June 22, 2022

Thousands of marchers and supporters were in downtown Princeton on Saturday morning for the first in-person Pride Parade since 2019. An afterparty followed at the YMCA field on Paul Robeson Place. Participants share what brought them to the event is this week’s Town Talk on page 6. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Anne Levin

A project that would bring nine warehouses of 5.5 million square feet to a 650-acre parcel bordering U.S. Route 1, Clarksville Road, and Quakerbridge Road in West Windsor, the former home of American Cyanamid, has many residents registering strong opposition.

A discussion of the development by the West Windsor Township Planning Board, followed by a vote, is scheduled for its in-person meeting on June 29. The issue was last considered by the Planning Board on June 1.

Traffic congestion and environmental issues are among the concerns of those urging that the development be scrapped. West Windsor Township Mayor Hemant Marathe said the former, in particular, will be addressed at the meeting.

“I have talked to a lot of people in town, and I understand their concerns,” he said. “Traffic is the main concern. We fully understand that, and the Planning Board is going to impose conditions so that not as many trucks can be on Clarksville Road.”

The Planning Board gave preliminary approval to a plan by the developer, Atlantic Realty, in December 2020. Since then, residents have charged that ongoing discussions of the issue have not been open to the public.

“Everything was by Zoom, but the Planning Board of West Windsor did not provide a Zoom link to the public,” said township resident Tirza Wahrman, who ran against Marathe last November. “My perspective is that a decision was made that a Zoom link was not required for the Planning Board, which is in stark contrast to how other township entities run. The whole thing was done under cover of night.”

Marathe said the process has been transparent. “We are 100 percent in person: Live, taped, and put on YouTube,” he said.

Opposition to the project is not limited to West Windsor residents. The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club and the public advocacy group MoveOn have posted their concerns on social media. “This project brings with it potential for severe congestion on Route 1 and area roads, increased air pollution, and other problems,” wrote Princeton resident Kip Cherry, the Central Jersey conservation chair for the Sierra Club, on its website. “Insufficient information has been provided about the anticipated traffic increase or stormwater flow, which is critical in light of climate change.” more

By Donald Gilpin

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday, June 18 recommended COVID-19 vaccines for children from 6 months to 5 years old. As of Tuesday, June 21, New Jersey parents can make vaccination appointments for their young children through covid19.nj.gov, the state’s COVID-19 website.

“This is welcome news for parents concerned with ensuring their children have the strongest protection against COVID-19,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli noted in a statement issued Saturday. New Jersey has ordered 61,000 doses and is distributing them to medical sites around the state, according to Murphy.

The vaccines use the same technology as vaccines for adults, but they are given at different dose sizes and number of shots. Children under 5 who receive the Pfizer vaccine will be given three doses at one-tenth the strength of adult doses. Children under 6 who receive the Moderna vaccine will receive two doses at one-quarter the strength of an adult dose.

The Pfizer vaccine was previously approved for children ages 5 to 11, but fewer than 30 percent in that age group have received the recommended two shots.  In CDC nationwide surveys conducted in May, only about one-third of parents said they would vaccinate their young children.  According to the most recent available Princeton Health Department statistics, 88 percent of all local residents age 5 and over are vaccinated, 90 percent of those 18 and over.

In response to a New York Times poll in April, fewer than one-fifth of parents of children under 5 said they were eager to get their children vaccinated right away. Parents gave many different reasons for hesitancy, though most health experts agree on the safety of the vaccine and recommend that all children be vaccinated. more

By Donald Gilpin

Back in person for the first time since Princeton’s first Pride Parade in 2019, Pride 2022 again drew a crowd of thousands of spirited marchers and supporters on Saturday, June 18, all celebrating the message of love, diversity, and inclusion.

From babies to 90-year-olds, the diverse throng “marched, sashayed, and rolled,” according to event lead organizer Robt Seda-Schreiber, up Witherspoon Street from the Municipal Building, then down Paul Robeson Place to the YMCA for an afterparty that included entertainment and remarks from several speakers.

“To get the community together again after three years apart — it was beautiful, meaningful, significant, and inspirational — as meaningful as it was fabulous,” said Seda-Schreiber, chief activist of the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice (BRCSJ), which sponsored the event.

Seda-Schreiber noted similarities between the 2019 and 2022 events, but emphasized the importance of bringing so many people together after having been kept apart for so long. “Especially for our queer community, for all marginalized folks, not to be able to gather is a really difficult thing,” he said. “You need to be able to be in a room or a space, a field or a parade or be wherever you might be together in order to have that sense of solidarity.”

