Award for Service to Princeton: 2020 Recipients

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Award for Service to Princeton: 2020 Recipients

Alfred L. Bush

Born in Denver, Alfred Bush as a young man climbed the mountains in the Canadian Rockies and the Grand Tetons; graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah; and joined an archaeological dig in a Mayan site in Mexico. Then, luckily for Princeton, he was drawn east.

He arrived at Princeton in the fall of 1958 as one of the editors of “The Papers of Thomas Jefferson.” At the completion of that project in 1962, he joined the staff of the Princeton University Library as curator of the Princeton Collections of Western Americana. Over the next 40 years as a curator, he significantly expanded the University’s collection, particularly in Native American-related and photographic material. He published a number of works, partnered with faculty members in conferences and courses, and organized more than fifty exhibitions in the library and at other institutions. Following his retirement, the Princeton University Library Chronicle devoted a 2006 issue entirely to essays in honor of Alfred and his profound commitment and curatorial acumen. He was described with affection as “the western man who appeared in the eastern parlor and left a trail through the archives.”

Yet that was only one of the trails that Alfred walked. As advocate and advisor, he also accompanied several generations of Native American students as they made their way through Princeton. He became the leading light in the recruitment and retention of Native American students.

When cultural anthropologist and Native American Alfonso Ortiz joined Princeton’s faculty in the 1960s, Alfred had recognized a kindred spirit. He eagerly joined Ortiz’s quest to provide Native Americans from reservations the undergraduate experience at Princeton. In Alfred’s own words, “we found Princeton’s location perfect for such students: a bucolic campus within walking distance of woods filled with deer, yet only a train ride away from New York City and its special resources for the American Indian.”

Obstacles did not daunt Alfred. When he visited reservations and found a talented yet academically unprepared student, he would make a strategic phone call to arrange admission to private school before applying to Princeton. Even after attending a New England prep school, incoming students could find the cultural leap formidable, especially the gulf between English and their language. There Alfred would be, organizing tutors to help students prepare for the challenge of writing a senior thesis. Understanding that certain tribal ceremonies back at the reservations were important milestones for students, Alfred used a special travel account (funded by contributions from key supporters) to underwrite plane fares. Then Alfred would serve as chauffeur to and from the airport, no matter how early or late in the day.

Emery Real Bird ’17 has written: “Alfred made Princeton a more familiar place for me and countless other native students and for that I am grateful. He will always be remembered by myself and my cohort at Princeton’s Natives at Princeton as their mentor. A true sachem.”

Native American alumni from across the decades, many of whom have returned to their homes to become leaders in their tribes and in national Indian affairs, have also attested to Alfred’s insight and influence: “He mentored me, coached me academically and professionally, and he has never stopped all these years since….He understands and respects the environment in which we live, our direct ties to the earth, sky, sun, moon and the spirits, and also the importance of language, dance and song.”

With the Award for Service to Princeton, the Alumni Council is honored to recognize a true sachem, chief, who, by enriching the lives of Native Americans at Princeton, has not only enriched the life of the University but also enriched a nation’s understanding.

Carol A. Obertubbesing ’73 W71

Alumna pioneer and volunteer leader in many capacities for more than forty years, Carol Obertubbessing says Princeton has been both the one constant and the defining experience of her life. In turn, Carol has been a vital part of milestones that have defined Princeton.

She arrived on campus in the fall of 1969 in the first freshman class to enroll women; she took the first women’s studies course and helped to establish the Women’s Center; she met her late husband, Mike Epstein ’71, when she joined UNDO, the Union for National Draft Opposition; in 1975 she and Mike were married in Prospect Garden with Princeton icon Fred Fox ’39 officiating.

During the 1980s, when she and Mike lived in Boston and she was working in public tv and radio, Carol added serving on the board of PANE to her Alumni Schools Committee interviewing. When Carol was at PBS headquarters in the D.C. area, she served on the board of the Princeton Club of Washington.

Then 1992 brought a move to Chicago. Carol admits that she hadn’t expected to end up in Chicago, but she took to the city and to the Princeton Club of Chicago, where she immediately felt part of a welcoming Princeton community. She joined the club’s Leadership Group in 1993 and has since served in almost every role possible, from her first stint as programs chair through vice president and president, and from 2003 to 2019 as vice president for communications. She founded and edited the club’s award-winning “Tiger Talk” newsletter, for more than 16 years the primary vehicle for promoting the club’s extensive events schedule and community service activities that has been recognized as a significant factor in connecting Princetonians of all stripes in the greater Chicago area.

No longer vice president for communications, Carol is still a member of the Leadership Group and still “a force of nature,” to quote a fellow group member. She attends every meeting (even if it has to be by phone from South America). She has volunteered for a host of standing committees and creates ad hoc committees for important programming. Embracing her role as part of Princeton’s living history, she chaired the committee that hosted the April 2019 50th Anniversary Celebration of Undergraduate Coeducation at Princeton — in Chicago!, bringing in alumni and alumnae from across the country.

