Princeton Weekly Bulletin   May 22, 2006, Vol. 95, No. 27   search   prev   next

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Page One
Tilghman implements changes to support diversity efforts
From obscurity to the spotlight

Book chronicles Princeton’s rise from small college to intellectual powerhouse
‘Art of Science’ exhibition bridges disciplines
Welders help students turn up the heat in architecture course

Spotlight, staff retirements, staff obituaries, faculty resignations

Nassau Notes
Calendar of events
By the numbers



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The New York Times Book Review has named “Beloved,” a 1987 novel by Princeton Professor Toni Morrison, the best work of American fiction published in the past quarter century.

In an article posted on the Times’ Web site and slated for publication in the May 21 edition, Book Review Editor Sam Tanenhaus reports the results of a survey he conducted of prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary figures. He asked them to identify “the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.” A total of 124 people are on the list of judges, including Russell Banks, Michael Chabon, Don DeLillo, Jonathan Safran Foer, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Nadine Gordimer, Jim Harrison, John Irving, Stephen King, Wole Soyinka, William Styron, Studs Terkel, Anne Tyler and Tom Wolfe as well as Morrison’s colleagues on the Princeton faculty, Chang-rae Lee and Edmund White.

“The best works of fiction, according to our tally, appear to be those that successfully assume a burden of cultural importance,” writes Times film critic A.O. Scott in an accompanying essay. “They attempt not just the exploration of particular imaginary people and places, but also the illumination of epochs, communities, of the nation itself. America is not only their setting, but also their subject.”

Set in post-Civil War Ohio, “Beloved” tells the story of Sethe, an escaped slave who is haunted by the spirit of a murdered child. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

“… Morrison’s novel has inserted itself into the American canon more completely than any of its potential rivals,” Scott writes. “With remarkable speed, ‘Beloved’ has, less than 20 years after its publication, become a staple of the college literary curriculum, which is to say a classic.”

Morrison, the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, has served on the Princeton faculty since 1989.

William Massey, the Edwin Wiley Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering at Princeton, has been awarded the 2006 Blackwell-Tapia Prize.

The award is given every other year to a mathematical scientist who has contributed significantly to research in his or her field and who has served as a role model for mathematical scientists and students from minority groups or has worked to address problems of minority underrepresentation in mathematics.

The prize was established in honor of David Blackwell and Richard Tapia, two distinguished mathematical scientists who have inspired more than a generation of minority students and professionals in the mathematical sciences. Massey will receive the award at the fourth Blackwell-Tapia Conference, to be held at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications in Minneapolis on Nov. 3-4.

“Professor Massey has had a long and outstanding record of research both in industry when he worked for Bell Labs and now, in academia, at Princeton University — but he also has been a wonderful example of someone who gives back to the community,” said Douglas Arnold, director of the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications.

Massey is a leader in the field of queueing theory, which is the mathematical analysis of systems involving customers waiting for services or resources, such as call centers. Mathematical models of such systems allow for predictions of key performance variables such as expected response times and customer backlogs, which are critical to the efficient design and profitability of communication systems, transportation networks, computer operating systems and many other business operations.

Massey also was recognized for founding and leading the annual Conference for African American Researchers in the Mathematical Sciences, now in its 12th year, and for mentoring numerous minority and women students.

In 2005, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education named Massey as second among the most frequently cited black mathematicians in the world.

Massey, a 1977 Princeton graduate, joined the University faculty in 2001 after 20 years as a researcher with the Mathematical Sciences Research Center at Bell Laboratories.

Two Princeton faculty members, geophysicist Guust Nolet and physicist Nai-Phuan Ong, have been named fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

They are among 195 leaders in scholarship, the sciences, business, the arts, philanthropy and public affairs elected to the academy in recognition of contributions to their respective fields.

Nolet is the George Magee Professor of Geophysics and Geological Engineering and has been a Princeton faculty member since 1991. Ong, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics, joined the Princeton faculty in 1985.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 and currently has 4,600 members, including more than 170 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners.