloomberg family funded part of Emma Bloomberg Hall, a dormitory within the University’s Butler College. Mayor of New York City for three terms since 2001, Mr. Bloomberg is also a businessman and philanthropist whose company Bloomberg LP provides financial news to some 300,000 subscribers. Mr. Bloomberg is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, which now houses the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

At a private ceremony during the weekend, Princeton’s Class of 1976 celebrated its 35th reunion by naming a dormitory in Butler College. Known as 1976 Hall, the dorm is the fifth to be named in the complex, reconstruction of which completed the University’s launch of its four-year-residential college system.

The Class Day ceremony on Monday featured actress and author Brooke Shields, a 1987 graduate of the University. Recalling her years at Princeton fondly and with frequent humor, Ms. Shields said her experience there helped her navigate the slick business of entertainment.

“Without the four years of learning and growth that culminated in my degree, I would have never survived my industry, a business that predicates itself on eating its young,” she said. “I would have become a cliché. I would never have been able to adapt and to re-invent: from movies, to television, to stage, to author, to mom. I’ve been lucky, but only because I’ve worked hard. And I had that same strong foundation that each of you carries with you today.”

At the Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, honorary doctoral degrees were conferred upon baseball Hall-of-Famer Henry “Hank” Aaron; Geoffrey Canada, a champion for children in Harlem; Susan Desmond-Hellmann, clinical researcher and chancellor of the University of California-San Francisco; Charles Gillespie, Princeton’s Dayton Stockton Professor of History Emeritus; dancer, choreographer, Alvin Ailey and American Dance Theater director Judith Jamison; and Robert Rawson Jr. ’66, legal expert and member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman presided over the exercises and addressed the graduates, focusing on the disparity between educational opportunities in this country.

“I find it deeply paradoxical that the United States has without question the finest colleges and universities in the world, but a K-12 system that is leaving vast numbers of students behind,” she said.

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