"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 Fifty Fifth Reunion Class Memorial Presentation on May 29, 2010. Listed 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.
William Doyle Ruckelhaus December 4, 2019
Thomas James Jackson Jr January 17, 2020
Thomas Fredric Evans February 15, 2020
Eugene Thomas Herbert February 28, 2020
John Dayton Hamilton Jr March 3, 2020
John Joseph Smith March 17, 2020
George Gering March 21, 2020
Albert Van Buskerck Kelsey March 26, 2020
Damon Richard Carron April 13, 2020
Thomas Lowe Pritchard April14, 2020
Barry Richard Schenk April 30, 2020
Peter Dodge Mott May 27, 2020
Richard Christopher Conroy June 4, 2020
William Fish Landers Jr June 29, 2020
John Thomas Perkins July 24, 2020
Thomas Poultney Gorter Jr August 10, 2020
Thomas Milburn Rust August 23, 2020
Ray Foote Purdy Jr September 15, 2020
Arthur Edmund Pew III October 2, 2020
James Blaine Young October21, 2020
Donald Russell Mahaney November 18, 2020
William Coastworth Shafer November 21, 2020
Memorials can be found on the PAW Classmates Memorial page. Click here for a few memorials from outside publications.