This article was originally published in the November 2018 Princeton Echo.
This is a story about a wall, not the one neither Mexico nor Congress wants to pay for, that billion-dollar dream of keeping America’s reality imprisoned inside Stephen Miller’s fantasy. It’s not about Pink Floyd’s 1979 double album either, that lyric opera of a man’s isolation from a society he views as relentlessly repressive in the name of conformity, profit, and war. Not the holy site in Jerusalem nor the crumbled divider of postwar Germany. And certainly not any of the sorrowful testimonials to human horror and courage in the Holocaust, Vietnam, and 9/11 memorials found in New York and Washington. No, this is simply about a wall of photographs of Princeton University alumni, black-and-white yearbook portraits mostly, framed and aligned in the heart of Princeton not long before I arrived here decades ago.
You know the wall I’m talking about. You’ve passed it many times, having made your way through the sconce-lit lobby of the Nassau Inn where overnight guests have checked in for 250 years for a good night’s sleep. Past the wood-paneled front reception desk and bathrooms to the left and the concession-to-modernity dual elevators to the right, through the single door and into the dimly lit, rich wood confines of the Yankee Doodle Tap Room. There it is, brightly illuminated to your right, opposite Einstein’s favorite booth where he etched his name in table wood now preserved under glass. A full 30 feet before you reach that Norman Rockwell mural perched behind the semi-circular bar, the one he did in 1937 of Yankee Doodle astride his horse that gave this place its name.
You barely notice the wall now, though, leading your party to the host stand to be seated for onion soup, chef salads, salmon, and all manner of ale. A solid, reasonably priced meal in a pub where the spirit of George Washington, Nathan Hale, or Aaron Burr might still be dining just one high-backed booth over. Years ago, you would stop and try so hard with friends to identify as many of the photographs as you could. Bill Bradley, Brooke Shields, Jimmy Stewart were easy. William D. Ruckelshaus and Gordon Wu, not so much.
These days, eagerly anticipating the brisket, short rib, mozzarella, and port wine of the Princetonian sandwich on toasted brioche, your eyes are fixed on a choice bar stool opposite high definition screens before the Eagles take the field. As for the wall, you are blissfully oblivious.
When I arrived in Princeton, I too was struck by the photos and the names at the “photo gallery,” as the Inn refers to it in a brochure. So many Tiger graduates with such an outsized influence on how things had gone in the 20th century and beyond. There were no Animal House Blutos, Otters, Niedermeyers, Flounders, Dean Wormsers, or Mandy Pepperidges here, despite Princeton’s well-documented history of knowing how to throw its share of good, and bad, parties. I knew them all, if only by reputation, and couldn’t help but think that some of them were not folks I admired. They were on the wall for one reason; they attended Princeton University and made a big impact, somewhere, in some way. I wanted to analyze that impact, in an essay, on a spreadsheet, the pros and should-be cons, our costs and their benefits. Even if I wasn’t absolutely certain that impact in the aggregate was a good one, I decided my concern was pretty judgmental, pretty arrogant, the subconscious jealousy of someone who had barely survived Cornell winters. I put the idea on the shelf.
Yet there I was, decades later, a recent Thursday night, watching a game with friends. I swear the food is better and the outdoor patio seating and fireplace are beautiful, especially if you prefer fresh air and can live without televised sports for a night. At halftime I made my pilgrimage of 30 feet, from bar stool to wall, and peered anew at each and every famous yearbook photo, wondering if those powerful impacts were foreseen in those youthful eyes. The answer was no, they were just like you and me, but my idea was back anyway.
It isn’t like Sardi’s in Manhattan’s theater district, where colorful drawings fill every wall caricaturing how some folks appeared at the peak of their fame. Or the Carnegie Wall of Fame of autographed headshots at the now-shuttered Seventh Avenue delicatessen. It’s just three synchronized rows of unadorned black and white prints in the simplest of frames, almost exclusively yearbook shots catching wide-eyed subjects at a certain time, that time they left Princeton, confident I’m sure but still uncertain of what lay ahead.