He added, “Everybody was welcome. It was all-inclusive. It certainly exceeded our expectations, and I hope the community feels the same way.”

Participants in the parade who spoke at the afterparty included Princeton Mayor Mark Freda, New Jersey State Senators Andrew Zwicker and Linda Greenstein, Maplewood Mayor Dean Dafis, Detroit poet Michelle Elizabeth Brown, trans activist and BRCSJ Board President Erin Worrell, and Sesame Street’s Alan Muraoka, who was grand marshal of the parade.  more

JOYFUL MURALS AT LITTLEBROOK: Littlebrook Elementary School students and staff recently completed a six-wall indoor mural project during a three-week residency with mural artist Caren Olmsted and a large outdoor mural developed in collaboration with the Arts Council of Princeton. (Photo courtesy of Princeton Public Schools)  

By Donald Gilpin

Covering six walls from floor to ceiling, Littlebrook Elementary School’s new murals, were unveiled last week. Their impact has been powerful.

“The murals have brought joy to us all at Littlebrook,” said Littlebrook Principal Luis Ramirez. The artwork, completed during a three-week residency project with mural artist Caren Olmsted, portrays school activities and traditions, and reflects the input of all the students at the school.

“Our murals represent our Littlebrook community, especially our students,” Ramirez noted. “It was important to have every child represented in the artwork. Each student has their unique handprint in the murals and took part in the painting of them as well.”

He continued, “Our students’ voices are represented in the murals. The children helped us with the words of welcome that are painted on the walls of our vestibule and voted to have the word GROW painted in the outdoor mural. I am very proud of all our Littlebrook students.”

The indoor mural project was initiated and funded by the Littlebrook PTO, under the leadership of Co-Presidents Kati Dunn, Sonja Ernst, and Magdalena Janas. For the outdoor mural project, the PTO commissioned artists from the Arts Council of Princeton in looking to enhance the look of the playground area and connect to the larger community.

Janas described the elaborate process of creating the murals. “The longest phase of the project was the design itself,” she said. “Our artist Caren Olmsted listened to all inputs and ideas and created a very unique and original plan. Her work always includes all kids who attend schools that she works in. The mural would have been impossible to do without the help of more than 90 parents — countless hours of priming, painting, and finishing the highest spots on the walls.”

Collaborating with Olmsted, Littlebrook art teacher Colleen Dell enlisted her art classes for several weeks, making sure all students took part in the painting of the walls and the completion of the murals. Greenleaf Painters, LLC donated the paint for the murals. more

HAMMING IT UP: Greg Mauro, president of the Delaware Valley Radio Association, examines a newly built antenna at the club’s radio station in West Trenton, where he and other ham radio operators will gather this weekend for the annual national Field Day of the ARRL (American Radio Relay League), making contact with operators from all over the world over 24 hours.

By Anne Levin

Before social media, there was ham radio. As far back as the late 19th century, amateur radio operators from different parts of the world were chatting with each other — by voice. In more recent years, they have built their own networks with radio technology.

This weekend, some 40,000 “hams” from all over the U.S. will test their skills at the annual AARL (American Radio Relay League) Field Day. Among them are the Delaware Valley Radio Association, which is based in West Trenton and counts several Princeton residents among its 120-member ranks.

From 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 25 to 12 p.m. Sunday, June 26, at their clubhouse adjacent to Trenton-Mercer Airport, these amateur radio operators will be setting up portable radio stations on emergency power, and trying to have as many conversations as possible with others around the country. The public is invited.

“We encourage the public to come and take part,” said Greg Mauro, an electrical engineer who serves as president of the club. “It’s a great hobby. We’re hoping to attract more young people, and all are welcome.”

Field Day dates from 1933. The annual gathering has become one of amateur radio’s most popular organizational events. Participants cart their gear outside to see how well they can communicate with each other in the elements, and in less-than-ideal conditions. more

By Anne Levin

Jazz is the focus this weekend at McCarter Theatre, where Dee Dee Bridgewater and Bill Charlap perform on Friday, June 24, and the Tyshawn Sorey Sextet is on stage Saturday, June 25. Both concerts, which wrap up the “Jazz in June” series, are at 8 p.m.

Bill Lockwood

The weekend also marks a major transition at McCarter. The jazz series is the final one planned by longtime Special Programming Director William W. (Bill) Lockwood, who is retiring after nearly 60 years at the theater. Last week, McCarter announced Paula Abreu as his replacement. Lockwood, who programmed classical music, dance, spoken word, and other events as well as jazz, will continue as a consultant. Abreu starts in the fall.

