University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 welcomed the Class of 2018 at Opening Exercises on Sunday and used the frequently-drawn comparison between the University and Hogwarts to encourage incoming freshmen to find their adventures here just as Harry Potter found his adventures at Hogwarts.
“You feel like you are at the outset not just of any story, but of an adventure, your adventure, your own version perhaps, of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Eisgruber said. “If that’s what you’re feeling, you are right because there is magic in this place.”
Eisgruber encouraged the incoming class to search for the magic in their peers during their time at the University and even later when they are alumni. He also encouraged them to explore the University's resources and community to find what makes their lives meaningful.
“Right around you now are the characters, the dramatis personae, of the story that you will help to create during your time on this campus,” Eisgruber said. “Inside this chapel are some of the best friends who you will ever meet in your life … I hope that you will take advantage of the unique opportunity that this University gives you to ask what will make your own life meaningful. Not just during your time on this campus but in the decades that lie ahead. One of the things that you will discover, as your own Princeton stories unfolds, is that you are surrounded here by an extraordinary collection of people with remarkable perspectives to share.”
Eisgruber also encouraged the Class of 2018 to attend office hours, invite their professors to lunch and speak to their teachers after class. He said he knows the task of getting to know one’s professors can be intimidating but that the Class of 2018’s Princeton adventure, and the years that follow it, will be more rewarding and more meaningful if they create meaningful relationships with their professors.
He referenced “Meaning in Life and Why It Matters” by Susan Wolf GS ’78, which he had asked the incoming class to read over the summer. Wolf argues in her book that people act out of love for objects that they perceive as worthy of love, rather than pure self-interest or pure altruism.
“That sense of imminent discovery is, of course, part of what makes new beginnings so intriguing, so delightful — and, to invoke the idea that Susan Wolf explores in the book that you have read — so meaningful,” Eisgruber said.
Opening Exercises is an annual ceremony held in the University Chapel the Sunday before the fall semester begins. In this ceremony, the incoming freshman class is welcomed by the president, a variety of hymns, prayers and readings are displayed and undergraduate prizes are awarded recognizing the academic achievements of current students. Opening Exercises is followed by the Pre-rade, where the incoming class parades through FitzRandolph Gate.
The Freshman First Honor Prize, which recognizes "exceptional academic achievement during freshman year," was awarded to Lydia Liu ’17. The George B. Wood Legacy Sophomore Prize was awarded to Michael Russell ’16 for his academic achievements in his sophomore year, and the George B. Wood Legacy Junior Prize was awarded to Neil Hannan ’15 and Allison Kruk ’15. The Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award, which recognizes a student with the highest academic standing at the end of his or her junior year, was awarded to Michael Semenov ’15.