There are 60 up there currently, half of them autographed, and only four with any kind of personal note. Fifty men and only ten women, most certainly a function of the university’s extremely delayed coeducation. When I started counting the non-Caucasians, the number was so small I decided to leave it to the reader to finish. And an interesting spread across decades reveals the 1950s to be a bit of a heyday, for a wall anyway.
1900s: one; 1910s: one; 1920s: two; 1930s: four; 1940s: five; 1950s: twenty-one; 1960s: six; 1970s: nine; 1980s: eleven.
After 1989’s Wendy Kopp and Jason Garrett, no one, not a soul. Impact takes time, I suppose.
Who decides who makes the cut? One man? One woman? A university committee? Tap Room management? Longtime bar patrons? Norman Rockwell? Has anyone ever been removed? And just how is it they do decide?
If Brooke Shields ’87 is here, why not her old boyfriend Dean Cain, Class of 1988, gridiron quarterback-turned-Superman on the WB Network? Jodi Picoult, but no F. Scott Fitzgerald who dropped out in his senior year of 1917 to fight in World War I? No David E. Kelley ’79, the creator of just about every television drama featuring a lawyer in the 1980s and ’90s? A strong argument could be made that he qualifies just by having been married to Michelle Pfeiffer these past 25 years.
No sighting of “X-Files” and “Californication’s” David Duchovny or “Moneyball’s” Michael Lewis, both hailing from the Class of ’82. And just where is Ethan Coen who left his brother behind for a 1979 B.A. in philosophy before reuniting with Joel to co-direct some of my favorite movies of the past 35 years, “Blood Simple,” “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” “True Grit,” “A Serious Man,” “No Country for Old Men”? (And No Photo of Young Man on the Tap Room wall apparently.)
Jason Garrett, sure, but what of Emily Goodfellow, Keith Elias, Yasser el Halaby, Hobey Baker, Bud Palmer, Geoff Petrie, Brian Taylor, Armond Hill, David Blatt, and too many more to list, sports legends who helped lead Princeton to more Ivy League championships across all sports than any of the other seven schools?
No sign of diplomat George F. Kennan ’25 or two-term President Woodrow Wilson (Class of 1879) for that matter — and no, he was not removed under pressure from student protesters.
Class of 1981’s former New York Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer is missing in action too. It is just a wall; can’t we look past some campaign finance issues and a few prostitutes?
And when, oh when, can we expect to see Robert Mueller ’66, someone half the nation views as its last hope?
I e-mailed Tap Room management to find out who to talk to if one has genuine concerns that some favorite classmate is not immortalized up there. I wanted to point out that there is plenty of space remaining on this wall, plus several other walls and a completely untouched ceiling. As per Jamie Volkert, the director of marketing at Palmer Square Management, which manages the Tap Room, it was in 1992 that then-General Manager Mark Flaherty started the wall. Since that time Tap Room management has coordinated with Princeton University on selection. The last update was just a few years back when the number of displayed alumni photos was doubled.
So here it is, my summary, most definitely the only catalog of Princeton’s alumni wall, of university influencers, if you will. Politicians, athletes, jurists, celebrities, billionaires. In black and white. And a little bit of color. In alphabetical order, for the most part (with apologies to Messrs. Frist and Pell), tracking the bold face listings just as they appear on the quite handy index posted at the wall’s center.
1. Samuel Alito ’72, Supreme Court Justice.
Was he an active member of the university’s Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) whose Prospect magazine suggested women and others would be the ruination of the university, or not? The university survived, and so has he, after 12 years as part of the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc.
2. James Addison Baker III ’52, 61st U.S. Secretary of State.
Childhood in Texas to rugby at Princeton to the Marines and high-level service in every Republican White House from Gerald Ford through George H. W. Bush. A name familiar to most of us past 50. “To Nassau Inn with fond memories and warmest regards, James Baker III” is written in clear script.
