Meet Gary M. King ’79: P-rade (and V-rade) narrator

Gary M. King '79

“Did you know that the first class reunion was organized in 1859 by Alfred Woodhull, class of 1856?”

“In 1975, the first graduate alumni marched in the P-rade.”

“This is interesting: in 1861, the locomotive cheer was adopted from the Civil War skyrocket cheer when the Seventh Regiment marched through Princeton.”

You would expect a longtime Princetoniana Committee member to rattle off these facts, and Gary M. King ’79 can, and did as narrator for the 2020 virtual P-rade — and will again on May 22.

King clearly remembers the spark of his devotion to University history and tradition. At King’s first assembly on campus, the legendary “Keeper of Princetoniana,” Frederick Fox ’39, bounded across Alexander Hall’s stage, “this exuberant, enthusiastic alumnus . . . extolling all of these joys about Princeton University and teaching us how to sing ‘Old Nassau’ the proper way. And I thought, ‘Wow, is this what it means to be a Princetonian?’”

As a bookend, King recalls preparing to spend the post junior-year summer researching honeybees for his biology senior thesis, when he observed from a friend’s room the Class of 1953 celebrating its 25th Reunion in Blair Courtyard. This, he told himself, is too much fun and something I can’t miss.

And for the past 40-plus years, he hasn’t.

He crossed the Atlantic in 1993 for a four-day Reunions weekend even though he knew a family reunion the following month meant he’d have to do it again. (He did the same 1994; those were the years he was based in the United Kingdom for IBM). In 2019, the year he first took on the narrator mantle and knew he would be based on Poe Field, he walked the route beforehand and recorded it on his phone. (That year was a trifecta: in addition to narrator, he was class president and on the class’s 40th Reunion committee).

He has been busy doing his homework to prep for this year’s event, having learned the ropes from Gregg Lange ’70, who had held the job for more than 25 years. When Lange handed King folders bursting with notes for 2019’s majors, “I thought, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’”

Since then King has leaned on his Princetoniana and gathered cultural references to enliven P-rade banter, from World Series championships to Oscar winners, “because part of the narration is not just Princeton facts, which are important, but also what cultural facts are going on at the time (of the majors), trying to find something that’s upbeat, and you’re just adding a little more flavor.”

A preview for 2021? King is hoping a class will pull out a Star Trek theme — he’s a huge fan — to balance out the many Star Wars themes of previous years.

Tune in at 1:55 p.m. on Saturday, May 22, for pre-V-rade festivities on, the @Princetonalumni Facebook and Twitter channels, and the University Facebook, YouTube and Media Central channels.