Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Dancing With Vietta

The first time TigerBlog saw Vietta Johnson, she was just a face in a small box on an eight-screen Zoom call.

It was the heart of the pandemic, and TB had been invited to be on the Class of 1982 Zoom to talk about women's athletic history. He was in the early stages of writing his book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton (cheap plug- you can order it HERE).

Vietta wasn't one of the leaders of the event. She simply spoke near the end, during the Q&A portion of the evening. 

TB's first thought was "whoa, that's an impressive person with a lot of energy." He had no idea just how right he was.

He immediately decided to include Vietta in the book. When he interviewed her, she spoke about her time as women's track athlete and so much more, including her childhood in Brooklyn and her path to becoming one of the few Black orthopedic surgeons in the country at the time. She talked about justice and fairness and connecting with people on a human level. She talked about the hurdles she had to overcome and how she did it.

When TigerBlog has given presentations of his book, he has mentioned that the chapter on Vietta is what the book is all about. It's about her time as Princeton student-athlete and how it has shaped her ever since, and it's about the impact that Princeton women's athletes have made here.

Since he first met her, TB and Vietta have been in touch a few times, including a year ago, when she was honored with the Class of 1967 Citizen-Athlete Award. He had never, though, met her in person.

That's why when he got a text two weeks ago that Vietta was going to be at Reunions, he made it a point that he would find a way to connect, even though he'd be away for almost the entire time at the men's lacrosse quarterfinals at Hofstra.

It was a 90-degree day out on Long Island, and TB was completely wiped out and sweaty from standing on the sideline in his black lacrosse pullover (long sleeves at that). Still, he was not going to miss out on saying hi to Vietta after he got back to Princeton.

That's what he envisioned. A quick hello, how are you?

That's not how it turned out.

Nope. Vietta was having none of that. And so it was that TB found himself at the 40th Reunion tent, right up at the front, dancing with Vietta Johnson as the band played (really well by the way) "My Girl," the Temptations hit.

You can ask pretty much anyone TB has ever met if he likes to dance, or if he's any good at it. The answer to both would be "no," but only once that person stopped laughing.

And yet this time, there he was, out there in front. It was the Vietta Johnson effect. She's simply a force of nature. A wonderful, positive, energetic, force of nature.

That was TB's Reunions experience, standing in the 40th tent and dancing with Vietta, while also seeing some familiar faces (loyal reader Duncan Yin, who was Vietta's 1982 classmate, among them). 

What was your Reunions experience? Judging by what TB saw on campus over the weekend, he's guessing it was overwhelmingly positive.

After two years of virtual Reunions, how could it not be? As TB wrote last week, he was sorry to have missed the P-Rade (though the lacrosse win was a good reason).

In general, it was just amazing to see the campus hopping the way it was and to see everyone back together again. 

Reunions started the night of the Gary Walters Princeton Varsity Club Senior Banquet, as always. As always, it ran through Saturday night, and in fact TB got back to campus just in time for the fireworks. 

Sunday night was TB's first-ever prom in Jadwin Gym. He was at Class Day yesterday for the first time as well.

These are the traditions that mean the most to Princeton. They go back a very, very long way, and the fact that they were taken away for two years only made them that much more important when they returned these last few days.

Today is Commencement. TB has been to a lot of them during his time here. It's always been one of his favorite events, though he does have a sense this one will be a little more special.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an honor it was to meet and dance with you!
Congratulations to you and your family on your daughter’s graduation today!