3. Roger Berlind ’52, director of Lehman Brothers Group.
Anyone can make millions on Wall Street, right? But can one depart a formerly august institution a decade before a most high-profile collapse that almost took an entire nation with it? And take that money and put it into improving an already wildly successful regional theater like Princeton’s own McCarter? Or spend more than 40 years as a successful producer of award-winning Broadway productions, most recently the Tony-winning original musical “Dear Evan Hansen” and the Bette Midler-featured revival of “Hello Dolly?” Savvy? Check. Timing? Check. Taste? Check. Generosity? Check.
4. Jeffrey Bezos ’86, founder & CEO of Amazon.
The reason brown boxes dot the landscape like alien droppings, a man who has a hand in seemingly everything and has other Fortune 100 companies in permanent panic attack mode. One of a select group of Americans and Brits anticipating boredom in their earthly conquests who spend their weekend hours and billions of dollars plotting space exploration.
5. John C. Bogle ’51, founder of Vanguard Group.
A pioneer of low-cost mutual fund investing and index funds via his nautically themed Vanguard Group, exactly the kind of frugal billionaire everyone would like in a money manager.
6. Claiborne de Borda Pell ’40, Former U.S. Senator.
Six terms as a Democrat from Rhode Island, cared so much about educational grants that you know him as the namesake for the Pell Grant that may have funded part of your own college days. He died in 2009.
7. Bill Bradley ’65, U.S. Senator; Hall of Fame Basketball Player; 1964 gold medalist; 1965 NCAA Final Four with Butch van Breda Koff’s Tigers, Rhodes Scholar.
Made the most of his NBA career by teaming with Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Willis Reed, Dick Barnett, Earl Monroe, and others to create old-school, well-oiled cutting and passing machines that won the first (1970) and last (1973) championships for my own beloved New York Knicks, making his 18 years as a liberal Senator from New Jersey and past decade as an investment banker mere footnotes.
8. Brendan Thomas Byrne ’49, Governor of New Jersey.
A two-term New Jersey governor described by mobsters and a biographer as the man who couldn’t be bought. In the ’70s he managed to save some Pinelands, oversee the opening of the first Atlantic City casinos, and lead the way in northern New Jersey in turning literal swampland into figurative swampland for largely moribund sports teams like the Jets and Nets. I have a strong feeling Governor Byrne was not all that upset when his name was removed from the indoor arena in favor of Continental Airlines in 1996 after 15 years. He died in January at age 93.
9. Frank Carlucci ’52, U.S. Secretary of Defense.
Scranton native and Princeton wrestling teammate of another alumnus on the wall, Donald Rumsfeld ’54. Covert CIA agent in the Congo in the early ’60s, Secretary of Defense, Deputy Director of the CIA, and more high government positions during the Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan years. A successful run at the helm of the powerful Carlyle Group, affiliation with a conservative think tank, and (surprise) an honorary board member of Drug Policy Alliance, a well-known drug legalization group. He died this past summer at the age of 87.
10. Hodding Carter III ’57.
American journalist and politician, U.S. Marine, journalist, Civil Rights advocate, television newsman, college professor still going strong.
11. Marvin Harold Cheiten ’65, Lyricist & Playwright.
Fine writer whose work I have enjoyed, a talented Princeton local for as long as anyone can remember.
12. Charles (“Pete”) Conrad Jr. ’53, NASA Astronaut.
An aeronautical engineer who took his love of flying to the Navy and then to the moon in 1969 as the third person ever to walk its surface. Happiest in the air, he died away in a motorcycle accident in 1999.
13. William K. Coors ’38, founder of Coors Brewing Company.
Rebelled against the family tradition of attending Cornell by attending Princeton as a chemical engineering student, then joined (not founded) the Golden, Colorado, family business in 1939 after a brief stint at DuPont. After an admittedly boring start under the direction of his father, he steered affiliated Coors Porcelain Company into contract work on the wartime Manhattan Project, pioneered aluminum can recycling, and spearheaded the growth of the beer giant during his more than 60 years there. Those of us who came of age in the ’70s remember that additive-free and therefore difficult-to-ship Coors Banquet was unlicensed and unavailable east of the Mississippi River prior to 1986, making it a holy grail smuggled east by suddenly popular college friends returning from vacations and by Burt Reynolds from Texas to Georgia in the iconic 1977 film “Smokey and the Bandit.”
