Eric Plummer ’10: The Princeton connection ‘can be life-changing’
Photo by Andrea Kane
Eric Plummer played several team sports when he was growing up in New Jersey, but when he was introduced to the shot put, he was immediately drawn to the sport’s simple objectivity. Success and failure were measured in feet and inches. “The beauty of shot put was that you could put in the work, and you could see the results,” said Plummer, who won five Ivy League titles in his event. Combine that fact with its obvious corollary — that there’s no one else to blame but yourself when you fail — and you might think that shot put and other similar track and field events attract individual achievers rather than those with a team-first mentality.
Not at Princeton.
“Our team always felt like a family, and I think that kind of feeling starts from the top,” Plummer said, crediting legendary coach Fred Samara with setting the tone for team excellence. “Coach Samara knew how to connect with people, how to understand what drove them and how to tailor his style in a way that got the best out of humans. You rely on each person around you to bring pieces and elements that you don’t have innately to help you become the best version of you: that teammate next to you who’s better at focusing, the one who’s better at the power lifts, the one who can see every technical flaw and break it down. That camaraderie is what’s needed to make the individual successful.”
As a leader in the Princeton alumni community and the assistant treasurer of the Alumni Council, Plummer applies a similar approach to bring people together. From his introduction to the volunteer alumni community through the Alumni Schools Committee, to organizing Reunions events, to serving as a leadership officer for the Association of Black Princeton Alumni (ABPA), including president from 2020-23, to joining the Alumni Council executive team, Plummer has worked to connect Princetonians from different generations, different regions and different backgrounds — hardly a surprise for a Tiger who won the Spirit of Princeton Award as an undergraduate for his positive contributions to campus life.
That service instinct stems from his upbringing as the oldest of six siblings. “If you want to see a change, you can’t wait for somebody else to make or be that change,” said Plummer, a managing director for Silicon Valley Bank. “You’re going to create the path or there’s not going to be one. The things that I picked to become involved in at Princeton and the alumni community, it wasn't that I wanted to be the leader, it was that I really wanted to see them done.”
As president of the ABPA during the pandemic, Plummer led the pivot to remote meetings on the internet, organizing more than 25 virtual events that extended the group’s reach and strengthened alumni bonds. He also pushed to financially restructure the ABPA, moving from dues-collection to a donations-driven model that lowered the barriers to engagement and helped the group become more inclusive, especially for younger alumni.
Increasing recent alumni involvement is an important priority for the current Alumni Council, and Plummer is especially excited about the Council’s new Ad Hoc Committee on Recent Alumni Engagement that is tasked with creating specific, actionable programming to drive increased participation. “There are so many opportunities to create a better Princeton, but the hardest part for a recent graduate can be figuring out that initial entry point,” Plummer said. “Because once you get into the web, it’s very easy to find something that’s interesting and rewarding.”
That journey begins when a student sets foot on campus, and because of the extraordinary passion of the Princeton alumni community, it lasts a lifetime. Plummer tells a story about how after he graduated, Augie Wolf ’83, a Princeton shot putter who competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics, presented him with a flashy pair of Princeton-orange Nike sneakers that he wore to special alumni events. At a Reunions a few years later, Plummer ran into another good friend who had graduated after he did. The younger friend was barefoot because his sandals had broken, so Plummer gave his classic Tiger-striped shoes to him. In a way, the sneakers have become a symbol of the legacy and tradition that is passed from one Princetonian to another.
Over the summer, Plummer and his wife, Cecily King ’10, moved to Plainfield, N.J., with their young family, and being closer to campus has increased their opportunities to contribute to the alumni community. But no matter where they’ve lived, the couple has found Princeton nearby through the alumni community. “I became engaged to create spaces for people like me — and take that as you may: for athletes, for Black students, for kids from New Jersey — but I think everybody can see themselves in other folks in all different ways,” Plummer said. “That ability to find a reason to get involved in our alumni community, that’s really important. And then once you find that connection, it can be life-changing.”