June 3, 2015


SEATS ON THE STREET: At the new “Princeton Parklet” installed in front of Small World Coffee’s Witherspoon Street locale last week, the cafe’s owner Jessica Durrie, right, and the Arts Council of Princeton’s Maria Evans, left, helped prepare the temporary urban oasis for the crowds arriving to celebrate Princeton University’s Reunions.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

SEATS ON THE STREET: At the new “Princeton Parklet” installed in front of Small World Coffee’s Witherspoon Street locale last week, the cafe’s owner Jessica Durrie, right, and the Arts Council of Princeton’s Maria Evans, left, helped prepare the temporary urban oasis for the crowds arriving to celebrate Princeton University’s Reunions. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

With parking spaces a precious commodity in Princeton, one might expect the temporary removal of two spots from a prime location on Witherspoon Street to inspire a certain amount of grumbling. But a rustic, Adirondack-style seating platform that has materialized in front of Small World Coffee seems to be doing just the opposite.

During Princeton University’s Reunions last weekend, alumni and locals found temporary respite from the heat and the crowds at this public “parklet.” They relaxed on the benches and sipped drinks under a row of hanging plants. Invited to feed the two parking meters to show support for future examples of this kind of public art, they dug into their pockets.

A joint effort of the municipality, the Arts Council of Princeton, local architect Kirsten Thoft, landscape artist Peter Soderman, George Akers of Material Design Build, and other volunteers, the parklet will be in place from two to four months. The project follows along the lines of other “street seats” in San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, and Philadelphia. The Witherspoon Street parklet is the first of its kind in Princeton, though a miniature version was briefly installed last summer.

While collaborators admit to some grousing from the public over the loss of two parking spaces, those complaints are in the minority so far. “I don’t have official numbers of the meter collection, but anecdotally I’ve checked every time I’m there, and the meter has always been full,” said Mayor Liz Lempert. “The response has been fantastic. The artists and architects who built it did a magical job. You can see people break into a smile when they see it.”

Maria Evans, artistic director of the Arts Council of Princeton, said she has heard “a little bit of complaining. Its people’s knee-jerk reaction, where they say ‘I can’t believe you took a parking space’ but then they say ‘But it’s really cool, I can live with that.’ From what’s been on Twitter and Facebook, the general public’s opinion is at least 95 percent positive.”

It was Ms. Lempert who suggested the idea for the parklet to Jeff Nathanson, executive director of the Arts Council. After being put on the back burner for a while, the concept was revisited when Ms. Evans invited Ms. Durrie and her husband, Mr. Akers, over for dinner one night. “I knew if I could get her support as a merchant that the Small World location would be great for the maiden voyage,” Ms. Evans recalled. “They were on board. He’s a master carpenter and terrific builder, and I knew he’d build a great structure. Then we talked to Peter Soderman, and he was completely in.”

Ms. Evans met with Princeton Planning Director Lee Solow, who helped coordinate the project. “He was terrific. He told me we needed an architect and that’s where Kirsten Thoft got involved. All of these people worked pro bono. The town paid for materials, but everything else was for free. Lots of favors were used up.”

By the time Ms. Thoft came on board, ideas for the design of the parklet were already in place. “They wanted something temporary, but that could be re-used,” she said. “My involvement was to make sure everyone was on the same page regarding safety, ADA compliance, and those kinds of concerns. So it was not about my personal vision. And these things are a large part of what an architect does, anyway.”

But Ms. Thoft likes the design, and compares the project to the pop-up beach that appears during summers along the Seine in Paris. “I think it’s part of a continuum of public park spaces,” she said. “It can be re-used and turned into something else, which was part of the intention. These things are becoming more popular.”

The parklet was built at the firehouse on Harrison Street. “After we had Kirsten’s drawings, we started parceling out the work,” said Ms. Evans. “The Public Works department made the platforms, and George built it at the firehouse a few weeks ahead. A colleague and I stained the whole thing. It was a coming together of everybody’s dedication to get the thing done in time for Reunions, which Jessica wanted.”

The project was installed last Saturday, and a formal dedication will take place tomorrow (Thursday) at 5 p.m.

Along with the benches and tree-trunk tables that are under an overhang, there is additional seating outside the overhang. Ferns in tree-trunk planters and succulents planted in chunks of logs are part of the verdant setting. Ms. Evans is adding pieces of art to the parklet. “I will invite artists who can do work that is visible from all sides and weatherproof,” she said. “It could really be a fun thing.”