The Coors family business, known for its conservatism with brother Joseph being one of the co-founders of the Heritage Foundation, had much more than its share of labor strife with unions, blacks, Latinos, and gay and lesbian groups. Under mounting threat of NAACP boycott, the company subsequently put many millions of dollars into African American and Latino economic opportunity programs. He was until recently an official taste tester for the company and died last month at the age of 102.
14. Jack Claggett Danforth ’58, U.S. Senator and ambassador to United Nations.
Eschewed the family business, Ralston Purina, after a B.A. in sociology. Twenty years in the U.S. Senate representing Missouri and later U.S. ambassador to the UN. What most impressed me was graduation from Yale Law School and Yale Divinity School and admission to the New York State Bar and Episcopal clergy all in the same year, 1963.
15. John Foster Dulles 1908, U.S. Secretary of State.
Under Eisenhower he was the architect of the Eisenhower Doctrine of (Communist) containment and international mutual security agreements reinforced by economic aid. Likely the only alumnus up there with an airport of any kind named after him, let alone an international hub serving 23 million D.C. passengers a year, many of whom are forced to curse his surname reflexively into cellphones from the tarmac. He died in 1959.
16. Pierre Samuel du Pont IV ’54, Governor of Delaware.
After working for the namesake chemicals and applied products giant, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives and as governor of Delaware and is generally given credit for reviving the state’s economy and attracting many banks and credit card issuers. His last-place finish in the 1988 New Hampshire presidential primary was his final political gambit, and he has spent the decades since with family, conservative think tanks, and various corporate boards.
17. Mel G. Ferrer ’39, American actor, film director, and producer.
Forty-plus years on stage and screen and a 15-year marriage to Audrey Hepburn. He died in 2008.
18. Bill Frist ’74, U.S. Senator.
A heart and lung transplant surgeon turned U.S. Senator from Tennessee who made national news in 1998 when he provided emergency medical services at the Capitol after a previously diagnosed schizophrenic opened fire. Unable to save two Capitol police officers, he was true to his Hippocratic Oath in helping to save the life of the shooter. And yes, that wonderful Frist Campus Center opened in 2000 in the old Palmer Physical Laboratory building is named for him and other members of the Frist family who have passed through the university’s halls.
19. Steve Forbes ’70, CEO and editor-in-chief of Forbes.
A 1970 graduate with a B.A. in history, he took the reins of Forbes Magazine after his iconic motorcycle-riding father Malcolm (’41) died in 1990. Favoring supply side economics, deregulation, and a simplified tax code, he did not fare well in his attempts to secure the Republican nomination for the highest office in the land in 1996 and 2000.
20. William Clay Ford Jr. ’79, CEO of Ford Motor Company.
A history major and rugby player in college, he went into the automotive business his grandfather Henry famously founded at the outset of the 20th century. Vice chairman of another longtime family business, the always victory-challenged Detroit Lions.
21. James V. Forrestal 1915, first U.S. Secretary of Defense.
Editor of the Daily Princetonian, Wall Street success story, career Navy man from World War I to future Secretary of the Navy and the country’s first Secretary of Defense. The drama of his sad May, 1949, demise out of a 16th-floor hospital window recalled his constant strife with Air Force Secretary Stuart Symington and President Truman and an extended battle with psychosis. His death remains a mystery to some, shrouded in questions of murder or suicide, anti-Semitism, Communist antagonists, and UFO cover-ups.
22. Alec Gallup ’50, pollster & chairman of Gallup Poll.
Together with his brother, George, ran the polling company their father founded. He spent three years at Princeton, transferred to the University of Iowa for his degree, but returned to live and work in Princeton until his death in 2009.
23. George Gallup Jr., ’53, pollster, writer, and executive.
The more public face of the polling company generally considered one of the top statistical gauges of public opinion. A longtime Princeton resident and author of several works on religion who died in 2011.
