May 2021 Newsletter: Together, Six Feet Apart

May 26, 2021

Princeton University’s 2021 Commencement marked an occasion to celebrate and reflect on the challenges of the past year. While the graduates and their guests gathered in a socially-distanced Princeton Stadium, President Christopher L. Eisgruber encouraged students to forge a common good and build genuine community. In his address, 'Together, Six Feet Apart,' President Eisgruber said that “our long, unwelcome separation teaches us this: to forge a common good together, we must break bread together. We must, in other words, relate to one another not just as disembodied intellects, interests, or ideologies, or as faces in Zoom boxes, but also as real, three-dimensional people who share basic needs and a common humanity."

This issue of features Princeton University’s 2021 commencement which included awards for four outstanding New Jersey secondary teachers and six honorary degree recipients from around the state; an update on the University’s ongoing effort to address racism; and highlights the research underway at the University.

Highlights from Princeton University Commencement 2021


Four outstanding New Jersey secondary teachers
Four outstanding New Jersey secondary school teachers honored at Princeton Commencement

This year’s recipients of the Princeton Prize for Distinguished Secondary School Teaching are Mina Armani of José Martí STEM Academy, Jametta Clarke of Lawrence High School, Christine Lim of Pennsauken High School and Andrew Teheran of East Side High School. The teachers were selected for the award based on nominations from public and private schools around the state. They each will receive $5,000 award, as well as $3,000 for their school libraries. Learn more.


Princeton University Honorary degree recipients
Princeton awards six honorary degrees, all from New Jersey

Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber awarded honarary degrees to six individuals for their contributions to music, history, education, literature, public service, public health, social justice and ending homelessness: Jon Bon Jovi, musician and philanthropist; Linda Caldwell Epps, educator and CEO of 1804 Consultants; John Fleming, Princeton’s Louis W. Fairchild ’24 Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Emeritus; Rush Holt, physicist and eight-term member of Congress; Dr. Risa Juanita Lavizzo-Mourey, public health advocate and longtime president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and Constance Mercer Myers, founder and leader of HomeFront. Learn more.


Ruth Simmons
Baccalaureate speaker Ruth J. Simmons: ‘Let diversity inform and shape your life and work’

In her Baccalaureate address to graduating seniors, Prairie View A&M University President Ruth J. Simmons said that after her childhood on a plantation, “I found education to be magical” an experience that “opened wide possibilities that we had never dared dream.” She spoke of how and “a diverse environment ... offers passageways to enlightened service. Opening our minds to the many ways in which others contribute to advancing our world is just one benefit of a diverse environment, but the greatest benefit of diversity is the way in which such an environment can help us understand how to build mutually respectful and safe communities in which we acknowledge and care for one another through times of trial and adversity.” Read the full address.


Trevor Noah Princeton University Class Day Speaker 2021
Trevor Noah on Class Day: Comedy can poke holes in society ‘and reveal some of the light that comes through’

At Princeton’s virtual Class Day ceremony on Saturday, May 15, author, comedian and host of “The Daily Show” Trevor Noah urged seniors to foster friendships that create “home” wherever they are, to travel to challenge their worldview and to not let the lessons of compassion learned in the pandemic recede into history. Learn more.



Spirit of Princeton Award 2021
Eleven students win 2021 Spirit of Princeton Award for service, contributions to campus life, including one student from Hillsborough, New Jersey

Eleven students have been named winners of the 2021 Spirit of Princeton Award, honoring Princeton University undergraduates for positive contributions to campus life. The award recognizes those who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the undergraduate experience through dedicated efforts in student organizations, athletics, community service, religious life, residential life and the arts. Learn more.


Continuing Efforts to Address Systemic Racism


Nassau Hall
An update on Princeton’s ongoing efforts to address systemic racism

Last summer, President Eisgruber charged the University Cabinet — senior academic and administrative leaders — with developing action plans and programs to address systemic racism at Princeton and beyond. Cabinet officers have now developed racial equity action plans, with some programs underway and some in development. The plans focus on strategic goals including the diversification of the faculty and the faculty pipeline; staff recruitment and retention; diversification of the student body; institutional history; and the inclusivity of campus climate for all populations. Learn more.


Henry Hall at Princeton University
Princeton adopts plan to support more diverse-owned businesses, broaden pool of University suppliers

As part of ongoing efforts to address systemic racism at Princeton and beyond, the University has adopted a Supplier Diversity Action Plan to broaden the pool of suppliers who work with the University and to support more businesses led by people of color, women, veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Learn more.



Cherry Bloom at Princeton University
Trustee-level ad hoc committee develops principles to govern decisions about naming, renaming and changing iconography

The Ad Hoc Committee on Principles to Govern Renaming and Changes to Campus Iconography, a trustee-level committee charged with developing general principles to govern questions about when and under what circumstances it might be appropriate for the University to remove or contextualize the names and representations of individuals present on the Princeton campus. Learn more.



More from Princeton University


Opioid Research
COVID-19 reduces access to opioid dependency treatment for new patients

COVID-19 has been associated with increases in opioid overdose deaths, which may be in part because the pandemic limited access to buprenorphine, a treatment used for opioid dependency, according to a new study led by Princeton University researchers. The researchers found that Americans who were already taking opioids did not experience disruptions in their supply. Patients who were not previously taking opioids for pain management were less likely to receive a new prescription in the first months of the pandemic, but prescriptions for new patients soon bounced back to previous levels. Learn more.


Higher Education Diversity
Common approach to diversity in higher education reflects preferences of white Americans

Increasing diversity remains a key priority at universities, especially in the wake of mass demonstrations in support of racial equality in 2020 following the death of George Floyd. Many universities are guided by the motivation that diversity enhances student learning, a rationale supported by the U.S. Supreme Court. This approach, however, is a view preferred by white and not Black Americans, and it also aligns with better relative outcomes for white Americans, according to a paper published by Princeton University researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.. Learn more.


Princeton University Volunteer
Princeton Research Day 2021 reveals a Tiger research mission at full roar

Princeton Research Day 2021, featuring the work of undergraduates, grad students, postdoctoral and early-career researchers, wrapped in April with an inspiring virtual Mainstage event that showcased awardees and underscored the remarkable breadth of research underway at Princeton University. Learn more.