The same year that she joined the club, she was so impressed by both Princeton Project 55/Alumni Corps and the Princeton Club of Chicago’s Princeton in Chicago Schools Program that she immediately volunteered to help with both efforts. She has since been a mentor and advocate for dozens of Project 55/Alumni Corps Fellows in Chicago, whose time in Chicago have been enriched by Carol’s generous gifts of advice and adventure in a new city.

Her other club activities range from sporting events to theater, music and art, educational precepts, “eating club” dinners, Lunar New Year dim sum brunches, summer picnics, Princeton Prize in Race Relations decisions, book tours, Princeton Diversity Discussions, and Princeton Women’s Network events.

If Princeton has been the one constant in Carol’s life, Carol has been the one constant in the lives of untold Chicago Tigers. Her colleagues in the Leadership Group of the Princeton Club of Chicago speak with one accord: Carol is both the backbone and the heart of the club.

And this doesn’t even touch on her other alumni volunteering, such as her stint on the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council or her current role as regional vice president on the class Executive Committee for ’73.

Featured in the September 2019 issue of the Alumni Weekly, Carol wrote, “Princeton — its spirit of place and its people — has left an indelible mark on my life.” The Award for Service to Princeton recognizes that Carol’s Tiger spirit has left an indelible mark on Princeton and on the lives of a multitude of Princeton’s people.

Sue Pierson h67 h74 h81 h83 h87 h88 h93

The path to Princeton was not a straight one after Sue Pierson received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. An internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, a stint as a clinical dietician, and three years as director of food service at a teaching hospital in Durham, North Carolina were interesting side trips along the way.

Then in 1986, the path became a road north: Meadow Lakes Retirement Community in East Windsor Township, New Jersey, hired Sue as executive dietitian. There she got her first introduction to Princeton alumni. Many of the residents regaled her with stories of their time as students, and she loved their festive class finery for Reunions. “Costumes!” she thought. “Princeton must be a great place.” In a moment of Princeton serendipity, a resident handed her the job opening announcements from the Princeton Weekly Bulletin. “Sue, I think you’d like this job.”  

Her travels were over. In 1967 she arrived as university dietitian to administer the nutrition program for all members of the University community. Within months, she experienced her first Alumni Day and worked on the Class of 1983’s 5th Reunion. And she knew she had found her niche, had found her home.

Luckily for Princeton, Sue excelled at multi-tasking for the many branches of her family in her new home. She could oversee renovations of Rocky/Mathey or Butler/Wilson dining facilities and the opening of Whitman’s facilities for students, while coordinating custom dinner menus for dozens of Reunions food chairs. She could lead the way for student health as a founding member of the University's Eating Disorders Team while instituting new ways to care for Reunions attendees with an array of dietary needs, especially those with allergies. She gave the same personal attention to more than a hundred University employees as she gave to one alumnus returning for his 50th Reunion who needed a special liquid meal. No sooner would her team have cleaned up from Prom Night and Class Day, but she would be taking phone calls from class officers about the next year’s Reunions.  

Those class officers did not take Sue for granted. From the Class of ’55 through the decades to today, they sing her praises. “She makes planning for Reunions a joy…A project that used to take hours, now takes only minutes….Her patience runs as deep as her knowledge, and I can be an annoying alumna!” To sum up, “the entire Princeton community owes Sue a debt of gratitude for her great leadership and passion for excellence.”

On Sue’s part, “The University was good to me. It allowed me to learn, to continue to grow. In 1996, when I said I wanted to run Reunions, they gave me the reins. I love Reunions, and I treasure the many food chairs who have become great friends.”

Over thirty-three years, as she rose through the ranks to become director of residential dining, Sue touched the lives of nearly 50,000 students even before they became alumni and untold thousands more alumni who graduated before 1988 but have come back for Reunions. These have been her family in her home. For students and alumni alike, she has insured that they have been cared for, from overseeing dining halls to communicating directly with individual Reunion-goers who have unique diets, even when that can mean 900 personal phone calls in the months before Reunions.

Sue has overseen her Princeton home with grace and goodwill, and always with a smile. She has made every meal feel like a dinner party. And she has never taken credit, but gives all applause to her teams. The Alumni Council now, with much affection, applauds Sue with the Award for Service to Princeton.

Bambi Tsui ’09

When Bambi Tsui arrived on campus the fall of 2006, he had already taken six college level courses, had helped to determine the orbit of an asteroid, and was aiming to take a graduate level course as a freshman.