Also planned is a system for parking bikes and a dog hitching post. As for the idea of asking the public to fund future public art projects by feeding the meters, that came from an unexpected source. “I teach art at Stuart Country Day School, and my students came up with the idea of not closing the meters,” Ms. Evans said. “So now, the sculptor Bob Evans is making a Venus flytrap shell to go on the meters, so people will have fun feeding them. It’s been incredible the way people are putting money in.”

Ms. Evans hopes future parklets will draw other artists, architects, and designers with new ideas. “Like Jazams — wouldn’t it be fun to make it an extension of the toy store?” she asked. “I think maybe with the merchants it will change from space to space. We need to go forward and figure out how to fund this thing in the future.”

The D&R Greenway Land Trust’s annual Down To Earth Ball will take place this Saturday, June 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the barn complex, St. Michael’s Farm Preserve in Hopewell.

The event celebrates the region’s farm heritage, while supporting the mission of D&R Greenway, with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner and dancing. Tickets cost $125 per person and sponsorships are available.

“This night is planned to celebrate our farming heritage and the bounty of the land,” says D&R Greenway Land Trust President & CEO Linda Mead.

Guests are encouraged to “dress west” and wear comfortable kick-up-your-heels shoes. Enjoy the tunes of the Tone Rangers Band, dance around the bonfire, test your luck with barnyard games, march in a farm parade, gaze at the stars, and savor the fresh air!

D&R Greenway’s mission is to preserve and care for land and inspire a conservation ethic, now and for the future. Preserving farms creates an agricultural economy that offers fresh, healthy local food. This year’s Down To Earth Ball celebrates keeping the garden in Garden State, and supporters who have preserved the farms on which farmers grow our food.

As of May 27, in-kind donations of food and other services have been offered by Blue Moon Acres Farm Market, Brothers Moon, Brick Farm Market/Double Brook Farm, Camden Bag & Paper Co., Cherry Grove Farm, D’Angelo Italian Market, Griggstown Farm, Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet, McCaffrey’s Princeton, Tasha O’ Neill Photography, Pennington Quality Market, Sowsians Landscapes, and photographers Mary Michaels, Richard Grant, and Sheila and Carl Geisler.

For more information, call (609) 924-4646 or email Deb Kilmer at dkilmer@drgreenway.org; visit: www.drgreenway.org.

Music Aeolus

Composed of Alan Richardson — cello, Nicholas Tavani and Rachel Shapiro — violin, and Gregory Luce — viola, the Aeolus Quartet, currently the Graduate Resident String Quartet at the Juilliard School, will perform a free concert at Richardson Auditorium on Thursday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m.


Gallery 14 member Charles Miller is showing a series of photographic works, such as his “Chapel Yard,” shown here, in the Goodkind Gallery at Gallery 14 in Hopewell through June 28. “The Emerald Island has a strong attraction to all travelers,” said the photographer. “It is known for it’s beautiful scenery and quirky style.” The photographs were taken on a recent visit and capture the spirit of the land and its people with a mix of the contemporary and the historic. Work by Lambertville photographer Jim Amon will also be on display in the main gallery exhibition, “Beauty is the Hook.” Gallery 14 is located at 14 Mercer Street in Hopewell. Hours are weekends, noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call (609) 333-8511, or visit: http://photogallery14.com.


A persistent drizzle couldn’t dampen the spirits of the 1,268 undergraduates and 885 graduate students awarded degrees at Princeton University’s 268th Commencement Tuesday. Held, following tradition, on the lawn in front of Nassau Hall, the ceremony also included the awarding of honorary degrees to artist and social activist Harry Belafonte; the University’s Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, David Billington; retired U.S. Army general Ann Dunwoody; former New Jersey Supreme Court justice Deborah Poritz; retired associate justice of the Supreme Court John Paul Stevens; and Peruvian novelist and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. (Photo by Eric Quiñones Courtesy of Princeton University, Office of Communications)

May 28, 2015

Members of the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood are asking members of the public to join them on Saturday, May 30, from 9:30 a.m. at the  First Baptist Church of Princeton at the intersection of Paul Robeson Place and John Street. On the agenda for discussion are the following topics: Affordable Housing, Historic Neighborhood Designation, Communiversity: Saturday or Sunday?, Consolidation: Positive/Negative?

