Memory is weird. For starters: I was stunned that it’s 40 years since the “Nassau Weekly” launched as an alternative to “The Prince”, then the only campus newspaper, and the closest thing we had to Facebook. That’s not to be confused with “The Face Book”, an actual book with freshman faces, home addresses, phone numbers & birthdays. My classmate Janice Dooner ’81, memorized the entire book (she still remembers my home address and birthday); not surprisingly, she became a “Jeopardy” winner years later.
Memory is weird. Like my memory of Janice memorizing “The Face Book”, some of my memories from 40-ish years ago are crystal clear, like my recall of my freshman week adventure to steal the clapper from Nassau Hall’s bell tower (yes, that was a Princeton tradition; google it). I admit that after 41 years of retelling, that story has a Brian Williams-esque exaggeration of the danger and glory. It is true that I charmed a proctor (now called “P-Safe”?) into unlocking an inner door so I wouldn’t get killed—or worse, expelled!—for scaling the outside building wall. He also gave me a flashlight. It’s also true that same Proctor was still at Princeton when I moved my son into his freshman dorm 34 years later. It is not true that I victoriously stole the clapper.
Memory is weird. Like Dr. Christine Blasssey Ford’s testimony in the Kavanaugh hearings, I also remember every single detail from being ambushed and sexually assaulted by a classmate in my dorm 38 years ago; also like Dr. Ford, I have zero recall of what I did immediately afterwards (but unlike Dr. Ford, I did report it and he was suspended). Far less traumatically, I also have very limited recollection of the circumstances surrounding my joining the nascent “Nass” (is it still called that?). When The Nass launched, I was not only in the “Sophomore Slump” (is it still called that?), I was in a 30 pound body cast for 9 months after having had spinal surgery. I was red-shirted (it wasn’t called that then) from the swim team and looking for something else to do other than organic chemistry (I was pre-med). And I was looking to make money. I have only a vague recall of reading an ad (in The Prince?) to join the business staff of this new newspaper and seeing there would be a commission for ads sold. I was sold.
Memory is weird. I don’t remember if I sold many ads or if I made any money. I do remember the excitement of being involved with a start-up (it wasn’t called that then). I misremembered that my classmate David Remnick ’81, Editor of “The New Yorker”, was the editor; the inaugural masthead says he was editor of the Arts section and Marc Fisher ’80, now Senior Editor of “The Washington Post”, was the Editor (sorry Marc!). I also remember staying on staff only for a very short time (1-2 semesters?); after getting out of the body cast, I was determined to make a swim team come-back, which was a full-time job. I did, despite having a rod in my spine and being a butterflier. Let’s just say I wasn’t ever as fast as pre-op. Senior year I switched to joining Princeton’s first women’s water polo team, which was much more fun and much less time-consuming. This allowed me to do other things, like my thesis, applying to medical school, and joining a group of women to start the second Princeton all-female a cappella group, “The Ibids” (after The Footnotes). If you’ve never heard of them, you graduated after 1981 and know the group by its new & improved name: The Tigressions.
Reviewing the inaugural masthead of The Nass, I was surprised that our class numerals weren’t listed. I thought my numerals officially became my suffix the first day of Freshman Week when I learned to sing “Old Nassau” (with the original words; google it) from Freddie Fox ’39 (a Princeton legend; google him). I was also surprised to see how many of my classmates and peers were on staff. A few are still close friends IRL; several are Facebook friends; many I see annually at Princeton functions. Many have had distinguished writing careers in addition to Marc and David: some stand-outs include Lisa Belkin ’82 (Chief National Correspondent, Yahoo News; author); Todd Purdum ’82 (Vanity Fair editor; author); David Galef ’81 (author; Director, Creative Writing Program Montclair State University); Bob Faggen ’80 (Professor of Literature, Claremont McKenna College; author); and Alexander Wolff ’80, the inaugural Editor of the Sports section, an acclaimed Sports Illustrated writer & author of several sports books. While I was not a writer for The Nass (or any other college publication, aside from frequent letters to the editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly and The Prince), I still thought of myself as a journalist from high school days of writing a column for my local newspaper. Years later, I became an on-air medical contributor for NBC writing companion articles for each of my “Weekend Today Show” and “Later Today” segments on MSNBC.com; wrote all the articles since 2000 for my women’s health information website, DrDonnica.com; was on the editorial boards of two medical journals; was the editor-in-chief of a magazine for women physicians (which had the misfortune to launch on Sept 11, 2001); authored dozens of medical journal articles; was the women’s health content expert for YahooHealth.com for 5 years; the “Doctor on Call” columnist for First for Women magazine for 8 years; and was the editor-in-chief of an encyclopedic book on women’s health. So yes, I became a writer as well.
Memory is weird. Many other memories of The Nass’ inaugural year are crystal clear (and accurate): the trauma of Organic Chemistry with the late Dr. Kurt Mislow (I’m not over it yet); the time someone stole my golf cart and drove it into the statue in the Woody Wood fountain (he later confessed and apologized at our 20th Reunion); working for the Student Beer Mug Agency (of which I later became the manager); starting a travel agency booking student spring break trips to Bermuda; working in the kitchen at Tower Club; and the time Playboy Magazine (is that still a thing?) came to audition “co-eds” for their “Women of the Ivy League” issue. Of course I went, in my body cast, topless! The casting director said three words: “Very funny—next!”
The same year The Nass launched, a group of sophomores revived The Keyceptor Program (that’s not still a thing). The goal was to be an informal, social support system for freshmen beyond their RA’s (now RCA’s); a Big Brother—Big Sister relationship. I don’t really remember any of my “keyceptees” (sorry!) except one, who said he felt a great deal of pressure to go into finance, but he really wanted to be an art history major and become “a Renaissance Man”. While he did spend a short time in investment banking after graduation, he became a prolific and successful writer: Michael Lewis ’82 (google him).
Memory is weird. My sophomore year roommate, Ellen Chajson MD ’81, generally has a much better recall of my college escapades than I do. At least once annually, I’ll say I don’t remember someone; she’ll respond with a detailed story about how I dated him (or something). I’m starting to think she’s just making these stories up to mess with me. I called her for background research for this article and her memory failed! “I remember you did that, but I have no idea why.” Clearly it had nothing to do with anyone I was dating (is that still a thing?). She added: “The Prince was a newspaper, but Nassau Weekly was more like Newsweek Magazine.”
Here’s a Nass-related anecdote I do clearly remember. 8 years after graduating from Princeton and medical school, I decided to switch from clinical medicine to become a medical director at a major international pharmaceutical company. In my final interview with the hiring Vice President he asked “What business experience do you have?” In great detail, I told him about my college business experiences which allowed me to self-pay all of my tuition and expenses beyond financial aid and federal student loans. One of them was being Advertising Manager of the inaugural Nassau Weekly and what a big deal that was.
Yup. Memory is weird.