24. Jason Garrett ’89, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
Entering his ninth season as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys after playing quarterback for the Cowboys, Giants, and other teams. Played for Princeton, transferred to Columbia, and then transferred back to Princeton.
25. Charlie Gibson ’65, broadcast television anchor.
A career television journalist and anchor though 2009, most familiar during his “Good Morning America” days and “World News with Charles Gibson” evenings. Got his start at Princeton’s own WPRB. The author of a personal touch on the wall reading simply “so long ago.”
26. Lisa Halaby ’74, Queen Noor of Jordan.
The sole actual royalty up there, she had only slightly humbler beginnings growing up in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Pan Am president Najeeb Halaby. The widow of Jordan’s King Hussein since his 1999 death, she has used her platform to advocate for the arts, the environment, and other worthy causes.
27. John M. Harlan II ’20, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Ivy Club, Daily Princetonian editor, Rhodes Scholar, big firm New York lawyer, leading prosecutor of Prohibition cases, Army Air Force Colonel during World War II, and a 1955 Eisenhower appointment to the Supreme Court. Generally considered a conservative with a more restrictive view of the judiciary’s role, he nevertheless was known for opinions with strong First Amendment (free speech) and Fourteenth Amendment (due process) protections. He died in 1971.
28. Cosmo J. Iacavazzi ’65, Hall of Fame college football player.
Wore #32 as a record-setting fullback for the Tigers and followed it up with an all-too-brief two-game NFL career as a teammate of fellow rookie Joe Namath on the 1965 New York Jets.
29. Andrea Jung ’79, CEO of Avon.
A long career in fashion that saw her rise to the top of Avon before her 2012 departure. Board member of several public companies and executive with a large non-profit microfinance company, she remains active in public service.
30. Elena Kagan ’81, Supreme Court Justice.
With Justice Alito, the other recent traveler on the Princeton University to Harvard Law School to United States Supreme Court career path. A former law professor and dean at Harvard.
31. Dick Kazmaier ’52, Heisman Trophy winner.
Named Princeton’s football player of the century, Dick was a humble team player and inspiration for many who followed, and the last Ivy Leaguer to garner college football’s most prestigious individual award. Drafted by the Chicago Bears, he declined to pursue a professional sports career, opting instead for a Harvard MBA, training as a U.S. Navy officer, and a long career in sports marketing. He died in 2013.
32. Thomas H. Kean ’57, Governor of New Jersey.
Former two-term New Jersey governor in the ’80s, president of Drew University, chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and critic of intelligence agency lapses before the tragedy. A moderate free trade Republican whose 1988 “The Politics of Inclusion” urged the kind of political cooperation across the aisle notably absent 30 years later.
33. Wendy Kopp ’89, founder of Teach for America.
Hailing from Texas, she turned her senior thesis proposal for an organization like the Peace Corps to recruit college graduates to teach in areas in educational need into what we now know as Teach for America. Non-stop fundraising at large companies such as Mobil and Morgan Stanley and H. Ross Perot’s challenge grant catalyst, media blitzes, training and recruitment, and her bestselling books have helped Teach for America and (the international) Teach for All become true beacons for positive social change.
34. Peter Lewis ’55, chairman of Progressive Insurance Co.
In his 35 years guiding the Cleveland-based insurance giant co-founded by his father into the third largest auto insurer in the county, he gave us Flo, the always white-garbed commercial annoyance amid radio and television programs. But he also gave generously to the ACLU, marijuana decriminalization efforts, and other liberal causes and gave Princeton $101 million to create the world-class arts center on Alexander Street that bears his name. He died in 2013.
35. John F. McGillicuddy ’52, banking executive.
Roommate and teammate of Heisman winner Dick Kazmaier. Harvard Law School, U.S. Navy, big Manhattan law firm, and a long career leading Manufacturers Hanover Trust that culminated in shepherding that institution through the large bank consolidation we know today simply as Chase. Given credit for assisting in the frantic 1970s reorganization of New York City and 1980s bailout of Chrysler Motors. He died in 2009.
