Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 34
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
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Once Home to Two Current Fulbright Winners, Princeton is “Full of Really Smart People”

Ellen Gilbert

Growing up in Princeton was cited as a boon to success by two of the 1,600 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2011-2012 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Aaron Michael Wiener, the son of Princeton residents Shelley Frisch and Markus Wiener, has received a scholarship to study journalism in Germany. Coleman Donaldson, III, who attended Community Park, Johnson Park, and Princeton Day School before his family moved to California, was awarded a grant to study linguistics and language policy in France.

The Fulbright Program is described as “the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government.”

Working as editor of the Princeton High School (PHS) newspaper, The Tower, was a formative experience, according to Mr. Wiener. The Yale graduate noted that he “actually didn’t do a lot of journalism in college, and so when, after graduation, I was contemplating a career in journalism, it was my experience at The Tower that informed my decision. For all the frustration at The Tower — the long nights in production, the battles with the administration, etc. — many of my favorite PHS memories came from my time there, and there was no better feeling than watching the hordes of students in the jam-packed main intersection descend on the freshly stacked Towers.”

The written word has figured significantly in the Fulbright scholar’s life. His father is head of the Prince-ton-based, eponymous publishing house, and his mother is a former German professor now known as a prolific translator of German books into English. “I grew up in a house full of books, where sure, there was a TV, but it was kind of beside the point,” recalled the younger Mr. Wiener. “Reading was the main pastime, and we all read obsessively. It was only logical that I should try my hand at writing and editing.”

After graduating from Yale, Mr. Wiener worked as an environmental reporter and editor at The Washington Independent and Talking Points Memo, and a politics producer at The Washington Post.

The former Whiffenpoof member ascribed choosing Germany as his destination to “the family connection” (which included regular summer vacations in Germany), and to the fact that “Germany is committed to the arts, and to understanding, in a way that’s almost unthinkable in the United States. The Fulbright program I’m undertaking, and a shorter fellowship I completed in Berlin last summer, wouldn’t be possible without Germany’s public devotion to these fields. Plus, Berlin is one of the liveliest and most fascinating cities I’ve visited.”

“I’ll be working as a resident fellow at three publications in Berlin,” said Mr. Wiener. These include The Local, an English-language site covering German national news; the international edition of The Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine; and the Tageszeitung, a daily paper that he described as “widely respected for its witty (but serious) approach to the news.” He will continue to freelance for American papers and magazines during his time in Berlin.

Mr. Donaldson, who recently completed two years of service in the Peace Corps in the West African nation, Burkina Faso, is the grandson of the Princeton aeronautical engineer Coleman Donaldson. The elder Mr. Donaldson was the founder and president of Aeronautical Research Associates of Princeton Inc., and the general editor of a 12-volume series on high-speed aerodynamics and jet propulsion.

“The boilerplate answer about living in Princeton is that it’s a wonderful place to grow up until you hit your late teens, at which point you start to yearn for more in life than just Hoagie Haven and Halo Pub,” commented Mr. Wiener. In retrospect, though, he acknowledged that “Princeton’s greatest strength is that it’s full of really smart people. You tend to undervalue that until you’ve lived a few different places. But growing up in Princeton, it’s impossible not to be constantly learning from everyone around you.”

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