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For immediate release: Sept. 28, 2001

Contact: Marilyn Marks, 609-258-3601,

Shirley Tilghman installed as 19th president of Princeton University 

Princeton, N.J. -- Shirley M. Tilghman was formally installed as Princeton University's 19th president today, in a ceremony marked both by celebration and contemplation of the challenges ahead for the University and the nation.

Tilghman took office on June 15 but she re-enacted her oath in the installation ceremony today, accepting the honor with "eagerness and humility."

In her address to the students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members gathered on the front lawn of Nassau Hall, Tilghman, 55, spoke of the role of the University in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11.

"The medieval image of the university as an ivory tower, with scholars turned inward in solitary contemplation, immunized from the cares of the day, is an image that has been superseded by the modern university constructed not of ivory, but of a highly porous material, one that allows free diffusion in both directions," she said. "The academy is of the world, not apart from it."

American society expects much of its colleges and universities, Tilghman said. "It expects the generation of new ideas and the discovery of new knowledge, the exploration of complex issues in an open and collegial manner and the preparation of the next generation of citizens and leaders. In times of trouble, it is especially important that we live up to these expectations."

Tilghman said she hoped the nation's leaders will draw upon university historians, economists, scientists and other scholars who can provide information and context for their decisions. But she also noted that the relationship between society and the academy can create tension, as scholars and students pursue ideas that are unpopular or unconventional.

"It is in times of national crisis that our true commitment to freedom of speech and thought is tested," Tilghman said. "History will judge us in the weeks and months ahead by our capacity to sustain civil discourse in the face of deep disagreement, for we are certain to disagree with one another.

"We will disagree about how best to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11. We will disagree about how broadly the blame should be shared. We will disagree about the ways in which nationalism and religion can be perverted into fanaticism. We will disagree about whether a just retribution can be achieved if it leads to the deaths of more innocent victims….We will disagree about how and when to wage war and how best to achieve a real and lasting peace," she said.

"By conducting difficult discussions without prejudice or anger, by standing together for tolerance, civil liberties and the right to dissent, by holding firm to core principles of justice and freedom and human dignity, this university will serve our country well," Tilghman said. "By so doing, we will be true patriots."

Tilghman's address followed a procession of University faculty members and top administrators in academic regalia. The president's gown is made of black silk faille, trimmed with gold, and faced with the orange of Princeton and the House of Nassau. The bands of gold lacing on the sleeves represent the presidents who have guided Princeton since its founding; Tilghman's gown has 19 bands.

Today's ceremony included greetings from members of the University community and Richard Levin, president of Yale University, who represented the higher-education community.

Tilghman, a member of the Princeton faculty since 1986, has served as the Howard A. Prior Professor of the Life Sciences and as the director of the University's Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics. She succeeded Harold T. Shapiro, who retired from the presidency after more than 13 years of service.