Finding Refuge in Tigerland
I first stepped foot on the campus of Princeton University about twenty years ago. I was a newlywed looking for a scenic place to take a walk with my husband on a brisk fall afternoon. I had no idea that walk would change the course of my life. I fell in love with the Princeton University campus that day; as soon as we got home, I went to the website and began my job search. It was nearly two years from that day to the day that I started my first job at the University, and since then I’ve never wanted to work anywhere else.
Princeton University and I have been through a lot together: the birth of two children, the death of a marriage, a family tragedy, the loss of our home to a flood, a career hiatus, and the diagnosis and ramifications of a ravenous disease. Throughout the ups and downs of life, the resources and the people of Princeton University have provided a sense of stability and community for my children and I. The campus is home to fascinating lectures, magnificent concerts, and enthralling athletic events, but this place is about so much more than education or entertainment.
As in any relationship, it is not during the good times but the bad that the depth of that relationship is tested. Princeton University is not a fair-weather friend. Should any member of its thriving community fall upon hard times – whether they are financial, emotional, or physical – there are resources available to help. Even beyond your department and your friends on campus, McCosh Health Center, the SHARE office, and Public Safety are always at the ready should you need assistance or support. Princeton University is serious about its education, but it is equally serious about protecting and ensuring the well-being of every member of its community.
When my daughter required complicated surgery, not only was I not penalized for taking time off to care for her, but cards, gifts, and thoughtful emails with words of support poured in and my job, thankfully, was waiting for me when she recovered. When I was going through painful and protracted divorce proceedings and suffering the upheaval of my home and family, going to work every day in a place with faculty who are as kind as they are brilliant, students who are as warm as they are engaging, and staff who inspire me with their dedication provided a welcome respite from the chaos of my personal life. When a stalker threatened my physical safety, Public Safety’s vigilance and professionalism protected me and their presence comforted me during a stressful ordeal. They took measures to ensure that I was safe not only at work but at home, and they helped me navigate what would otherwise have been overwhelmingly difficult court proceedings. I don’t know what I would have done without them or the guidance that I received at the SHARE office. Numerous times I have been struck by the revelation that if I worked anywhere else my children and I could be in dire straits.
Princeton University is beautiful, but the beauty is not just in the architecture, it is in the people that populate this stunning campus, it is in the policies that protect its members, and it is in the sense of community that we get from being part of a place that strives not only to better the lives of those inside of it but those outside of it as well.
Working at Princeton University is so much more than a job or even a career: it is home, it is family, it is a sense of wonder, it is a lifetime of memories and milestones that I cherish. It is the warmth of the bonfire when we beat Harvard and Yale. It is the happy sounds of children splashing in the fountain outside of Robertson Hall. It is the pulse of the music from the Friday dance competitions at Dillon Gym in the summer and the snow-dusted stained glass windows of the University Chapel in the winter. It is the reassurance of seeing Public Safety officers constantly patrolling campus, ready to assist at a moment’s notice. It is the sea of chairs in front of Nassau Hall in June signaling that another year has passed, and another class of great thinkers is being unleashed upon the world. It is the student-athletes teaching my son how to throw a football at Community and Staff Day in September, and my daughter getting her face painted at Communiversity in April. It is the Nassau Street Sampler at the Art Museum and fireworks during Reunions. It is donating stuffing and cranberry sauce for Womanspace in November, and signing cards for troops in December. It is snapping pictures for the mothers of relieved seniors as they drop off their theses in the spring, and tour buses spilling out onto campus in the summer. It is winter basketball at Jadwin Gym, and fall soccer at Roberts Stadium. It is trying not to get run over by a biker, and meandering through Prospect Gardens on a sunny day. It is the sound of protests and rigorous academic debates as people exercise their First Amendment rights. It is year-round Halloween colors and tigers, tigers, everywhere tigers! It is celebrating the graduations, job offers, and publications of our students while simultaneously knowing that we will miss their presence on campus after they have gone.
I am still awestruck by the beauty of the Princeton University campus as I walk around every day. I am so grateful that my ex-husband and I didn’t take a walk on the boardwalk or at a park instead of at Princeton University on that fall afternoon so many years ago. Princeton University is an exceptional place, and I am exceptionally fortunate to be a part of it. The campus has changed me for the better, and I hope that I have done the same for it. Each day I try to give something back to the community that has given me so much, and I am thankful for every person – faculty, staff, or student – who does the same.