Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Persistent One

The parties and the P-Rade had given way to the pomp and pageantry as so much of what makes Princeton such a special place played out over the last week.

Now it was nearing the end Commencement, the 275th such event the University has had, and Princeton president Chris Eisgruber was addressing the Class of 2022.

He spoke of "the finish line," which is a term that TigerBlog had used so often — exclusively to himself, mind you — during the last four years. Commencement, 2022. The finish line, as it were, for his own daughter.

There she was yesterday, one of the 1,234 undergraduates who in fact were crossing their own finish line. How did she get there? Eisgruber also had that covered perfectly, this time with a single word:


In fact his speech was entitled "The Power of Persistence." Each word he said on the subject resonated so strongly with TigerBlog.

His daughter had undertaken a daunting double as a Princeton undergraduate: mechanical and aerospace engineering and varsity lacrosse. How did she reach her finish line? Just as the University president said, she persisted.

Her best quality is her persistence, her grit. She takes on challenges, and she grinds her way through them. Ultimately, she cleared every hurdle, as well as a Princeton diploma, two Ivy League championship rings in the two full seasons her class had and a lifetime of best friends and memories, all while having her experience interrupted by a pandemic.

TigerBlog wondered if maybe this was too much for her. He never admitted to her, of course. He just wondered. Would she reach the finish line, he'd ask himself over and over. He didn't even look up when Commencement would be until the very last minute he could, for fear of getting ahead of the process and being disappointed if she didn't get there.

Ultimately, he should have realized that her persistence would win out.

TB was asked a bunch of times yesterday how he felt watching his daughter graduate from Princeton. He was moved by it. He was so proud, so happy for her. That doesn't even do it justice.

This was so special for him to watch and soak in. Every one of the graduates earned their place at the finish line, and they all had life-altering experiences that they will take with them forever. They all have a story to tell.

Here's hers:

She went to nursery school a few hundred yards away from Princeton Stadium, where Commencement was held, at U-League Nursery School. She went to her first bonfire when she was six years old (and broke her collarbone in front of Nassau Hall). She went to field hockey and lacrosse camps there when she was little. 

She had a chance to go to some Division III schools to play lacrosse, most notably MIT, but she wanted Princeton instead. On that December day in 2017 when she found out she was admitted, she logged on to her computer with her father on the phone and shouted "I got in" about 10 times. 

That afternoon TB stopped at the equipment room in Caldwell Field House and asked the staff if they could give him any shirt at all that said "Princeton" and had the No. 22 on it. After all, she'd be in the Class of 2022.

Who knew what was to come? Courtney Banghart, then the Princeton women's basketball coach, gave her this advice: "Never worry about your GPA. Just get through." It was then, TB supposes, that he first began to think of a "finish line." Also, because of that, he chuckled when Eisgruber broke the bad news to the graduates that there is little correlation between GPA and future success. Courtney was right. 

TB saw his daughter at freshman athlete orientation, and he's pretty sure that was the first time that he figured she wanted nobody to know they were related. Eventually, her teammates figured it out, but he kept his distance as much as he could for someone who, you know, did a podcast each week with her coach.

She had her rough times, of course, academically and athletically. She found her way through it. Persistence, remember?

By the time she was starting to feel comfortable, Covid struck. She made the difficult choice to stay enrolled. She finished her engineering requirements. She wrote her thesis: "Planar Laser Induced Fluorescence Measurements of CH2O in Ozone Assisted Cool Flames." Yeah, TB has no idea what that means either.

She became a member of Cannon club. She made a wide circle of friends. She matured as a lacrosse player, a teammate and a student. She learned and grew. She embodied the very best of what Princeton Athletics is trying to teach and what Princeton University is all about. And she did all this on her own.

Through it all, TB was on the same campus, able to see it all with a much closer view than most parents get of their child's college experience. Ultimately, she'd come to tell him that she liked knowing he was there, even if her eye rolling for four years suggested otherwise.

As TB watched Commencement, all of that went flying through his head. He remembered every detail. He remembered every trying moment, every tearful phone call, every laugh, every achievement. He remembered her one collegiate lacrosse statistic, a ground ball against Columbia her freshman year, and how he had entered it into the stat program. He remembered every cold weather game where she stood shivering on the sideline. He remembered the stresses of finals. He remembered all of it.

She picked up her diploma back at her Residential College, which in her case was Forbes. There was a reception on the patio there, just as there had been on the day he'd dropped her off in 2018. She teared up that day, nervous, anxious, a bit scared, a bit overwhelmed. 

She beamed yesterday on that same spot, as she stood there with a Princeton University diploma. She knew what it took to reach her finish line. She knew what she'd been through. 

TigerBlog? He tried to sort out the emotions. Ultimately, he guesses the main emotion was marvel, if that is an emotion. He sat there and watched his daughter, and he marveled at the magnitude of what she had done her at Princeton. He smiled. He laughed. He also beamed. He even cried a little. He was in awe.

Mostly, he marveled. 

So wherever you are, raise a glass of something to salute TB's daughter. You've known her first as Little Miss TigerBlog and then, as she grew to six feet tall, as Miss TigerBlog.

Now you know her as Annie Price, Princeton graduate, Class of 2022. She crossed the finish line yesterday.

Annie, your persistence has paid off. 


Tiger69 said...

Congratulations to Young Ms TigerBlog upon her graduation from the “best old place of all”. And to you and Mrs TigerBlog for your love and support for getting her there.
Salud from an alum who did not persist hard enough,

MB Dittrich said...

Jerry, your joy at her success comes shining through in this story. Congratulations again to Annie, her mother and you! Such an amazing achievement.