“It is reassuring to know that the performers who consider McCarter home will be in expert hands with Paula Abreu — she is an inspired choice,” Lockwood said in a press release. “It is wonderful to think about the new talent and energy she will bring to our stages, cultivating the next generation of artists and audiences.”

Abreu, who is originally from Rio de Janeiro, has been curating live events in New York for the past decade. She has worked with such institutions as Lincoln Center, Red Hot Organization, and the SummerStage and Charlie Parker jazz festivals. “Among her most proud achievements are presenting the late Brazilian samba legend Elza Soares following a 30-year U.S. performance hiatus; curating a community concert with the French Chilean rapper/activist Ana Tijoux; a debut collaboration between Afrobeat icon Seun Kuti and jazz-funk pioneer Roy Ayers; and the birth of her daughter Julia, who joined the Abreu family in 2020,” reads the McCarter release.

Paula Abreu

“I’m thrilled to add my voice to McCarter, to be a part of an organization that has had an incontestable impact on the cultural fabric of New Jersey, and that demonstrates an ongoing commitment to equal opportunity in the arts,” she said. “I am looking forward to getting to know the surrounding communities, and to exploring collaborative opportunities with the Princeton University campus, area universities, and beyond. After 12 years in New York City’s presenting arts field, I’m thrilled to build upon McCarter’s incredible legacy and forge new connections regionally, nationally, and globally.”  more

By Stuart Mitchner

“Garland’s rendition of this marvelous torch-song, in its visual and vocal subtlety and dynamic power, is the greatest piece of popular singing I know.”

—Douglas McVay, from The Musical Film

If there’s a torch in “The Man That Got Away,” which Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin composed expressly for Judy Garland in A Star Is Born, it’s the one she carries up the mountain of the performance, and you go with her. She’s giving everything she has to the song, pushing aside invisible obstacles, then beckoning to the nearest musician, as if to call him up beside her, but then pushing him away, suddenly reaching for the heavens with her right arm to sing “It’s all a crazy game!” By then her voice is everywhere and everything and “game” could stand for life, death, art, love. But you’re up there with her, you who gloomed into the theater, a zombie at 22, alone in New York after a traumatic summer. In the span of a few minutes, she’s changed the world, you’re alive again, and you feel like shouting your thanks. By all rights the people around you should be standing, cheering, but it’s just you and her, you’re hers, and an hour or so later, you stagger out of the movie into the night thinking Judy Garland Judy Garland Judy Garland. The film you just saw is seven years old. You’ve seen a revival. That’s what they call it, you think, you who have been revived.

Time magazine called A Star Is Born “just about the finest one-woman show in movie history,” while Sight and Sound’s Penelope Houston found “the special fascination of Judy Garland’s playing” in “the way it somehow contrives to bypass technique: the control seems a little less than complete and the emotion comes through, as it were, neat. In this incandescent performance, the actress seems to be playing on her nerves; she cannot but strike at ours.”

After giving A Star Is Born almost 20 pages of his 164-page survey of the American musical from 1927 to 1966, McVay makes a prodigious apology: “I have dwelt on this film at such length because I consider it to be not only clearly the greatest musical picture I have ever seen, but the greatest picture of any kind I have ever seen” The level of praise reflects the critical excitement the film received on its release in September 1954. Within a month, however, the Warner executives made drastic cuts in the running time, thus, as McVay admits, the greatest picture he ever saw was the version from which 45 minutes had been deleted, the same one that viewers, myself included, had to make do with until the 1983 restoration.  more

“YOURS SINCERELY, STEPHEN SONDHEIM”: Princeton Festival has presented “Yours Sincerely, Stephen Sondheim” in tribute to the late Broadway legend. Matthew Stephens was the music director and accompanist for the concert, which was presented June 15 in a performance tent outside Morven Museum & Garden. Above: vocal duo Alyssa Giannetti and Jason Forbach. (Photo by Carolo Pascale)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Into the Woods is a musical in which familiar fairy tale characters meet, and their stories intersect. In the prologue, the characters sing about their reasons for journeying into the titular forest. Cinderella sings, “I wish to go to the festival.”

Last Wednesday she could have been referring to the Princeton Festival, which presented Yours Sincerely, Stephen Sondheim, a tribute to the show’s late composer and lyricist. Vocalists Alyssa Giannetti and Jason Forbach performed several of the Broadway legend’s songs, interspersed with quotes from his letters — many of which his correspondents have shared via social media since his death last November. Music Director Matthew Stephens accompanied the duo.