36. Harold W. McGraw Jr. ’40, CEO of McGraw-Hill.
Grandson of the former upstate New York teacher who co-founded the publishing house as a source of railroad journals. Captain in the Army Air Corps during World War II. After taking the reins of the public company in 1975, he fought off an extremely bitter takeover bid from American Express and subsequently led the continued expansion of the Standard & Poor’s financial services division and the educational publishing division (into the nation’s largest). He died in 2010.
37. Jeffrey Moss ’63, composer and writer for Sesame Street.
Fourteen Emmy Awards as the first head writer of one of the most influential television shows in history, “Sesame Street.” A composer and lyricist who got an early start at Princeton’s Triangle Club, he wrote many of the hits for “Sesame Street” and the Muppets movies and created both Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch, in my humble opinion the two best characters on that morning children’s staple that will run forever. Died tragically still in his creative prime at the age of 56.
38. Ralph Nader ’55, American political activist.
Did his Lebanese immigrant father really set him on course by turning down Princeton’s full scholarship because the family could afford to pay full boat and he wanted the proffered funds to go to a needier prospective freshman? It is said he read a book a day outside of his Princeton coursework before leaving for Harvard Law School, which left him bored with its courses and disenchanted with its role as corporate feeder. How many millions of lives were saved by the editorial fire of 1965’s “Unsafe at Any Speed” and its single-minded young author who had rewritten the book entirely after leaving the only copy of the nearly completed manuscript in a taxicab?
His name has become synonymous with people protection by his subsequent founding of Public Citizen and other worthy organizations. A frequent name on presidential ballots since 1972, it was his significant showing in the critically close 2000 Gore versus Bush election that has some progressives still recalling his candidacy with anger. The activist’s activist, the reformer’s reformer, he still expresses himself on a typewriter and does not own a car (despite the myriad mandated safety improvements his pioneering work engendered).
39. Michelle R. Obama ’85, First Lady of the United States.
Princeton University to Harvard Law School to the White House and still young enough to return there or to the nearby Supreme Court. Known to virtually everyone alive since her husband Barack’s 2008 election, she has been a strong advocate for women’s rights and civil rights in this country and abroad.
40. Don Oberdorfer ’52, journalist for the Washington Post.
Career journalist, college professor, and scholar with a special expertise on Korea, where he served in the U.S. Army after the 1950s ceasefire. He died in 2015.
41. Gen. David Petraeus ’87, CIA director.
The epitome of the career military man who paused during the 37-year career arc from 1974 United States Military Academy grad to commander of the forces in Afghanistan and Iraq to obtain his master’s and Ph.D. at Princeton. In what is likely the only instance of one alumnus on the wall saving the life of another, he was wounded during a 1991 training exercise by an errant M16 bullet, then operated on successfully by then-surgeon and future Senator William Frist ’74 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Since his hasty 2012 resignation as CIA director, brought on by an extramarital affair and charges of leaking classified documents, he has been quite busy as a lecturer, non-profit contributor, and investment banking partner.
42. Jodi Picoult ’87, best selling novelist.
All her recent family drama novels have quickly found their way to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller lists. She lives these days in Hanover, New Hampshire, a little known college town home to a school beginning with D and ending with mouth whose entire name escapes me presently, this despite having gotten her start in Princeton’s creative writing program.
43. David Remnick ’81, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New Yorker editor.
A career journalist whose 20 years at the helm of the New Yorker have made that magazine into the sometimes difficult to read but always worth it weekly that it is. As editor-in-chief, likely responsible for more would-be writers applying to culinary school than anyone.
44. Lawrence S. Rockefeller ’32, philanthropist.
One of the few notable wall typos (as his first name is spelled Laurance). Princeton University to Harvard Law School with a twist, electing to forego his third year of law school after his billionaire’s revelation that there was truly no need to become an actual lawyer. A pioneer in venture capital and the 1969 founder of Venrock Capital, an early funder of Intel, Apple, Microsoft, and countless other now corporate behemoths. (Writer’s note: This writer did not take advantage of an early attorney position with the law firm representing Venrock and other Rockefeller enterprises, picking up zero shares in those familiar corporate names before departing after my lawyer’s revelation that there was truly no need to become an actual billionaire.)
