Campus reacts to Tilghman's surprise retirement
After University President Shirley Tilghman announced her retirement, students, faculty and alumni alike immediately began to engage in a campus-wide dialogue, reflecting on Tilghman’s contributions to the University while also thinking about Princeton’s future. The Daily Princetonian reached out to several individuals in the Princeton community to hear their thoughts on Tilghman’s sudden retirement plans.
English and African American Studies professor Daphne A. Brooks
President Shirley Tilghman was one of the most powerful reasons why I decided to join the Princeton faculty 11 years ago. Her vision, her spirit, her creativity, her commitment to diversity and interdisciplinary studies, her willingness to speak across differences and forge critical and imaginative intellectual alliances are but a few of the examples of how she has led Princeton into the 21st century. She will be sorely missed as president, but her legacy will be felt for generations.
David Chen ’13
It wasn’t completely unexpected. There was a lot of speculation about her resigning after the fundraising Aspire campaign. I’m just curious who the next president is going to be.
Daniel Cullen ’13
I wasn’t terribly surprised. I hadn’t really kept up with her retirement plans. I knew she had been planning on retiring when Aspire was over. Maybe she changed that plan. Personally, I never really had any qualms with her. I know that a lot of students do. The only downside that I saw to her was that she didn’t always seem to have the best grasp on undergraduate life, but I think she did a really good job overall. I never had any problems with her at all.
Gretchen Hoffmann ’13
[The resignation] seemed out of nowhere, but my primary reaction was wondering whether the sorority/fraternity ban for freshmen will go away.
Wilson School professor Stanley Katz
She had two big accomplishments, I thought. The first one was bringing the role of women in higher education to the fold. She began on that when she first came ... She talked a lot about the role of women in science, where they have long not been permitted to play the role that they can and should. I think she was elegant and quite persuasive on that, and then more generally, she pushed the notion that women needed to play a greater leadership role in higher education. And she made that happen at Princeton, because if you look at our administration, you can see a great many women leading in administrative positions. And I think that she was ahead of her time in that. I think the impression of that nationally was very important ... The next idea was pushing the idea of big science. That meant really investing in making Princeton nationally and internationally competitive in most of the major basic science fields by building departments, building buildings, building resources to that. So we’ve got this huge science campus now on south Washington Street, and that will be called the "President Tilghman Science Campus" or something like that. That’s a big accomplishment; that’s a big change ... I thought a sign of how well she had done was that I don’t think anybody’s worried about the stability of the University or the future of the University because it’s in such good shape now. I doubt anyone is thinking, "Oh gosh, what comes next?" What comes next will be interesting, but it will be another good story.
William Lee ’16
For me, all I really know is that Shirley Tilghman increased the financial aid, making the University affordable for all students.
Annelies Paine ’16
I've always really liked Shirley Tilghman. I've heard good things about her, so I'm disappointed. Since I'm a freshman, I hope that the Princeton that I applied to and chose to come to doesn't change too much when she leaves.
Stephanie Rigizadeh ’15
We have one year to become best friends with her.
Gary M. King ’79
I personally was surprised [about the resignation]. I had not kept up with her plans for retirement, so I was totally surprised. As an alumnus, I thought she was absolutely fantastic for the University, both for the growth of the University as an academic institution and the maintenance of a premier university in the U.S. and in the world. Obviously that was very key to her, and she made this very clear to the alumni body. Of all the things she did during her tenure — the expansion of the student body and dormitories, the continuing attraction of key faculty members, the creation of the African American Studies program, an interdisciplinary program that is very unique — she brought together all parts of the University and made sure that all alumni, no matter where they came from, had a voice in where the University was going. From my perspective as an alumnus, she was a great, great president.
Logan Roth ’15
I like the fact that she really pushed for the arts, and from what I understand, she pushed for taking more artsy kids, and I think that might have something to do with why I’m here. I really hope our next president keeps arts a priority in the education realm.
Heemin Seog ’16
Well, I haven't really been here that long to know that much of her. But it was really cool hearing about stuff she did during Preview. I think that we really don't lose that much because she's coming back to teach.
Leah Worthington ’15
It’s going to be weird not being able to say, “Oh Shirley, this,” or “Oh Shirley, that.”