The June 15 concert was presented in a performance tent outside Morven Museum & Garden. The seating was configured to resemble a dinner theater or cabaret; tables were set up so that audiences could enjoy drinks and light (but elegant) snacks — the latter served before the show and during intermission. A set for the Festival’s subsequent production in the tent (Albert Herring) resembled a bar, adding to the illusion of being in a Times Square nightspot.

A classically trained singer, Giannetti made her professional debut as an understudy for the role of Christine Daaé in the first national tour of Love Never Dies. She was in the cast of the Paper Mill Playhouse’s world premiere of UNMASKED: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.  more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Festival took on an immense operatic production this past weekend to start the second week of the Festival’s cornucopia of activities. Benjamin Britten’s 1946 comic chamber opera Albert Herring was mammoth not just because of cast size or length but in its complexity of vocal demands and orchestration. The Festival opened Albert Herring Friday night (the opera was repeated Sunday night) to an extremely appreciative audience in the Festival’s performance tent at Morven Museum and Gardens. 

Although the storyline of Albert Herring could be as silly as Gilbert and Sullivan at times, this opera required heavy-duty singing. For this production, Princeton Festival assembled a cast of well-trained and experienced singers to handle some very challenging roles. Three standout performers were tenor Joshua Stewart in the title role, soprano Ann Toomey as the upper crust Lady Billows, and mezzo-soprano Melody Wilson as Herring’s mother. 

Educated at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, Stewart has been making his mark in the opera world internationally. As the grocer Albert Herring, Stewart was a subtle lead character at first, turning his vocal prowess and full comedic skills loose in the second act dinner scene and third act soliloquy, complemented by animated facial expressions. In his operas, Britten composed rich and complex lead tenor roles, and Stewart met every musical and dramatic challenge. 

Soprano Ann Toomey has also had considerable success in the opera world and made an immediate impact on the Festival stage both with her singing and her character’s sufficiently snooty demeanor. With a commanding soprano voice, Toomey lit up over the prospects for the annual May Queen festival, and then proceeded to tear the roof off vocally when things did not go her way. When discussing the May Queen prize, Toomey’s singing was especially elegant and courtly while accompanied by harpist André Tarantiles.  more

A FRESH APPROACH: The Diderot String Quartet will perform a free concert of 18th and 19th century music on Sunday, June 26 at 2 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus.   

The second concert of Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts’ 55th season of free chamber music concerts is with the Diderot String Quartet on Sunday, June 26 at 2 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus. The concert will explore “The Legacy of the Fugue” with Bach’s Art of Fugue and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13.

Named after the 18th-century French philosopher and Boccherini enthusiast Denis Diderot, the quartet brings a fresh approach to works of the 18th and 19th centuries. Diderot came together in 2012 after having first met at Oberlin Conservatory and The Juilliard School. The four musicians share a background in historical performance and a passion for the string quartet genre; they found the thrill of exploring the quartet repertoire on period instruments to be irresistible.

Recent and upcoming engagements include Chamber Music Pittsburgh, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Lincoln Friends of Chamber Music (NE), Connecticut Early Music Festival, Rockefeller University’s Tri-I Noon Recital Series; The Crypt Sessions (NYC); and Music Before 1800 in New York. Diderot has also been featured in performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Toledo Museum of Art and the Morgan Library in New York. The Quartet served as quartet-in-residence at Washington National Cathedral for five seasons and served as guest faculty for Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute.

For tickets, visit tickets.princeton.edu. There is a limit of two tickets for orchestra and four for balcony.

AT THE MOVIES: Enthusiastic audience members are shown at one of State Theatre New Jersey’s past summer screenings, which begin this year on July 19.

State Theatre New Jersey of New Brunswick has announced the return of the Free Summer Movies Series. This year’s features include Raya and the Last Dragon on July 19, Luca on July 26, Space Jam: A New Legacy on August 2, Encanto on August 9, and In the Heights on August 16.

Showings for Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, Space Jam, and Encanto will be at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. In the Heights will have a single showing at 7 p.m. All screenings will include Spanish subtitles. Tickets are free but registration is required. Groups of 20 or more or those planning a bus trip, email education@stnj.org.

The series offers young people the chance to enjoy these films, whether with their families, summer camps, or other groups. The movies will be shown at the historic and newly renovated State Theatre New Jersey, a 1921 movie palace that has become a venue for live performance. The State Theatre’s state-of-the-art HD digital cinema projection system includes a 46 Stewart film screen, a Barco projector, and digital surround sound.