He developed a strong interest in UFOs and the paranormal during his last few years, even helping to fund the controversial Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) parapsychology program. He died in 2004.
45. William “Wayne” McMillan Rogers ’54, actor, investor.
Alabama-born, yet another Princeton Triangle Club thespian-turned-Navy man who was best known as Trapper John on “M*A*S*H,” one of the most popular shows in television history. A successful investor familiar to viewers of Fox Business Network, he died on New Year’s Eve in 2015.
46. William D. Ruckelshaus ’55, head of the EPA.
Coming from a family of Indiana lawyers, he served in the U.S. Army in the ’50s and graduated from both Princeton and Harvard Law School. Initially practicing law and serving in various government positions in his home state, he subsequently was at the Justice Department, became the first head of the EPA, and was the F.B.I.’s acting director for a brief time. His greatest fame, however, came when he chose to resign from Justice with Eliot Richardson in the infamous Saturday Night Massacre rather than obey President Nixon’s order to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, an exercise of principle that resounds ever more loudly 45 years later. He remains active on corporate boards and as an advocate for ocean and environmental protection.
47. Louis R. Rukeyser ’54, financial journalist.
A career journalist most familiar to Friday night viewers years ago as the witty host of public television’s “Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser,” the first program to attempt to make the previously droll subject of making unearned income into informative entertainment. His faded and illegible personal note on the wall contains only one visible word above his signature, “bullish,” surely no surprise to past viewers. He died in 2006.
48. Donald H. Rumsfeld ’54, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Navy pilot, U.S. Congressman, Nixon Cabinet member, central figure in the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Twice the Secretary of Defense, 30 years apart, he certainly was quotable in the position the second time around. His March, 2003, introduction of a war that cost trillions of dollars and countless lives by hauling out the mid-1990s Pentagon concept of shock and awe (that had been purposefully until then left in mothballs) remains unfortunate bluster more becoming of Vince McMahon’s WWE than the Princeton wrestler he once was. And today’s headline concepts of fake news and truth isn’t truth might just owe a little something to his oft-cited wartime explanation of known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.
49. Eric Schmidt ’76, former chairman & CEO of Google.
If you Google him, you will find he is one of the wealthiest people in the world on the heels of leadership positions at Sun Microsystems and Google and long a central player at the intersection of technology and privacy.
50. Brooke Shields ’87, actress and model.
Who else has appeared as a child in advertisements for Ivory Snow (99 and 44/100 percent pure) and child prostitute in Louis Malle’s “Pretty Baby” (the other 56/100 percent)? After obtaining her B.A. in romance languages, she was Susan in the hit show “Suddenly Susan,” a Broadway star, best bud of Michael Jackson, and nemesis of Scientologist Tom Cruise as she spoke publicly of her battles with postpartum depression. And the author of the only extended and legible comment on the wall: “To the Nassau Inn, just as you are etched on my [heart] my name is carved onto one of your tables! Thank you for helping me come of age! Love, Brooke Shields (Class ’87)” Nice carving, Brooke, but with all due respect, you’re no Einstein, as a table carver anyway.
51. George P. Shultz ’42, U.S. Secretary of State.
A four-time cabinet member, best known for his Reagan years as Secretary of State and efforts to improve relations with the Soviet Union. Still impressively active and writing on public policy for the Hoover Institution and others at almost 98 years old.
52. Anne M. Slaughter ’80, CEO of New American Foundation.
An international legal expert who has taught at Princeton and Harvard and is the former dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. Served in the office of the Secretary of State during President Obama’s tenure and has written extensively in the past few years about women and work, advocating for paid maternity leave, affordable childcare, and more.
53. Sonia Sotomayor ’76, Supreme Court Justice.
Born to native Puerto Ricans, she grew up in the Bronx and turned a child’s fascination with Perry Mason into becoming the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Along the way she fought Princeton University as an undergraduate over Puerto Rican hiring, prosecuted homicides in New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office, became an expert on intellectual property as a partner in a New York law firm, and ended a Major League Baseball strike with her 1995 ruling as a district court judge.
