Catherine J. Toppin '02

From an early age, Catherine Toppin combined her devotion and loyalty to her family with an unswerving commitment to excellence. Her successes have come from an extraordinary capacity for hard work as well as a desire to help others succeed, whether it is an individual or an organization. What good fortune that Catherine considers Princeton "family" and has extended to the University the same devotion, loyalty, and commitment to excellence.

Even while Catherine was a student pursuing a challenging course of study in Electrical Engineering, taking classes with graduate students and getting "A's" on her projects, she contributed to the greater community. She served as the President of the Princeton Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, and she volunteered for Community House, tutoring underserved local students.

Within a year after graduation she was an active member of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni (ABPA), became a board member in 2003, and has been president since 2008—a rapid rise that has not surprised her former professors. Through this position, she is a member of the Alumni Council’s Executive Committee and was instrumental in helping to plan, organize and execute the 2009 Coming Back and Moving Forward conference for Black Princeton alumni.

Some might assume that leading the largest alumni affiliated group might be enough to contribute while practicing law and now serving as Patent Counsel for General Electric. But not Catherine. She has been actively engaged in her regional associations wherever she has lived. As a law student in Maryland, she joined the Washington, DC, Princeton Prize in Race Relations Committee. When she moved to Boston after law school, she joined the Princeton Prize Committee there, becoming co-chair as well as vice president of the Princeton Association of New England. And when she recently moved to Connecticut—yes, she joined the Princeton Prize Committee of Connecticut. By virtue of heading up the ABPA she is also on the Princeton Prize national board.

Catherine has remained loyal to her other Princeton connections as well. Last year she was named to the Leadership Council for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (the youngest member), she is on the advisory committee for the Connect campaign initiative to engage Black leaders, and she is a member of the Reunions Committee of the Class of 2002’s 10th Reunion.

Catherine's commitment to Princeton goes beyond her tireless work as a leader of organizations. Her friends, colleagues, and mentors comment on her ability to connect directly with people of all ages through her lively sense of humor, her unfailingly positive outlook, her warmth, and her wisdom beyond her years.

Not least of Catherine's gifts is her singing, a gift in the sense of talent but equally a gift to her Princeton family.  For the 2006 conference, Catherine volunteered to become the "face and voice" of the ABPA's effort to incorporate the singing of "Old Nassau" as a symbol of the growing reconciliation between Black Princeton alumni and the University. Ever since, Catherine has regularly led "Old Nassau" at the conclusion of ABPA events. An ABPA colleague shares that "the conflicted feelings for me and many other Black alumni have faded into the past and we now sing along proudly with Catherine."

For all that you have given your Princeton family in these first ten years of alumni life, Catherine, let this crystal tiger be but a token of our deep gratitude. We look forward to being part of your family for many years to come.

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View a list of previous recipients of the Award for Service to Princeton.

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