For more information call State Theatre Guest Services at (732) 246-SHOW (7469) or visit STNJ.org. The theater is at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick.

“MUSICAL CIRCUS”: Pianist Cristina Altamura and percussionist David Degge will perform a musical tribute to filmmaker Federico Fellini and composer Nino Rota in a variety-style concert on June 23 at 7:30 p.m. at McCarter Theatre’s Berlind Theatre. (Photo by Maria Grazia Facciolá)

Legacy Arts International presents “Musical Circus,” a variety-style concert, at McCarter Theatre’s Berlind Theatre on Thursday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. The event is planned in cooperation with Jacobs Music Company, which is providing a Steinway & Sons Spirio concert grand piano for the performance.

Headed by concert pianist Cristina Altamura, Legacy Arts International is holding the concert to kick off the All Abilities Music Creation Pilot. The program commissions new pieces of music for students whose educational needs are not being met by the current repertoire and pedagogy for their instrument, due to factors which could include a disability, lack of representation in the field, or other unmet needs. 

“Understanding the unique qualities of audience members, fidgets will be available upon request at the check-in desk in the lobby or people are welcomed to bring their own,” reads a press release about the event.

The concert features a musical tribute to filmmaker Federico Fellini and composer Nino Rota, with music from such films as La Dolce Vita and Amarcord. Altamura commissioned arranger Steve Buck to make new arrangements of Rota’s music for performances which will also feature percussionists Adam Sliwinski and David Degge. more

BROADWAY IN NEW BRUNSWICK: The show “Legally Blonde” is among the hits coming to the State Theatre this coming fall/winter.

The State Theatre New Jersey will host the shows Tootsie, My Fair Lady, Legally Blonde, and Jesus Christ Superstar during the 2022-23 season. Also included in the lineup are STOMP and R.E.S.P.E.C.T., a tribute to Aretha Franklin.

Those who purchase season tickets are able to order their series tickets now before single tickets go on sale to the general public on September 2. They are also able to secure some of the best seats in the historic theater and those seats will remain theirs, year after year, for as long as they remain season ticket holders.

Added benefits include 20 percent savings off single ticket prices, a Broadway season lidded cup that can be used at all Broadway shows for half price drinks at concessions, ticket exchanges within the series, and a bring-your-friends discount that allows single tickets (once on sale) to be added on at a 15 percent savings off single ticket prices.

For Broadway Season tickets, email Concierge@STNJ.org; call (732) 247-7200, ext. 555; or schedule an appointment at STNJ.org/Concierge.

“WHITE DOVE”: Mosaic works by artist Leyla Spencer will be on exhibit July 1 through July 30 at Bucks on Bridge in Lambertville. An artist’s reception is scheduled for Friday, July 8 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Lambertville artist Leyla Spencer will be showing her mosaic work at Bucks on Bridge, at 25 Bridge Street in Lambertville, from July 1 through July 30. 

Spencer has been concentrating on landscapes and imaginary birds, but still includes some of her colorful geometric and imaginative abstracts in this show. 

These works are an interesting combination of hand-cut stained glass and glass tile, along with various other embellishments. “The only machine I use in this process is a Dremel, to soften any of the sharpest edges,” said Spencer. “All the glass and tile is cut by hand.” 

There will be an artist’s reception on July 8 from 5 to 7 p.m.

For more information, visit leylaspencer.com.

“LIGHTS AT NIGHT”; This painting by Patricia Allingham Carlson was selected as the Signature Image for this year’s 93rd “Juried Art Show” at Phillips’ Mill. According to the Signature Image Committee, Its sense of community spirit, depicting a diverse group of revelers, helped it win the competition.

There are many traditions in the planning of the historic “Juried Art Show” at Phillips’ Mill, which marks its 93rd year this September. The anticipation builds as artists await the publication of the show prospectus, which is now available on the Phillips’ Mill website at phillipsmill.org/prospectus.

This year’s show will be held September 24 through October 30, live at the Mill and online. “There is nothing like experiencing the show in our beloved landmark Mill,” said Mary Flamer, chair of this year’s art show. “Making it available online, too, offers unrivaled accessibility and welcomes art lovers near and far.”

The Art Show Committee has announced that jurying this year will take place in person at the Mill. This longtime tradition at Phillips’ Mill was interrupted the past two years by the pandemic.