When Bambi graduated just three years later, with a degree in chemical engineering and a certificate in material science and engineering, he had (among other things) contributed to the creation of a new survey application by combining quantitative and qualitative methods, an application that was later used in the Office of the Mayor in New York City; had organized the first PuMaC competition, now in its thirteenth year, with members of the Math Club; had represented Princeton on a team engineering biological circuits with DNA; and at the Lewis-Sigler Institute’s Tavazoie Lab had made research tools more accessible by offering a hosted version, allowing researchers to try out tools using the Institute’s computer grid. And he was elected to the Sigma Xi Society, which recognizes “marked achievement based on actual research,” as demonstrated by his thesis.

Choosing to stay on the Tavazoie team as a scientific programmer after graduation, Bambi was also ready to experience the University in a very different area: alumni volunteering. When he received an email about the opportunities for alumni engagement, he acted quickly. By September 2009 he had joined the Alumni Council’s Princetoniana Committee.

A happy outcome for both parties. Bambi welcomed the chance to “give back to the University and its community,” and the committee welcomed Bambi’s talents and technical expertise. Bambi went right to work on upgrading the pBay weekly newsletter, originally a round up of Princeton items found on eBay. Soon, he had built a curation program to scour eBay and other sites where Princeton-related items appear. The newsletter now includes thumbnails of the items along with the listings. Sometimes his finds include artifacts more than 100 years old, and sometimes a random object turns out to be the single object from an important Princeton event. His discoveries are a boon to the Archives, and his weekly reports are must reading for 150 avid Tiger subscribers.

He then worked with Tom Swift ’76 to make the virtual Princetoniana Museum a reality. A dream that began with a wish to photograph and display the committee’s collection of Reunion jackets initially ran up against some imposing challenges, not least of which was the potentially prohibitive cost. Then Bambi raised his hand and said, “We can do this on our own.” Not only did Bambi create the technical infrastructure, he also handled style and aesthetics and coordinated with Communications to ensure consistency with University branding. Featuring over 3,500 artifacts and growing, the museum went live in 2019.

For ten years and more, Bambi has spent countless hours between both projects, toiling behind the scenes and bending his own schedule to make time. His Princetoniana colleagues describe him as the ideal unsung alumni volunteer hero: he never says “no” and always gives 200%. Now a software engineer in Silicon Valley, he modestly states, “Some technical challenges can look hard from the outside. It has been a pleasure to take on the challenges for others, using technology as a tool. Working with the committee has led me to place greater importance on the longer term and to understand the benefits of being able to leverage technology for cultural use.”

The Alumni Council award signifies that Bambi’s service to Princeton goes far beyond the Princetoniana Committee. Bambi has helped to curate a community for the 21st century while honoring the centuries that have gone before. Through his affection for and dedication to Princeton, he has made it possible for different generations — whether alumni or not — to learn more about and increase their own engagement with the University.

