John Reilly Photography
The atrium of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History was lit up with orange lights, including tiger stripes projected onto the massive elephants on display, as Princeton University alumni gathered to hear from President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 in the second year of the Venture Forward campaign.
Eisgruber was joined on stage in the Field Museum’s auditorium by Craig Robinson ’83, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and their conversation explored the University’s focus on “making audacious bets” on students and faculty for the long term. The topics they discussed included expansion of the student body, new building construction on campus, how the University is addressing ChatGPT and artificial intelligence, and Princeton’s emphasis on providing opportunity for more students from all backgrounds. Their conversation also touched on student health and wellness, particularly how Princeton is addressing student mental health challenges.
Receptions in the atrium before and after the event allowed alumni to connect with one another. The evening also featured a special reception for graduate alumni, featuring remarks from Graduate School Dean Rodney Priestley, who was introduced by Karthick Ramakrishnan *02, president of the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni.
Eisgruber and Robinson were introduced by Alumni Council President Mary Newburn ’97, who welcomed the audience of around 350 alumni. “Chicago Tigers, hello! It is absolutely wonderful to be back and to see all of you,” she said. Newburn, who resided in Chicago for 20 years and was an active member of the Princeton Club of Chicago, received a warm welcome and loud applause from those in attendance.
Robinson began the conversation by asking his classmate, “Tell us more about this campaign and how it is about making audacious bets. What does success look like?”
“The essence of this campaign,” Eisgruber said, “is about making a difference in the world for the better through teaching and research of unsurpassed quality. The reason we talk about audacious bets as the theme for the Venture Forward campaign this year is this: it is just astonishing what Princeton is willing to do for undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members. Here, we are going to give you the resources to do what you most dream about, to pursue the questions that most interest you. This is not a short-term value proposition. We believe in investing in talent for the long-term. It may take five, ten, fifteen years — but down the line, that is going to make a difference not just in your life but in our society.”
Eisgruber noted that expansion of the student body, with the support of alumni, has meant that this year’s entering class is the largest yet for Princeton. “We just opened two new residential colleges, including Yeh College, named after a Chicagoan who many of you know,” Eisgruber said.
Robinson, as a former member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, noted that there are many changes on campus; and Eisgruber replied, “It is a heavy period of building,” calling out new facilities for the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Environmental Studies, a new health center, a new Princeton University Art Museum, and new graduate student housing and athletics facilities.
In the president’s State of the University message, Robinson noted, the president underscored that the University is focused on attracting more students from all backgrounds. “That really hit with me because I was one of those students, coming from the South Side of Chicago, and Princeton made a big difference in my life and my family’s life,” Robinson said. “Being able to do that for more students hits me where I live.”
After a Q&A session with the audience, Amy Beth Treciokas ’87 and Stephen Ban ’84 led singing of “Old Nassau,” adding the second verse and a locomotive. The event was followed by a reception amid the dinosaur skeletons and elephants bathed in orange light.
The Chicago event was the third of a quartet of 2022-23 presidential conversations scheduled in cities around the world before Reunions. Eisgruber will also visit Washington, D.C., on April 18 as part of the Venture Forward campaign.