A continental breakfast will be available.

May 27, 2015

Reunions Weekend gets off to a spirited start Thursday evening when activist Ralph Nader is presented with the inaugural Princeton AlumniCorps Award for Civic Engagement. The honor is to be bestowed during the 25th Anniversary Gala Celebration of the organization at the Westin Princeton. More than 250 alumni are expected to attend.

The award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to civic life and inspired others to pursue public interest work. Mr. Nader, a member of Princeton University class of 1955, was a founder with other members of his class of the Princeton Project, now named Princeton AlumniCorps, in 1989. The organization was started as an independent nonprofit dedicated to connecting students and recent graduates to public interest jobs.

“In Ralph Nader, we have chosen a civic leader whose many accomplishments include inspiring the creation of the first independent organization of alumni dedicated to the public interest.” said Andrew Nurkin, Executive Director of Princeton AlumniCorps. “The spirit of engagement inspired by Ralph Nader continues to drive change in Princeton’s campus culture and provide alumni of all ages with experience and training for civic leadership.”

At Thursday’s event, the keynote speaker will be Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America. She will join in a conversation with Princeton University Professor Stan Katz on public service and higher education.

From 1993 to 1997, Princeton graduate Michelle Obama served as a Project 55 mentor in Chicago. In a letter of congratulations to Project 55, the first lady wrote, “My time with Princeton Project 55 helped me to understand that having access to and encouragement toward service can have a profound effect not only on the arc of a career, but also on the strength of our communities.”

Renamed PrincetonAlumniCorps in 2010, the organization has placed more than 1,500 graduates in one-year public interest positions through the Project 55 Fellowship Program.The model has been emulated by more than 30 other alumni groups, including Harvard, Stanford, and Bucknell universities.

 More recently, AlumniCorps has added programs that support alumni through a lifetime of service. The Emerging Leaders program trains early-career nonprofit managers to be future heads of nonprofit organizations. The ARC Innovators program connects alumni with significant career experience to pro bono projects at nonprofits across the US. With more than 1600 program alumni and a network of more than 500 nonprofit partners across the country, Princeton AlumniCorps is committed to growing and engaging multiple generations of civic leaders.

HACKING AWAY: At the Princeton Public Library, on June 6 and 7, the first Code for Princeton Civic Hackathon will use technology to help come up with new ideas and solutions for the town, and maybe beyond. A brainstorming session preceding the Hackathon takes place this Sunday, May 31, at the library.

HACKING AWAY: At the Princeton Public Library, on June 6 and 7, the first Code for Princeton Civic Hackathon will use technology to help come up with new ideas and solutions for the town, and maybe beyond. A brainstorming session preceding the Hackathon takes place this Sunday, May 31, at the library.

You don’t have to be a technology expert to take part in the Code for Princeton Civic Hackathon at Princeton Public Library June 6 and 7. All are welcome — even technophobes. You just have to be interested in building solutions for the local community.

“We’re using technology to help us address some of our problems,” says Mayor Liz Lempert, who has been enthusiastically plugging the event in recent weeks. “The idea is to get a new perspective on some of the issues we face as a municipality and are grappling with as a community. We’re looking at the issues through a different lens, bringing in residents who might not be typically engaged. This is a way to get some fresh eyes on some issues.”

The two-day event is part of the June 6 National Day of Civic Hacking, organized by Code for America. Princeton’s Hackathon is a collaboration between Code for Princeton, the Municipality of Princeton, and the library. Using publicly released data, technology, and design processes, participants will collaborate on projects in areas including renewable and sustainable energy, politics and elections, volunteerism and civic participation, environmental and geospatial data, and cycling and transportation.

“It has been held in many other cities,” said Ms. Lempert, who will hold a pre-Hackathon brainstorming session this Sunday at the library from 3-4 p.m. “It’s really a fun, community event. We’ve all been doing some prep work. On our end, we’re putting together big data sets in a format that people can use. The idea is that these would be posted online for people to use during the Hackathon, and afterwards. It’s part of our effort to be more open and transparent, not just sharing information but doing it in a way that’s going to be usable.”