“Having the jurors on site to see the submitted works in person, to view the artwork in real light from every angle, to experience texture, brushwork, color, is something special in this day of online jurying,” said Flamer. “We are thrilled to be able to offer this to our submitting artists once again.” more

TEST OF TIME: “We are proud to carry on the tradition of the family business, and to continue to bring the same high quality of service to our customers that we have always been known for.” Bruce Jefferson, owner of N.C. Jefferson Plumbing, Heating, and A/C and his daughter Jill Jefferson-Miller, owner of Jefferson Bath & Kitchen, are shown in the company’s showroom.

By Jean Stratton

You have certainly seen those cheerful yellow trucks around town. A signature sign that the N.C. Jefferson Plumbing, Heating, and A/C experts are on the job.

What you may not know is that the company has actually been on the job for 75 years! Now celebrating that landmark anniversary, the firm remains family-owned and dedicated to prompt, reliable service, quality products, and conscientious customer attention.

Opened in 1947 by Norton C. Jefferson, the company established its first office in the family’s Valley Road home.

“My dad had worked for Princeton University for a while, doing a variety of things, including plumbing and carpentry,” recalls Bruce Jefferson, now owner of the business. “After he left the University, he focused on plumbing, and then established his own business.” more

ENJOYING THE RIDE: Princeton University women’s open rowing coxswain Roopa Venkatraman guides the varsity 4 in a race this spring during her senior campaign. Venkatraman, a Cranbury resident, helped the varsity 4 win both the Ivy League and NCAA titles this spring. (Photo by Row2k, provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)

By Bill Alden

Suffering a leg injury from running cross country at the Deerfield Academy put Roopa Venkatraman on a path that ultimately ended up with her winning an NCAA title in rowing.

Needing to be on a team in the spring of her senior year at the Massachusetts prep school, Venkatraman hit the water.

“As we were required to play a sport for at least two seasons, I started looking for an alternative to running track in the spring,” said Venkatraman, a native of Cranbury. “Many of my friends were on the crew team at Deerfield, and I originally joined as a way to just spend some more time with them before we graduated. I didn’t know much about coxing, though many of my friends had told me I’d be a good fit for the role.”

Coming home to go to Princeton University in the fall of 2018, Venkatraman decided to join the Tiger women’s open rowing program.

With her limited crew experience, Venkatraman faced a challenge getting up to speed.

“Walking on to the team with 10 weeks of rowing experience, at best, I was put in a position to direct and lead people who had been rowing for five to 10 years, many of whom had national and international titles,” said Venkatraman.

“I was not incorrect to think that I was underqualified. I could barely tell port from starboard. It’s true that many people walk on to crew and the opportunity to do so is wonderful. But I think that walking on as a rower is, in some ways, different than walking on as a coxswain. As a coxswain, you’re automatically put in a position to lead. Your mistakes are literally broadcasted on speakers. If you underperform, you actively hinder the ability of the entire crew to practice and reach their potential.”

Reaching her potential, Venkatraman guided the Princeton varsity 4 win both the Ivy League and NCAA titles this spring in her senior campaign.

In becoming a national champion coxswain, Venkatraman applied a studious approach to the sport and her position. more

STROKE OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Jonathan Gu blasts a forehand last Thursday in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) boys singles championship match at the Mercer County Park tennis complex. Junior Gu defeated East Brunswick’s Jack Wong 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-2 to win the title and cap an undefeated season. Gu is the first state boys’ singles champion from PHS since Jacob Leschly in 1984. Christina Rosca won the girls’ state singles crown in 2013 to earn the most recent title for PHS. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Jonathan Gu had just gone to a new racket tied, 3-3, in the first set tiebreaker of New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) boys singles championship match when he dropped three straight points to fall a point away from losing the set.

As was a theme all day, the Princeton High junior rallied when he needed it most. He won the next three points, held off one more set point for East Brunswick’s Jack Wong, then won the final three points of the set to build momentum for a 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-2 marathon win to earn the singles state crown last Thursday at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.

“It feels pretty good,” said Gu. “I didn’t expect it at all, but with the withdrawals and a couple of matches that could have gone either way it feels pretty good.”

Gu becomes the first state singles champion from PHS since Jacob Leschly in 1984. Mark Leschly was the last Little Tigers male to reach a state final in 1986. Gu joins Christina Rosca, who won the girls state singles crown in 2013, as state champions coached by Sarah Hibbert.

“It’s absolutely fantastic for Jonathan,” said Hibbert. “He really works hard. He has had an amazing season this year. Obviously Christina winning it in 2013 was super exciting for the school. We hadn’t had a champion in certainly my time and looking back in the record books, it’s been since 1984 since we had a boys’ champion. It’s been decades since we had a state champion be able to put it all together.”

