Wednesday, May 20, 2015

At The 30th

It was 30 years ago today that TigerBlog was given a diploma by the University of Pennsylvania.

Graduation then at Penn was held in the Philadelphia Civic Center, a building that no longer exists. That's one way of knowing that it's been awhile since you've been in college. The building for the ceremony is gone.

It was a Monday, TB remembers. It was a pretty nice day.

When it was over, TigerBlog went back to his dorm room - in one of those three high rise buildings that you see up in the distance if you're at the Penn athletic facilities - and started packing up.

He had a Volkswagen rabbit back then, and he couldn't fit all of his stuff into the small car. When it got to be full, he just threw everything else in the garbage.

He can still remember getting rid of this small wooden stool. He liked it, but it wouldn't fit in the car. Plus, it wasn't very functional. It just seemed like a waste to get rid of it though.

Then TigerBlog left Philadelphia, heading north on 95. Somewhere shortly after he got on the highway, he had the rather chilling thought of "now what?"

Sure, he was working at the newspaper then. He'd already been there for two years.

Still, he wasn't thinking of that as a full-time, lifelong career. He wasn't sure what he was going to do.

He started out at Penn with the idea of going to law school, but that never panned out. He stumbled into sportswriting and liked it, but he figured there was something else out there for him when he actually, well, grew up.

That was 30 years ago. He remembers it so well, the feeling of being able to do anything, go anywhere, start down any path.

Now it's 30 years later.

Had there been a test back on graduation day and he was asked this question: What do you think you will wear to your 30th reunion here, he's pretty sure he would not have written down "a Princeton Athletics shirt."

Yes, but that's what he was wearing when he walked on the Penn campus last weekend. It wasn't quite a coincidence. Yeah, he did it to be a bit of a contrarian.

Somewhere along the line, TigerBlog went from having spent more time on the Penn campus in his life to having spent more time on the Princeton campus, even after living on campus for four full years. Whenever it was, it was long after TB's allegiance shifted from red and blue to orange and black.

TigerBlog connected with two his Penn friends, Charlie Frohman and Rob Lustrin. They spent the afternoon walking around the campus, doing what people do at a reunion - talking about old times, people they knew, stories that may or may not have been exactly how they remembered.

The three walked into Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, the home of the Wharton School of Business, of which both Charlie and Rob are grads. They walked in and saw a classroom on the right, and all three said the same exact thing, that they had had Legal Studies in there.

Charlie is a wildly successful businessman, and he gave an interesting answer to TB when he asked him if he uses what he learned in that building in his day-to-day work. Charlie's answer was that he learned to be successful among a highly competitive, high achieving student population and that that left him prepared to be successful in business as much as the academic side.

Rob, a lawyer, pointed out that he uses the stuff he learned in law school every day.

The three met a man who was back for his 65th reunion, which made him about 87 years old or so, though he looked 10-15 years younger. He glanced at the "Princeton Athletics" logo on TB's shirt and said "who let you in here?"

Penn is a great university. TigerBlog had a very good experience at Penn. It's just that he didn't feel like he was one of "them" at his 30th. Nope, he thought more like he was one of "us."

Princeton is just a different kind of place. And at no time is this clearer than during Reunions (the ones with a capital R).

Just out of curiosity, but does anyone think that any alum is showing up at Reunions next week wearing a shirt from another school? Just a hunch, but no.

This campus just feels different when the alumni are back. There is an energy and excitement, a sense of loyalty here that just isn't easily matched by other schools.

So, Princetonians, that's something you shouldn't take for granted when you're here next week. Or ever.

It's a dynamic that TigerBlog has never fully understood, this eternal loyalty to the school, the unbreakable identification with each specific class.

To those who are graduating this year, perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to write down where you think you'll be in 30 years.

To those coming back for their 30th - or 20th or 25h or 10th or whatever - wear the Reunion stuff.

And remember that your college is a little different than the others. In a pretty special way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Princeton is fortunate to have you as part of its community, even if your degree says UP instead of PU.