Everyone is welcome at the Hackathon, but space is limited. The event begins at noon on Saturday, June 6 with a coffee hour and team formation. Following a keynote address by Major League Hacking Chief Executive Officer Mike Swift, Ms. Lempert will officially kick off the session, which continues through midnight. Hacking will resume at 8 a.m. Sunday with submissions due by 11 a.m.

Also planned for Saturday are programming classes for children. My Robotic Friends is for grades 1-5 at 1:30 p.m., and Scratch Programming is geared to grades 6-8 at 3 p.m. There will be space for hardware aficianados. For updates on workshops, speakers, and other events, visit codeforprinceton.org.

The brainstorming session this Sunday, May 31 is designed to discover what problems people want programmers and hackers to work on during the following weekend’s event. “Some might relate to the data sets we’ve put together, and some to sets we’ll still need to put together,” Ms. -Lempert said. “Depending on what the information is, we might be able to scramble and get something up and running for use during the Hackathon. Or it might just be a good idea we’ll work on.”

University professors, high school students, and other computer buffs are excited about the event. “In an ideal situation, we end up with an idea for an app that could be really great not just for Princeton, but for other towns around the country,” Ms. Lempert said. “In coming months, we can look into potentially developing it. But even if we don’t get a usable product, just having lots of residents engage with this data and come together can lead to ideas and solutions and to new perspectives”

Sponsors are hoping the Hackathon will be the first of more to be held in the future. Originally, the event was planned for April, but it coincided with one that Princeton University was holding. “It has generated a lot of excitement,” Ms. Lempert said. “One of the things I love about it is that it has already brought new people to the table who hadn’t been involved in the past.”

There will be prizes awarded for notable efforts — nothing fancy, though. “When hackathons first started, they would attract people to participate by offering big prizes,” Ms. Lempert said. “But fortunately for us, people seem to be moving away from that. It’s more for the camaraderie and the community. So I might take some of the winning teams out for ice cream.”

The Princeton Health Department wants to remind residents that rabies infected wildlife continues to pose a risk to people and pets. Rabies is almost always 100 percent fatal once a person or animal begins to show symptoms. Protecting pets by keeping them current on their rabies vaccine is an important buffer between wildlife rabies and human exposure. Indoor animals should also be vaccinated as rabid bats are frequently discovered by pets in the home.

“Princeton had the highest number of animals testing positive for rabies in Mercer County in 2014,” said the town’s health officer Jeffrey Grosser, adding that cats as well as dogs should be vaccinated. “Not only does the vaccine keep your pet safe, but it can help keep you and your family safe as well,” he said.

To protect themselves and their pets, residents should avoid wildlife and animals you do not know, keep pets on a leash, never feed or touch stray animals, teach children to tell you if they are scratched or bitten by an animal, and call the doctor and local health department if bitten or exposed to saliva or blood. Also, contact your veterinarian if your pet was exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk, or other wild carnivore. Perform a 360-degree “walk-around” of your home, looking for openings in the exterior bats can use as an entry. Openings should be closed only after it is determined no bats are inside the home or the attic.

Dogs and cats are not considered immunized until 28 days after receiving an initial rabies vaccination, so they should not be left outdoors unattended. Every year, 30,000 to 40,000 Americans are potentially exposed to rabies, requiring costly and uncomfortable human rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. For more information, call the Princeton Health Department at (609) 497-7608.

Following the May 19 incident in which Princeton Police responded to a residence on Jefferson Road concerning a computerized threat made against its occupants, the department released the statement printed below. The Jefferson Road threat was phoned in to police headquarters and was a computer-generated voice. Police officers at the scene found the residence to be secure and the threat unfounded. The residents were not at home at the time. The threat was similar in nature to other recent threats received in Princeton and other areas throughout the state and country. Princeton detectives continue to investigate the source of these threats.


“Over the last several weeks our police department, our public schools, private residences and local businesses have received generalized threats that appear to be computer generated by the perpetrator(s). These threats have been general in nature and indicate an imminent threat to those to whom they are directed. Each threat received a full police response and subsequent investigation. In each case the threats were determined to be unfounded and deemed a hoax.

Our department learned early on in these investigations that we are one of several communities statewide and many communities nationwide that are receiving similar threats. We believe that all of our incidents are connected to each other as well as connected to the other state and national investigations. We are currently coordinating investigative efforts to determine the source of the threats with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies including the Office of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey State Police. We are also working closely with our local educational partners to maintain a safe and secure environment for our students and faculty.