Gu’s state title capped an unbeaten season for him. He also won his first Mercer County Tournament title — in his first time playing in it because of prior year’s cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gu was a guaranteed point for the Tigers at first singles, who reached the Group 3 state final, and he appreciated the return of a full season schedule.

“It’s definitely fun,” said Gu. “Last year we didn’t have the county tournament. This year the county tournament was a new thing for me since freshman year it was canceled. That felt pretty good winning that. Last year, in the state tournament, I had a tough loss. I was glad I could play better and get farther this time.”

Gu fell to eventual state finalist Newark Academy’s Nicolas Kotzen last year in the fourth round of the state singles tournament. This year, Gu was seeded in the 5-8 range. He went through four opponents on his way to the final without dropping a set, including a convincing 6-3, 6-2 win over Kotzen’s brother, Andrew, in the semifinals last Wednesday while Wong needed three sets to overcome top-seeded Eric Li of Montgomery High.

“I felt good,” said Gu. “I played pretty well yesterday (Wednesday). And I know that Jack beat Eric, which is a huge match but they played a while so he might have been a little tired.” more

IMPOSING HIS WILL: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Will Doran heads to goal in a game this spring. Senior star Doran produced one of the best seasons in program history, tallying 128 points on 55 goals and 73 assists to lead the state in scoring. PHS finished the season with a 9-7 record, advancing to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals along the way. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming into the spring, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team had aspirations of winning the Mercer County Tournament title and making a deep run in the state tournament.

But hit by some untimely injuries and illness, PHS ended up falling to Allentown 18-15 in the MCT quarterfinals and losing 14-9 to Mt. Olive in the first round of the North Jersey, Group 3 sectional.

While Tiger head coach Chip Casto acknowledged that his squad didn’t achieve what it had hoped, he saw important progress in the program nevertheless.

“We fell short of our achievement goals — but surpassed our process and culture goals,” said Casto, whose team posted a final record of 9-7.

“These seniors were tremendous this year and for the three previous. Will Doran and Will Erickson exemplified what we are about. Be a solid student in the classroom and then commit to helping make our team the best that it can be. They really helped the freshman and like 10-11 new sophomores to understand who we are, how we do things, how we talk and treat each other. It was a tremendous team to be around every day.” more

PACKING A PUNCH: Justin Leith makes a point while serving as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day School basketball team. Leith, who was also the Stuart Country Day School director of athletics, is leaving the school to become the AD at the Bullis School in Potomac, Md. Leading a culture shift to upgrade Stuart sports upon arriving at the school in 2014, the Tartans earned numerous Prep B titles in indoor track, outdoor track and basketball during Leith’s tenure. In addition, the field hockey team advanced to Mercer County Tournament final in 2019 and the basketball squad made the MCT title game in 2020. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When Justin Leith became the director of athletics at the Stuart Country Day School in 2014, he had a mandate to inspire the school’s teams to compete harder and better.

“The reason I took the job was because the school and the administrators were pining for more athletic achievement, there was a want for that and a need for sure,” said Leith, a former basketball star at Princeton Day School who went on to play in the college and pro ranks and had served as an associate athletics director and hoops coach at the Asheville School (N.C.) for three years before coming to Stuart.

“To have that transformation take place, there needed to be a culture shift. It meant small things, like being punctual to practice, making sure that game attendance is required. I remember a lacrosse game in my first year and all of a sudden the day before six of the players couldn’t make because of a Sweet 16 birthday. It is not the kids’ fault, there was no expectation that was created.”

Leith moved swiftly to create a winning culture. “We were able to do that through parent-student contracts, conversations, and a coaches handbook,” said Leith, who also served as the head coach of the Stuart basketball team. “There were a few bumps in the road but everyone was responsive, everyone was great.”

That responsiveness led to more Stuart students getting involved in athletics.

“Without enrollment growth, we have participation go up significantly in the upper school,” said Leith. “That was done, adding some sports but then it was also a culture thing, kids wanting to play multiple sports. We had our sports awards the other day and we had over 25 kids this year that got a certificate for being three-sport athletes. That is a good percentage of kids in the school.”

With the increased numbers and a more serious approach, Stuart has earned numerous Prep B titles in indoor track, outdoor track, and basketball during Leith’s tenure. In addition, the field hockey team advanced to Mercer County Tournament final in 2019 and the basketball squad made the MCT title game in 2020. more

BURCH BARK: Naysean Burch of Majeski Foundation, left, guards a PATH Academy player last Wednesday in the opening night of action of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Star guard Burch scored nine points as Majeski prevailed 57-28 with Pat Higgins scoring 17 and Danny Bodine chipping in 11 for the victors. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

There were plenty of laughs and good-natured ribbing as Naysean Burch and his teammates on the Majeski Foundation squad hit the Community Park court last Wednesday evening to start action in this year’s Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

The team, which is comprised of players from The College of New Jersey Men’s basketball program, engaged in a spirited pre-game shootaround as people caught up with each other.

