Photo by Tori Repp/Fotobuddy


Reunions 2024: Embracing that Tiger Spirit

by Rebekah Schroeder, Office of Communications
May 25, 2024

Princeton’s campus has again transformed into a land where golf carts zip along pathways and old friends call out to each other that they haven’t changed a bit. 

The University is welcoming about 25,000 alumni, family, guests, faculty and staff, as well as the Class of 2024, for this year’s Reunions, running Thursday, May 23, through Sunday, May 26.

Alumni have returned to Old Nassau from as far as Australia and Thailand — many with families in tow — to spend time with classmates, visit old stomping grounds, participate in panel discussions and community service projects, and enjoy a host of live music, events and lectures. 

Among the major classes present are the Class of 1974, the grandparent class of this year’s graduates, celebrating its 50th reunion; the Class of 1999, the parent class, celebrating its 25th; the Class of 2014, celebrating its 10th reunion; and the Class of 1959, marking its 65th. 

President Eisgruber at the 2014 tent during Reunions
Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber, Class of 1983, made the Reunions rounds, here welcoming the Class of 2014 for their Barbie-themed “Malibu Ten.” Photo by Tori Repp/Fotobuddy

“Just being here brings back the feelings and the memories,” said Deidre Kolarick, Reunions co-chair for the Class of 1999. Kolarick was doing setup for Reunions on Thursday alongside her longtime friend and Class of 1999 Reunions co-chair Emily Koster Walling. 

The two met on their first day as Princeton first-years, then worked together as Orange Key guides for three summers. Kolarick said their hope for their 25th reunion was “to let everyone experience some of that joy again.” 

Their class’s throwback theme is “A Blockbuster 25th: Be Kind, Rewind to ’99,” but Kolarick said they also want to underscore their responsibility to the future. As part of a joint effort with the 30th reunion Class of 1994 and the 50th reunion Class of 1974, they joined a Reunions greening initiative to reduce single-use plastic waste by asking alumni to reuse and return their special orange cups. 

As a memento for fellow members of the Class of 1999 visiting campus, they worked with Thousand Fell, a company co-founded by Stuart Ahlum of the Class of 2013, to create custom recyclable sneakers. 

Scholarly perspectives 

Alumni-faculty forums at this year’s Reunions grappled with topics including artificial intelligence, K–12 education, climate change, and firearms and drugs as issues of public health, among others. Other discussions explored Russia’s war in Ukraine, the clean energy transition, AI in precision health, and more. 

On Friday, Anu Ramaswami, the director of Princeton’s M.S. Chadha Center for Global India, moderated a discussion on urban planning, transportation and housing. At Princeton, Ramaswami brings her scholarship and research to a wide range of academic disciplines as a faculty member affiliated with India studies, civil and environmental engineering, international and regional studies, and the High Meadows Environmental Institute. 

Alumni participants in “Helping Cities Survive: Solutions for Inclusivity, Affordability and Quality of Life” were Jim Stockard, a Class of 1964 graduate and a lecturer in urban planning and design for the Harvard Graduate School of Design; Richard K. Rein, Class of 1969 and the editor of TAPinto Princeton Community News; Neil Hrushowy, Class of 1994 and the director of community planning for the city of Vancouver; and Beth Gordon Zall, Class of 2004 and the senior planning manager of Amtrak’s Gateway Program. 

Ramaswami, a pioneer in sustainable urban infrastructure systems, asked the panelists to address the “seven key physical provisioning systems” that affect the health of people and their environment: energy, water, green space, food, buildings, waste management and mobility. 

Stockard spoke to the importance of a public-minded, rather than market-driven, approach to housing. For-profit developers may be “good capitalists,” he said, but their financial motivations often conflict with families’ priorities, including stability and affordability. 

Zall stressed the importance of public transportation as a means to improve the quality of urban life and cited New York’s new congestion pricing as a model to watch in that regard. 

In another conversation on Friday, Robert P. George and University of Florida president and former Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse pondered whether “Great Minds Matter,” and why. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton and the director of the James Madison Program, invited Sasse to reflect on the topic in the context of a liberal arts education during an era of transformational technological change. 

A member of the Class of 2021, wearing his Reunions jacket and hat
The University is hosting about 25,000 alumni, family, guests, faculty and staff, as well as the Class of 2024, for this year’s Reunions. Photo by Matthew Raspanti, Office of Communications

“Should we encourage our students to study philosophy, history, political theory, sociology, literature?” George asked. “Should we encourage them to study Plato, Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas, Erasmus, the American founders? Or should we encourage them instead to just focus on practical things, perhaps computer science, economics, things that will have positive benefits for their careers?” 

“We shouldn’t minimize why students are migrating to STEM,” Sasse answered. “They’re migrating to STEM because we live in a really fascinating moment, but the qualitative is still the most important stuff.” 

He continued: “The quantitative is how we pay the bills. It’s how we go to the moon. … But the stuff that shapes souls is still about truth and goodness and beauty and meaning and purpose and love.” 

The Princeton Entrepreneurship Council reprised its popular Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference and Startup Competition at the Friend Center. 

President Christopher L. Eisgruber moderated a “fireside chat” Friday in McCosh 50 on “The Future of U.S.-China Relations.” Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Class of 1995, and SPIA Associate Professor of Politics and Public Affairs Rory Truex, Class of 2007, joined him for a discussion that focused on national security concerns involving TikTok and the implications of deflation in the Chinese economy, among other topics. 

Acts of community service 

The Class of 1979 and the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA) partnered with Our Kids Read to host a book festival and affiliated activities Thursday for visiting 5th grade students from Trenton, who attended storytelling sessions and other events at Cotsen Children’s Library, took a campus tour, and received five free books apiece. 

A member of the Class of 1979, wearing his Reunions jacket and hat
The natty Class of 1979 jacket. The Class is also big-hearted, leading the Our Kids Read Free Book Festival at Reunions 2024. Photo by Tori Repp/Fotobuddy

This year’s event, led by the Class of 1979’s Bernadette Weeks and Michael Jackson, was the second annual Our Kids Read Free Book Festival at Reunions. “We believe in spreading the joy of reading. We all love books; we all love children to have books,” Weeks said. The class raised money and purchased books that the recipients had selected for themselves. 

The nonprofit Our Kids Read was founded by Class of 1998 graduate Jahmal Lake, whose class hosted the inaugural Our Kids Read festival to mark its 25th reunion last year. 

On Friday in another Reunions service project, the classes of 1974, 1999 and 2004 joined forces at the Whitman College courtyard to pack personal-care hygiene kits for HomeFront, which assists low-income and homeless individuals in central New Jersey. 

Reunions events and visitor information 

Reunions 2024 continues through Sunday. Highlights include: 

  • The P-rade through campus, starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 25; 
  • Alumni-Faculty Forums and departmental events through Saturday, May 25; 
  • Performances throughout the weekend by student groups; 
  • Exhibitions at Art@Bainbridge, Art on Hulfish, Maclean House, Firestone Library, Frist Campus Center, Lewis Center for the Arts’ CoLab, Mudd Manuscript Library and Stokes Library; and 
  • The University Orchestra concert at 8 p.m. and fireworks at 9:15 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at Princeton Stadium. 

Alumni should visit the Reunions 2024 website for the full schedule of events, registration details (note that pre-registration is required before arriving on campus), check-in locations to pick up wristbands, and parking and transportation information. Updated events information is also available for all Reunions registrants through the Princeton Events App, which can be downloaded through the iOS App Store and Google Play.

A version of this story originally appeared on the University homepage