Shirley Tilghman Named Honorary Member of Class of 2013

Tilghman said she and her 'classmates' will now embark on a new journey, "except I won't be living in my parents' basement," she joked.


Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman may be leaving her post later this month, but she will always have an open invitation to return- as an honorary member of the Class of 2013. 

During Monday's senior Class Day ceremony on Cannon Green, Tighman joked that her first inkling to leave the University presidency may have happened when she walked through FitzRandloph Gate during opening exercises last fall and the seniors were all wearing T-shirts reading "YOLO BRO."

"When the 'YOLO' part was finally explained to me- You Only Live Once, it was like I had been hit by a lightening bolt," Tilghman said. "How long can one person risk living in New Jersey?  How many meetings can I sit through discussing conflict-free bananas?  Will my computer delete button give out before Zach Beecher’s emails about the Orange and Black ball? Yes, I get them too. 

"How many ways are there to explain to alumni that I do not have the power to fire Paul Krugman from the New York Times. Or that I can’t reign in the senior who spent the latter part of this year taking photos around campus and throughout the world wearing an ill-filing suit and a rubber horse mask....And whose deepest 140 character thought on Twitter are Neigh, Neigh, Neigh. Suddenly, I saw the possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel. A life in London, where I could be unemployed, finding myself. Taking daily yoga classes. Maybe even writing a play. You know, a life like the one you’re embarking on.

"Except I won’t be living in my parent’s basement," Tilghman finished, eliciting laughter from the crowd. 

Like her new 'classmates,' Tilghman will miss many things about Princeton, including University housing. 

"Granted, I’m living alone in a 9,000 square-foot air conditioned mansion with eight bathrooms- I counted them- and you and three friends are crammed into a 400 square foot sweat box, four flights of stairs up from a common bathroom," she said.

"...Sure, we will now have to pay for our utilities, wireless service and laundry and will not be rewarded for free kettle corn  every time we finish a work product. But on the plus side, we’ll no longer have to hide our cat’s litter box in the closet. Our microwave can be decoupled  from the refrigerator. And if you want to leave the door open or put up a poster on the door, just simply and without fear, do it.

"Yes, we are now ready for the world. It’s as if the fire inspector is now whispering, 'fly my little birds, fly.' And fly is exactly what I expect you will do. Thank you for making the last four years such a pleasure. We’re proud to have you carry the University name to the farthest reaches of the Upper east and East sides of Manhattan.

"But know that like Peter Pan’s Never Never Land, Princeton will be forever your refuge from the adult world. We will always be waiting for you with a free orange T-shirt and annual giving pledg  card in hand, ever ready to welcome you home. So go forth and puncture the orange bubble. Be in the nation’s service and the in the service of all nations.

"Change the world. Make us proud."


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