“We are just building team chemistry out here with our new guys, the freshmen, and our transfer Pat Higgins,” said Burch, a rising senior guard for TCNJ. “We are getting to know everybody’s game. We are excited to be out here for sure.”

Facing PATH Academy, Majeski got the summer off to an exciting start, building a 23-14 halftime lead and then pulling away to a 57-28 victory.

“I was happiest about our defense, we held them to 28,” said Burch, who scored nine points the win which saw Higgins lead the way with 17 and Danny Bodine chip in 11.

“We just looked like we were having fun. When we are having fun, we are going to win.”

Brunch had fun in helping to top spark Majeski to the win by setting the pace at both ends of the court. more

June 15, 2022

The Rev. Lukata Mjumbe of Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church was one of the speakers at Saturday’s rally at Hinds Plaza, which drew more than 300 people. Organized by the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action, the event was part of a Day of Action in nearly 500 cities across the country coordinated by March for Our Lives, a youth-led gun violence prevention group. (Photo by Weronika A. Plohn)

By Anne Levin

Rider University’s announcement last week that 25 academic programs will be eliminated or “archived,” and an undisclosed number of faculty members will be laid off — an effort to address its $20 million deficit — is the latest blow for Westminster Choir College, which has been affiliated with Rider since 1992.

Among the undergraduate programs on the list are Theory/Composition, Organ Performance, and Sacred Music; graduate programs include American and Public Musicology, Piano Pedagogy and Performance, Piano Performance, and Organ Performance. “All that remains of WCC is really Voice Performance and Music Education,” wrote one alumnus on Facebook. “Rider really destroyed our school.”

Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo emailed the university community June 7 the plan, which affects 25 academic programs. Along with the courses at Westminster, which was moved from its longtime Princeton campus to Rider’s Lawrence Township location in 2020, the list includes undergraduate majors in Economics, Global Studies, and Health Care Policy. Graduate programs include Homeland Security and Business Communication. The email also said Rider will be increasing its investment in seven programs in an effort to help them grow. All current students whose programs are being eliminated or archived “will have a path toward graduation,” the email said.

The cost savings will ease the deficit and position Rider so it can “begin to consistently generate annual net revenue reserves that can be invested back into the university’s future,” Dell’Omo said.

Members of Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) were quick to condemn the administration’s announcement, issuing a statement saying the mention of layoffs violates the existing labor contract, and the unilateral restructuring “violates Rider’s system of shared governance and replaces it with top-down decision making.” The AAUP renewed its call to remove Dell’Omo “for his financial mismanagement of the university.” more

By Anne Levin

Impressed with a suggested compromise crafted by residents of the neighborhood where the Hun School is requesting a rezoning of two sites, Princeton Council on Monday night voted to approve an ordinance allowing for the change.

“I want to acknowledge both Hun and the neighborhood, who saw the benefit of we, we, we versus me, me, me,” said Councilman Leighton Newlin. “It’s an attitude we could use more of in Princeton.” Other members of the governing body agreed with him.

Earlier this month, the town’s Planning Board endorsed the request, which would rezone the school’s Mall and the Mason House lot from R-2 (residential) to E-4 (educational). The request was originally endorsed by the Planning Board last year, and referred to Council. But a tie vote defeated the ordinance at that time. It was brought back last month.

The Mall is an open green space. The Mason House, formerly the headmaster’s home, was most recently used for academic support in order to increase space for the campus infirmary during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rezoning allows a greater floor area ratio (FAR), giving the school more space to meet local regulations for additions or improvements. Hun wants to build a visual arts center on the lot.

Over the past few years, residents of the Edgerstoune neighborhood had expressed concerns about traffic, noise, and future building projects on the campus should the rezoning be approved.

The recently created compromise requires that the school replace the Mason House with its new building on as much of the original footprint as possible, as close to the corner of Edgerstoune and Winant roads as zoning regulations allow. In exchange, the neighbors will not oppose a slightly larger structure on the lot, raising the maximum square footage from 9,000 to 10,000 square feet. Also, the school will agree to a deed restriction guaranteeing that nothing further be built on the lot, and that the remainder be preserved as open green space. more