We will continue to communicate any future incidents through our alert systems and the media. We ask all community members to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity immediately by dialing 9-1-1.”

On June 7, the University Medical Center of Princeton (UMCP) will host a special celebration dedicated to those who have survived cancer. Vince Papale, a survivor who became a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and whose journey was portrayed in the film Invincible, will be the keynote speaker. Survivors, family members and friends, and anyone whose life has been touched by cancer, are invited to the event, which is called “Celebrate Strength, Celebrate Life” and will be held from 9 a.m. to noon in the Edward & Marie Matthews Center for Cancer Care at UMCPP, 1 Plainsboro Road. Breakfast, music, chair massages, and activities for children will be part of the day. Mr. Papale will speak from 10 to 10:30 a.m. followed by a question-and-answer session. Admission is free but registration is required at (888) 897-8979 or www.princetonhcs.org/calendar.

The New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) has recognized ikon.5 Architects of Princeton with a merit award in the built open category in recognition of its work on The E.J. Ourso College of Business at Louisiana State University.

ikon.5 Architects designed the project as a glass and steel academic village with the goal of expressing forward-thinking business education for the post-Katrina Gulf South. The design team constructed the building with contemporary materials including artistic, ceramic-coated mirror glass, and a bronze solar screen covering the project’s rotunda. The courtyard plan and building forms are contextual, recalling the sloped roof pavilions and arcaded courtyards of the adjacent 89-year-old campus, while the innovative glass technology communicates a forward looking enterprise.

“The building is an exceptionally well-designed and unique architectural solution that will meet the educational demands of students entering rigorous business fields, and also allows for free-flowing, creative thought,” said Kimberly Bunn, AIA, president of AIA-NJ. “ikon.5 demonstrated a high level of expertise in creating the design for this academic complex. Their work is clearly deserving of the merit award with which they were recognized, and the faculty and students of LSU will be the beneficiaries of this forward-looking design for years to come.”

Located at Nicholson Drive Extension, Baton Rouge, Louisiana the building houses 167,000 square feet of state of the art academic facilities including 24 interactive tiered classrooms, 18 collaborative team rooms, a 300-seat auditorium and a mock trading room. Additionally, faculty and department offices surround the landscaped courtyard.

“We’re extremely proud of this significant honor,” said Joseph G. Tattoni, FAIA, Principal of ikon.5 Architects. “The university was looking for a building design that would align with its mission of generating innovation in business education for the southern part of the country. We managed to create a design that meets this vision, while paying homage to the campus’s storied history.”




It was the best of times, it was the worst of crimes. The Princeton Triangle Show returns to McCarter Theatre’s stage for two performances of “An Inconvenient Sleuth” on Friday, May 29 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 30 at 7 p.m. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Clarke Music

PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov (second from left) and Board President David Tierno presented Melanie Clarke with an oil painting on stage at Richardson Auditorium. In honor of Ms. Clarke’s 25 years of service as the executive director, The Melanie Clarke Fund was established in her honor with an initial commitment of $200,000 from the orchestra’s board of trustees.

Harry Potter

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s concert for children and families, “The Composer is Dead,” featured familiar musical works from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” along with a murder mystery in which the children had to figure out which instrument led to the disappearance of PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov.

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The Spirit of Princeton led and sponsored the annual Memorial Day Parade Saturday, with marchers of all sorts taking part, some in kilts, some in plumed hats, some on bikes and in soap box derby carts. The parade was followed by a dedication ceremony at Monument Hall, where Retired Navy Captain John Baker was the featured speaker. Memorial Day thoughts are the subject of this week’s Town Talk. (Photo by Emily Reeves) 

May 22, 2015

Celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2015 with a customized Ad in the Town Topics Newspaper. Include a photo, a listing of future schools or simply a message of good luck. Full color Ads are available for a special fee. For pricing and publication requirements, contact Jennifer Covill at (609) 924-2200 ext. 31 or simply email jennifer.covill@towntopics.com.


From left, Princeton Public Library Executive Director Leslie Burger, Janie Hermann, public programming librarian; and Peggy Birdsall Cadigan, Deputy State Librarian for Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, New Jersey State Library.

