Reunions Alongside Princeton's Oldest Living Alumni

May 30, 2023
Ian Fridman

When I first heard about Princeton reunions, I didn’t doubt for a second that I would stay the extra two weeks after finals to experience them myself. The roaring tigers’ returning glory, the flamboyant orange and black costumes, the night dances, the tiger paws and patterns everywhere you look, and the burning spirit, all sounded too good to miss. So I applied to the easiest campus job I could find— dining services. Little did I know that working as a waiter would turn out to be one of my most memorable Princeton experiences. 

Every year, on the second day of reunions, there’s a very special event: the Old Guard Luncheon. It’s a meal that brings together all the Princeton alumni returning for their 65th or more reunion. Some of them were here before the photocopier or Velcro even existed! Others were even here before World War 2. The point is, these guys are old and wise, and a lot has happened since they were flocking around the eating clubs, panicking over midterms, or avoiding FitsRandolph Gates’ middle entry (which you must not walk through as a student or else you will not graduate— confirmed by the frights of many generations of Princetonians). Serving this lunch, and seeing 90-year-olds in fluorescent orange suits and tiger-striped ties, showed me the timelessness of Princeton. 40, 65, or 80 years down the road I’ll be on the other side— sitting where they are, reminiscing on my time here. 

crowded dining room filled with Old Guard Princeton Alumni

I especially enjoyed my brief but meaningful interaction with Joe Schein. During reunions’s P-Rade— the flamboyant and orange-struck alumni parade— Joe carries the leading baton for being the oldest living Princeton alum. He is 108 years old, and a member of the Great Class of 1937. I am a member of the Class of 2025: basically, a whole century after. Talking to Joe, and seeing him and all the Old Guard alumni come back to Old Nassau decades after their time here to cherish their memories, re-live experiences, and reunite with old friends, made me see what people talk about when they say that Princeton is for a lifetime.

Joe Schein '37 wearing a Princeton blazer poses with Ian Fridman '25 wearing a Princeton t-shirt

In the 1879 Hall archway on campus, there’s a plaque I really like. Its inscription says, “Princeton is a part of you. You are a part of Princeton.” Working this luncheon made me see Princeton with new eyes, and the plaque took on new meaning— your time at Princeton lives in you until the end of your Old Guard days, and after being here, you join a community of Princetonians whose legacy transcends generations. 

Plaque that says "Princeton is part of you. You are part of Princeton"
Princeton shield plaque