"I have a vision for the journey of the class through life - a metaphor - that I would like to share with you. I want to take you back to a beautiful day, a spectacular Cinemascope day, the 14th of June 1955. On that day in the world of reality, we graduated from Princeton. But on that day in my world of metaphor I see in my mind's eye something different. I see 803 Princetonians gathering in a large, open field. They line up in a single line of skirmishers, shoulder to shoulder, and begin to march across the field of life with energy, enthusiasm and optimism.
But we are not alone on that field. On the other side, across from us, is another line of skirmishers, dark, hooded, forbidding - I won't say they are evil, but they are certainly lethal - let's just call them the vicissitudes and vagaries of life, and, for short, I call them "the dark forces" and from the very beginning, the dark forces take shots at our class and from the very beginning, we lose classmates, but in those days, to military accidents, automobile crashes, rare diseases, early heart attacks, but we close ranks, and we move forward.
And we have marched forward for fifty years, and now the weapons at the disposal of the dark forces are stronger and more lethal - cancer in all its forms, heart attacks, and infectious diseased that weren't even heard of when we began our march - and the toll on our line is significant. It is much shorter than it was when we started out - almost 20% shorter - and the weapons of the dark forces are stronger and are fired more frequently. We have lost 150 classmates, some are missing, and as to the wounded, well, we're all wounded.
Fifty years is a long time to be in our line of march, and chronic diseases, major surgeries, disappointments, tragedies - they've all taken their toll - but we close the gaps and go forward. And we go forward in spite of the fact that each one of us knows that someday - the day will come, maybe 25 years from now, something like that - the very last skirmisher will fall, and the last member of the Class of '55 will perish.
When that day comes, it's not the end of the story, and it certainly is not the whole story. We have, after all, been in our line of march for 50 years with capabilities, and we have used those capabilities to attain magnificent achievements; let me just list a few: a family formed, loved, cared for and launched into the future; a business begun, or made better; a profession, law, medicine, teaching and others enhanced; institutions established and improved; lives saved, and enemies defied; friends supported; causes served.
We have done all of that and more. We have created a legacy of achievement, a heritage, which will live. Our families, communities, institutional colleagues and above all Princeton herself will ensure the immortality of the Class of 1955. Generations from now students will still attend Princeton on Class of '55 scholarships, '55 endowed chairs will teach them, the class numerals etched in the great window of Firestone will still be there, and the buildings we have all built, either in their entirety or partially, will still stand.
The 20th Century is now history, and that was our century. As President Tilghman made clear, from that century are emerging a few classes defined as great by others, not by us, and '55 is one of them. We will live and all 803 skirmishers will share that immortality."
Our classmate Tom Boyatt spoke these words at our 55th Reunion Class Memorial Presentation on May 29, 2010.
Below are the names of classmates who have passed away within the past twelve months plus earlier death notices of which we have just become aware.
Truman Snell Casner March 15, 2022
William Wirt Mills Jr March 20, 2022
David Sala Summers April 2, 2022
John Roger West May 5, 2022
Joseph Rollin Otto Jr June 5, 2022
James Sullivan Gleason June 17, 2022
William Faux Gray July 24, 2022
Thomas Edward White August 1, 2022
James Dougal Lynn August 10, 2022
George Britt Barr August 15, 2022
James Fayerweather Babcock September 2, 2022
Theodore Charles Miller September 7, 2022
Stanton Peele Nolan September 19, 2022
Gilmor Semmes Hamill IV September 27, 2022
Harold Byron Smith Jr October 1, 2022
Albert William Dibbins October 12, 2022
Alexander Beck Babcock October 18, 2022
Sydney Rhodes Prince III October19, 2022
Andrew Blair Crownover October 20, 2022
William Armstrong Percy III October 30, 2022
Clinton Stuart Raynor Jr November 7, 2022
Richard Snowdon Dillon December 12, 2022
Stephen Charles Henkel December 14, 2022
Alan Donald Persky December 17, 2022
Dougas Marshall Yeager December 24, 2022
James Henry Sidford Jr December 29, 2022
John Dallas Bredehoeft January 1, 2023
Spiros Segalas January 2, 2023
Thomas Salvador Jordan Jr January 6, 2023
William Radford Coyle III February 10, 2023
Edgar Johnson Mack III February 23, 2023
A Rose in December
Words shared by class president Lee Neuwirth at the Class Dinner on Alumni Day, February 26, 2023.
Even the most cursory look at the campus, or just a map of it, reveals a very different physical place from where we lived and learned 70 years ago. The “Old Campus” is still intact. But the further one gets from Nassau Hall, the more one is in an unfamiliar environment.
But what then is left for us to hold dear? Memories (it is said) were “given to mortals that they might have roses in December.” And that’s what we’ve got. Not quite the campus we loved, but instead, memories of our youth and of the beautiful, idyllic, serene place we remember. The undisturbed areas we can see must satisfy our nostalgic needs.
What of the rest? What of the friends we made? While we mourn those we lost, many are still with us. We give thanks for them, and we cherish what we still have.
And what of the world of ideas we were immersed in? As to that, we do well to remember what is etched above the doors to McCosh 50: “Here we were taught by men and gothic towers democracy and faith and righteousness and love of unseen things that do not die.” Princeton has been a repository of, and mentor for, those unseen things; we pray it will always be.
Let us consider together the notion of “Princeton” as a force for preservation of the values of a free society and the movement towards a just society. Let us celebrate the abandonment of any bigotry of our salad days. Let us celebrate the current press by our old school to take down barriers and open doors, to welcome now those shut out when we were let in.
Remember the joys of old and salute the efforts of the present!
Memorials can be found on the PAW Classmates Memorial page. Click here for a few memorials from outside publications.