From left, Princeton Public Library Executive Director Leslie Burger, Janie Hermann, public programming librarian; and Peggy Birdsall Cadigan, Deputy State Librarian for Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, New Jersey State Library.

Princeton Public Library has received the 2015 Innovation Award from the New Jersey State Library Association for January’s popular how-to festival, “65 Things at 65 Witherspoon.” The daylong program, during which multiple, simultaneous demonstrations of a variety of skills and abilities took place throughout the library, was an opportunity for members of the community to share their talents with others. Library executive director Leslie Burger and public programming librarian Janie Hermann accepted the award last month during the State Librarians Breakfast at the NJLA Annual Conference in Long Branch. “The New Jersey library community is recognized nationwide for being innovative and forward-thinking ” said Hermann. “So to be recognized as innovators among this group, is a wonderful honor indeed.”

May 21, 2015

The American Boychoir School needs an infusion of $1 million and a new, more affordable location in order to stay open.

In his latest communication with funders and friends of the school, board chairman Rob D’Avanzo has written that the private boarding academy for fourth-to-eighth-grade boys will not begin another school year “unless we know we can finish it. Operating annually without a financial reserve is perilous, no matter how deeply we wish to continue delivering the school’s incredible programming.”

The Plainsboro-based school filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month and began a fundraising campaign that enabled the students to finish out the school year. Approximately $360,000 was brought in the emergency campaign. The school’s Concert Choir toured the country in late April, and the Training Choir performed on a separate tour. Last weekend, graduation was held and the movie “Boychoir,” based on the school, opened at the Garden Theatre.

The American Boychoir School, founded in 1937 in Ohio and relocated to Princeton in 1950, was formerly located in a mansion on Lambert Drive that is currently home to the PRISMS Academy. ABS moved to its Plainsboro campus in 2013.

The board met for six hours to discuss the future following last Sunday’s graduation ceremony. “In the coming weeks, the board will be focused on whether it can secure both acceptable facilities and the financial commitments necessary to restructure the school,” Mr. D’Avanzo’s email reads. “When I wrote to you on April 10, I said that we would need $3 million to continue. Many of you have asked me whether we need all of that money in hand even before we can reopen. We do not, but we believe prudence necessitates that we obtain $1 million of committed funds to consider opening the school next year.”

The email says another update will be provided June 1.

May 20, 2015
ARTIST OF NOTE: Victoria Gebert will be recognized as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts at an award ceremony in Washington, D. C. next month. The Princeton High School graduating senior who is an accomplished sculptor with a penchant for turning trash into treasure was in math class when she heard the announcement of the award. Her artwork will be shown at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and she will be attending Yale University this fall. The stunning gown she crafted entirely from recycled materials won Princeton Magazine’s annual student art contest and was featured on the cover of the magazine’s holiday issue in 2013.

ARTIST OF NOTE: Victoria Gebert will be recognized as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts at an award ceremony in Washington, D. C. next month. The Princeton High School graduating senior who is an accomplished sculptor with a penchant for turning trash into treasure was in math class when she heard the announcement of the award. Her artwork will be shown at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and she will be attending Yale University this fall. The stunning gown she crafted entirely from recycled materials won Princeton Magazine’s annual student art contest and was featured on the cover of the magazine’s holiday issue in 2013.

Graduating Princeton High School (PHS) senior Victoria Gebert will have much to celebrate this year on her 18th birthday. She’ll be one of 141 young scholars across the country being recognized for their accomplishments in academics or the arts at an awards ceremony in Washington D.C. on June 21.

As the recipient of a 2015 United States Presidential Scholars Award, Ms. Gebert will receive a Presidential Scholar Medallion. She is one of 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

The Princeton student is an accomplished sculptor and her artwork will be displayed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

“Presidential Scholars demonstrate the accomplishments that can be made when students challenge themselves, set the highest standards, and commit themselves to excellence,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in his announcement of the award. “These scholars are poised to make their mark on our nation in every field imaginable: the arts and humanities, science and technology, law and medicine, business and finance, education and government — to name a few.”

Presidential Scholars are selected annually based on academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

Ms. Gebert was in math class when she heard the news. “I knew names were being announced in early May, but it didn’t really sink in until I saw the list and realized my name was on it! It’s actually still sinking in that I get to go down to D.C. and show my art in the Kennedy Center.”