Previous Award Recipients

  • 2020 - Alfred L. Bush; Carol A. Obertubbesing ’73 W71, Sue Pierson h67 h74 h81 h83 h87 h88 h93; Bambi Tsui ’09
  • 2019 - Gwen L. Feder ’78 P21, Rose Li *92 P18, Lauren McKenna Surzyn ’07, Masakazu (Max) Tsumuraya *81
  • 2018 - Charles C. Freyer ’69, Jean S. Hendry *80, James M. McPherson h57 h64 h69 h70 h72 H14, Mika Provata-Carlone *02
  • 2017 - Susan Conger-Austin *83, Kendall L. Crolius ’76, Anthony M. Fittizzi, Jr. ’97, Judith McCartin Scheide W36 P84 h28 h31 h32 h34 h36 h37 h40 h43 h70
  • 2016 - Charles J. Plohn Jr. ’66, William F. Landrigan ’76, Gary M. King ’79, Gary K. Pai ’99
  • 2015 - Thomas F. Fleming Jr. ’69 P00 P01, Patricia L. Irvin ’76, Shawn R. Cowls ’87, Kristin Alyea Epstein ’97
  • 2014 - Wesley Wright Jr. ’51 P83 P90 h83, Vsevolod A. Onyshkevych ’83, Debbie Scott Williams ’84, Anthony J. Fiori *03
  • 2013 - Rosalie Wedmid Norair ’76 S76 P04 P07, Charlene Huang Olson ’88, Lee L. Dudka *77, Jeffrey A. Vinikoor ’03
  • 2012 - David T. Fisher ’69, Isabel K. McGinty *82 P12, Catherine J. Toppin ’02, Robert D. Varrin ’56 *57 P78 P80 P81 g10
  • 2011 - George A. Brakeley III ’61 , George L. Bustin ’70 P08, Valerie Kelly ’84
  • 2010 - Jotham Johnson ’64, Gregg A. Lange ’70, Jean M. Telljohann ’81
  • 2009 - J. Andrew Cowherd ’74 P07, Richard G. Williams *72 h78 h83 h02, Elise P. Wright ’83
  • 2008 - Carol Barash *89, Melvin R. McCray Jr. ’74, Duncan W. Van Dusen ’58
  • 2007 - April A. Chou ’96, John R. Emery ’52^, Robert B. Hollander ’55, William K. Selden ’34^
  • 2006 - Kenneth M. Bruce ’83, Jon D. Hlafter ’61 *63 MFA, Paul G. Sittenfeld ’69
  • 2005 - Don M. Betterton h60, Daniel P. Lopresti *83, *84, *87, Carl R. Yudell ’75
  • 2004 - John V. Fleming *63, Charles H. Rose ’50, Henry Von Kohorn ’66
  • 2003 - Mitsuya Goto *56, Herbert W. Hobler ’44, Robert B. Rodgers ’56^
  • 2002 - Robert Gibby ’36^, Linda Knights ’77, Oren Pollock *51
  • 2001 - John Fish ’55, Norman Itzkowitz *59, H. Kirk Unruh ’70
  • 2000 - Alfred Bates h45, Lisa & Donald Drakeman *88 S*88, Elizabeth Osborne S50 h36^, Jolanne Stanton '77
  • 1999 - Nicholas Allard ’74, Patricia Marks *03, Brian McDonald ’83
  • 1998 - Elizabeth Duffy ’88, James Floyd ’69, Leonard Milberg ’53
  • 1997 - Hannah P. Fox W39, Peter T. Milano ’55, Melinda W. Varian S63
  • 1996 - Carl Fields^, Robert S. Miner Jr. *56^, Kenneth C. Scasserra ’61
  • 1995 - Dolores Chavez de Daigle ’76, Warren Elmer Jr. ’42^, Douglas Nadeau ’62^
  • 1994 - Marvin Bressler h68, 82^, Nancy and Larry Gutstein P87,90,96,96, Peter G. Smith '46^
  • 1993 - Leroy R. Hill h86, James D. MacWilliam Jr. ’54^, George Wallace Ruckert ’30^
  • 1992 - Linda Bell Blackburn ’71, George Kovatch ’55, Douglas E. Yeager ’69
  • 1991 - Joseph L. Bolster Jr. ’52, Virginia L. Corson ’74, Douglas H. Hahn ’34^
  • 1990 - John H. Bitner ’38^, Sally B. Frank ’80, Martin E. Robins ’64
  • 1989 - Austin M. Francis Jr. ’56, Robert H. Jiranek ’52, Hugh de N. Wynne ’39^
  • 1988 - Marjorie Corman Aaron ’78, Henry R. Martin ’48, Arthur Northwood ’35^
  • 1987 - William H. Avery ’27^, William G. Bowen *58, Milton Lyon^, Clyde E. Rankin III ’72
  • 1986 - James Q. Bensen ’36^, Alison R. Bryan, Class of 1913^, Howie B. Kiser P75 h55, 75, 84^
  • 1985 - Charles S. Dawson ’70, James R. Posner *70, Robert A. Winters ’35^
  • 1984 - William P. Clark ’59, John G. Kellogg ’32^, Ralph K. Ritchie ’34^
  • 1983 - George R. Beetle *66, Erling Dorf h33^, John W. Kern ’49
  • 1982 - Thomas P. Birmingham ’47^, David G. Rahr ’60, H. Coleman Tily III ’40^
  • 1981 - Marvin H. Cheiten *71 h65, Frederick L. Redpath ’39^, Leslie L. Vivian Jr. ’42^
  • 1980 - Harper R. Dowell ’30^, Richard L. Herbruck ’55, Arthur C. Holden ’12^
  • 1979 - Levering Cartwright, Class of 1926^, Jeremiah S. Finch h31^, Frederic E. Fox ’39^
  • 1978 - George C. Denniston, Class of 1927^, William M. Hassebrock ’68, Jerry Horton ’42^
  • 1977 - Arnold M. Berlin ’46, Julian T. Buxton Jr. ’50^, Robert W. Sinkler h78^
  • 1976 - John C. Bogle ’51, Gordon G. Sikes, Class of  1916^, William C. Van Siclen ’43^
  • 1975 - James R. Carruthers, Class of 1925^, Alpheus T. Mason, Graduate Class of 1923^, James H. Rowbotham Jr. ’32^
  • 1974 - Lucy M. Caldwell W25^, Donald P. Dickson ’49^, Howard W. Stepp h39^
  • 1973 - Donald W. Griffin Class of 1923^, Milton W. King, Class of 1912^, John H. Leh Class of 1921^, Robert B. Rinehart, Class of 1904^
  • 1972 - George J. Cooke, Jr. Class of 1922^, Walter F. Hollenbach, Class of 1903, GS 1907^, Theodore E. McAlister ’52

^ Denotes deceased alumnus/a