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Alumni around the world who don’t already know the new University president, Christopher Eisgruber ’83, will have at least 13 chances to meet him, beginning Monday night.
Eisgruber will travel the globe this year as he formally introduces himself to the University’s 88,000 alumni at dinner receptions. These will begin with an event in New York City on Monday evening, followed by events in East Asia during fall break, the West Coast during Intersession and Europe in early April. On shorter trips, Eisgruber will meet alumni in Washington, D.C., Miami and Chicago.
Eisgruber will deliver formal remarks at each of the events, either in a speech or an interview. Former ABC World News anchor Charlie Gibson ’65, a University trustee, will interview Eisgruber in New York, and top political reporter Todd Purdum ’82 will talk with him in Washington.
While the University president frequently travels to meet alumni, Eisgruber’s first-year schedule is a heavier load than most years, according to Margaret Miller ’80, the Alumni Association’s assistant vice president for alumni affairs. She explained that it’s traditional for Princeton presidents to embark on these introductory tours.
“This is a way for the alumni to start to get to know him, and it gives the alumni an opportunity to say what they think,” Miller said.
Most alumni have not seen Eisgruber publicly, since his work as provost had an internal focus, Alumni Association president Nancy Newman ’78 said. Because he is largely unknown, she explained, alumni are especially eager to meet the new University president.
At talks Eisgruber has delivered since being named president, such as one given at Reunions, the alumni who wanted to hear him speak couldn’t fit into a room, Newman said. According to Brian Biegen ’04, the head of New York City’s regional alumni association, 1,700 alumni — a quarter of all University alumni in New York City — have registered to attend Monday’s event.
“This is overwhelmingly large. We didn’t think we were going to have this many people,” Biegen said.
Events in other cities are likely to be smaller, Miller said. She explained that the schedule was crafted to maximize the number of alumni worldwide that could meet him in his first year. Next year, he’ll head to a different, still-undetermined set of cities.
Eisgruber’s remarks in New York may foreshadow what he will say in the other 12 cities. Though Gibson will drive much of the conversation, Biegen said New Yorkers in particular are hoping to hear Eisgruber reaffirm his predecessor’s commitment to the arts.
“It’s hopefully going to be a lot about the future — maybe some about the tradition — but I think most people want to hear about the future,” Biegen explained.
Newman explained that alumni have been especially interested in these receptions because Eisgruber is the first president to have an undergraduate degree from Princeton since Robert Goheen ’40. This makes him part of the alumni “family.”
“Not only does he start out with an advantage because people really, really, really want him to succeed, but he also has all the responsibilities that come with a family,” Newman said. “We have very high expectations for him.”
Eisgruber’s undergraduate degree also provides Annual Giving staff with a big selling point when soliciting donations, representatives have said. While these events are free, they are an opportunity for Eisgruber to meet the University’s donor base. He has said he expects to launch a capital campaign at some point during his presidency.
Newman explained that it is critical for the president to engage alumni in order to cultivate donors, though she emphasized that alumni can be active without opening their wallets.
“I don’t think that they are coming to these events thinking that they’re going to be asked for money or that it’s expected of them,” she said. “Even those who are not going to donate money want to meet the guy.”