After graduating from PHS, Ms. Gebert will be off to Yale University where she hopes to combine her passion for art with her interests in psychology and music. ”I’m super passionate about sculpture, but I also love allowing my other artistic and academic passions to inform my art. My love for psychology and music should never come second to my art — they can all go hand-in-hand.”

Readers of Town Topics and Princeton Magazine may recall that Ms. Gebert first caught the public’s attention when she debuted a dress made out of trash at Princeton University’s Trash Artstravaganza and transformed corrugated cardboard and orange burlap into a spectacular float in the style of Jabba the Hut’s Sail Barge for a recent Princeton University P-rade.

She was the first place winner of Princeton Magazine’s “Wintertime in Princeton” Student Art Contest with the beautiful dress, shown above. Titled “Winter Wonderland,” the dress was constructed entirely of recycled materials when Ms. Gebert was an 11th grader at PHS. The stunning gown was featured on the cover of Princeton Magazine’s holiday issue in 2013.

Born in Princeton hospital in 1987, just a year after her parents and siblings moved to Princeton from their native Germany, Ms. Gebert is the youngest of four children and has two sisters and a brother. At age 16, she was recognized for her artistic endeavors by the National Young Arts Foundation.

“I grew up in a safe, supportive town and received an incredible amount of love and learning from family, teachers, and friends, so I would be pretty misguided if I thought this was all me,” said the award-winner. “I’m especially grateful to all the educators in my life — I don’t know where I would be without all the intellectual curiosity and knowledge they shared with me.”

One of only eight winners from New Jersey and the only one from PHS, Ms. Gebert was selected among 4,300 candidates out of more than three million students expected to graduate from high school this year, who qualified for the 2015 awards.

For a complete list of 2015 U.S. Presidential Scholars, visit: www.ed.gov/programs/psp/awards.html.

The Spirit of Princeton invites the community to the annual Memorial Day Parade and Dedication Ceremony Saturday, May 23, at 10 a.m. The parade on Nassau Street will be followed by an 11:15 a.m. dedication ceremony at Princeton Monument Hall (former Borough Hall).

The parade features veteran’s groups, marching bands, civic and youth groups, all marching to honor those who have died in military service to their country.

The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. at Princeton Avenue and Nassau Street and then heads down Nassau Street to Princeton Monument Plaza, where the ceremony will take place. Retired Navy Captain John Baker will be the featured speaker at the ceremony.

Small American flags will be distributed for free to children along the parade route. These and other parade expenses are paid for by the Spirit of Princeton, a charitable non-profit group of local residents dedicated to bringing the community together through a variety of civic events, such as the Memorial Day Parade, Flag Day Ceremony, Veterans’ Day Ceremony and Independence Day Fireworks. Donations to Spirit of Princeton are encouraged, because the organization, which has been in existence for two decades and was funded initially by a few very generous donor grants, may be forced to cut back on those activities that have played such a joyful role in the lives of Princeton residents. See the website for information on how you can “Get into the Spirit” by donating.

The parade and ceremony will take place rain or shine. No political campaigning is allowed in the parade, but local officials will be recognized along the parade route. Participating veterans can park at Monument Hall. Shuttle service is available to the parade start.

Parade watchers can have breakfast before or after the parade at the Princeton Rotary Pancake Breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon at the Palmer Square Green.

For further information, call (609) 430-0144 or visit: www.spiritofprinceton.org.

Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson will speak on Thursday, May 21 at a breakfast sponsored by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. The event will be held from 7:30–9:30 a.m. at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Trenton. Mayor Jackson will lead a discussion on economic development and public safety in Trenton.

“The Princeton Regional Chamber is very pleased to host this important presentation by Mayor Jackson and his economic development team,” said John P. Thurber, Chairman of the Chamber. “Under the mayor’s direction, a comprehensive city-wide market study has just been completed. This study provides vital new insights to guide Trenton’s economic development strategy, and links public safety and quality of life improvements to that strategy.”

Mr. Thurber added, “We look forward to hearing the mayor’s presentation and to learning how the Chamber and our partners can work together to support the revitalization of the capital city. All of us in the region have a stake in that revitalization because the region’s prosperity depends on Trenton’s vitality.”

Tickets for the event are $25 and can be purchased online at www.princetonchamber.org or on the day of the event.