54. Adlai Stevenson ’22, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Son of a Grover Cleveland vice president.
He was Daily Princetonian managing editor and majored in literature and history. After dropping out of Harvard Law and finishing up years later at Northwestern, during the 1930s he served in various government positions, practiced law, and was a strong proponent of American intervention in World War II. A one-term Illinois governor, he was unsuccessful in presidential bids in 1952, 1956, and 1960, impressing with his intelligence and oratory but failing to shake accusations that he was soft on Communism or not a friend of the working class.
Notably, in yet another historical resonance, he was approached by the Soviet ambassador offering 1960 election financial and marketing assistance. He rejected it as “highly improper, indiscreet, and dangerous to all concerned” before reporting it to President Eisenhower. He died in 1965.
55. James M. Stewart ’32, American actor.
In the now iconic 1946 Frank Capra film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Jimmy’s everyman George Bailey finds out just what a difference he has made in the world after a kindly angel intervenes in his attempted suicide. Thankfully neither the United States military, for which he flew numerous World War II European combat missions (after years of beseeching superiors seemingly content to use the celebrity as a stateside non-combat promotional figure), nor Capra, Hitchcock, and others for whom he appeared in much-heralded motion pictures had to wonder what the world would have been like without the tall and lanky 1932 graduate. He died in 1997.
56. Paul Volcker Jr. ’49, former chairman of the Federal Reserve.
While at Treasury, a key catalyst in President Nixon’s decision to leave the gold standard. His subsequent tenure as Federal Reserve chairman from 1979 to 1987 began during a period of extremely high inflation, continued through a recession and unemployment rate of 10 percent, and culminated (with Reagan tax cuts and increased military spending) in large deficits.
Nevertheless, his aggressive interest rate tightening during a frightening inflationary period and his hands-on approach generally have made him one of the most highly regarded leaders of the Fed ever. He remains active in business and government service and his constant call for insured bank depositories to be prohibited from risky proprietary trading and private equity was dubbed in 2010 by President Obama as the Volcker Rule.
57. Cornel West ’80, theologian, activist, and author.
Currently at Harvard, he is professor emeritus at Princeton, a prolific author, and familiar figure to television viewers as a poetic activist and pundit on issues of race and wealth and power inequality.
58. Margaret Whitman ’77, former CEO of eBay and Hewlett-Packard.
From Princeton to Harvard Business School and glass ceiling-breaking careers at Procter & Gamble, Disney, Bain, DreamWorks, Hasbro, and Hewlett-Packard. She made her fortune at eBay and funded a residential college at Princeton that bears her name. Running for elected office has not worked out and she recently reunited with Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks to monetize tiny bits of televised entertainment on smartphones.
59. George Will ’68, Pulitzer Prize winner.
Longtime conservative print journalist and television commentator who has increasingly broken with more fringe elements of the right. Big baseball fan and author, likely still reveling in the 2016 World Series triumph of his beloved Chicago Cubs.
60. Gordon Wu ’58, chairman of Hopewell Holdings Ltd.
Princeton engineering student and Hong Kong billionaire who has donated generously to his alma mater. Joined other Hong Kong scions 15 years ago in opposing direct independent democracy in Hong Kong.
Unquestionably impressed? Questionably unimpressed? Still wondering about Ethan Coen or Robert Mueller or one of your own perceived omissions, perhaps James Madison, Alan Turing, John Nash, Eugene O’Neill, Lee Iacocca, Thornton Wilder, or that roommate of yours you swore was the inspiration for Animal House’s Otter? Write the university, write the Tap Room, hang your own picture and write your own name in if you must. But really, who cares? It’s just a wall, after all, and your table is ready.
Peter Brav moved to Princeton in 1995 because he loved college town Ithaca but couldn’t see returning to that gray frozen tundra. He has been a frequent contributor to the U.S. 1 Summer Fiction Issue and his longer fiction is available on Amazon.com for about the same price as a Swiffer. You can contact him and see some of his work at peterbrav.com.