The question of how to handle congestion caused by tour buses on Nassau Street came before Princeton Council in the form of a work session Monday night. A committee made up of Council members, merchants, and others has been grappling with the tour bus issue for several months, and Mayor Liz Lempert wanted to hear from the governing body before proceeding further.

“It’s a difficult issue,” said Council President Bernie Miller earlier in the day. “It’s difficult to come up with a solution that doesn’t gore somebody’s ox.”

Buses arrive daily so that tourists, many of whom are international travelers, can take pictures of Nassau Hall and other parts of the Princeton University campus. The stops are often one leg of a trip to Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington, D.C., so tourists are in town for only a brief period of time. Many visit Starbucks for snacks and to use the facilities, and some merchants complain there isn’t enough time for shopping or meals at local restaurants.

Merchant Henry Landau of Landau on Nassau Street was opposed to a proposal that would remove eight metered parking spaces on Nassau Street to make way for loading zones for the tour buses. Instead, he suggested that buses stop in front of the PNC Bank at the top of Palmer Square and then reload across the street where the taxis wait for passengers. “If you back up the taxi parking on the other side to where the taxi stand is, you would have more than adequate space for two buses on that side as well,” he said. “In most cases the buses are in and out by 11 a.m.”

Safety is a major concern. “It’s my number one goal,” said Council member Lance Liverman. The large buses, parked on Nassau Street and obscuring visibility for pedestrians as well as those driving cars, are “an accident waiting to happen,” he said. Mr. Miller commented that safety of tourists is equally worrisome. “When the bus stops away from the pedestrian crossing, they walk out in the middle of Nassau Street,” he said.

Council discussed implementing a temporary parking program which could run from June 1 through September 30. Two places on Nassau Street could be designated for loading and unloading passengers, and the buses would park on Alexander Street across from the Dinky train station. Another possibility was to drop passengers off on William Street, have the buses park across from the Dinky station, and then pick the passengers up again at the other end of town.

Council member Jo Butler said keeping buses off of Nassau Street could be a missed opportunity for merchants, and questioned if all buses should be treated equally. “It’s not one size fits all,” she said. “We might want to consider different solutions on different days. We have a lot of people we want to make happy.” In response to a suggestion that different rules apply to the buses on different days of the week, most Council members said they favored a policy that applied to every day.

Criteria the Council came up with for development of a plan were centered around access to crosswalks, spaces large enough for buses to park, keeping meters close to stores for residents to use, minimal disruption for church programs and business deliveries, a walkable distance for tourists to visit Nassau Hall, and proximity to shopping destinations. The town’s Traffic and Transportation Committee will review suggestions and return to Council with recommendations at a June meeting.

Kanye West BookPoet Sarah Blake will be reading from her unauthorized lyric biography, Mr. West: Poems Wesleyan University Press, ($24.95), at Labyrinth Books on Thursday, May 21 at 6 p.m.

According to Andrew DuBois’s recent notice in the New York Times Book Review, “The central connection Blake makes (and the main strength of the book) is between herself, as impending mother to a son, and Kanye’s mother, Dr. Donda West. A touching elegiac strain is evident throughout these poems of motherhood, although in this triangle of affection, with the two women as the base, Kanye is still the uppermost point.”

Says poet Evie Sockley, author of the new black: “Mr. West transforms the poet’s fascination with the rapper into an amazing group of poems that explores what she knows or can find out about West, alongside her own life. The poems construct West as unmistakably human and larger than life — as much like as unlike the poet. The work is tender without being sentimental, funny without being cruel, and obsessive without being exploitative. It is a study in nuance and it is strangely moving.”

Sarah Blake is the founder of the online writing tool Submittrs, an editor at Saturnalia Books, and a recipient of an NEA Literature Fellowship. Her poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Drunken Boat, FIELD, and The Threepenny Review.


More than 30 hands-on topics are on the agenda for the sixth annual Science Expo at Littlebrook Elementary School on Thursday, May 21. Like these students getting a close-up look at horseshoe crabs with Dr. Alan Geperin, young participants will explore chemistry, biology, physics, genetics, and more with visiting experts from Princeton University, the Institute for Advanced Study, and other academic institutions. Joining the lineup this year are a Google executive and a Marine Corps pilot. Littlebrook is at 39 Magnolia Lane in Princeton. For more information, visit https://sites.google.com/site/littlebrookespto/science-expo.