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Alumni Day Class Dinner

Feb. 24,2024


55th Reunion!

  May 23-26, 2024


Erdman Center info




The Princeton Alumni Association of Germany

founded by members of the Class of ´69

by David T. Fisher

You might not think that Germany has much to do with Old Nassau but in fact the original castle of the House of Nassau is in the town of Nassau on the Lahn river in Germany.  This is where the ancestors of Prince William of Nassau first rose to prominence in the 12th century. One of the first events of the PAA of Germany was to sponsor a medieval banquet at this fairy tale castle with Prof. Paul Sigmund as our guest of honor.

Our fellow classmate, John Sease and I, began to organize Princeton activities in Germany back in the 80’s. I had moved to Wiesbaden in 1970 at the behest of my German wife with the intention of spending a year in Europe. This one year somehow turned into forty years. Visiting John in California in 1982 I told him how much fun it was to live in Europe and he decided to come over for a few years himself. He likewise wound up spending the rest of his life here (until his untimely death in 2007). John and I decided to organize the Princeton alumni in Germany and set up a Princeton alumni association as a tax-exempt corporation under German law in 1987. I became the chair and John took over the job of treasurer. In order to achieve tax-exempt status in Germany it was necessary to focus the goals of the association on German-American cultural exchange. This was not a problem because many of the traditional activities of a Princeton alumni organization (ASC interviews, sponsoring visits by groups from Princeton, etc.) easily fit into the category of cultural exchange.

In this regard, it turned out that we were well-placed to make ourselves useful to the Princeton German Department. Not only is the Princeton German Department one of the top faculties in the country, it was also one of the first to initiate a summer internship program already in 1958. John, in fact, had been a participant when we were undergraduates. The Princeton networks in Germany and Austria became an excellent source of interesting internships for our applicants. The program blossomed and in 1996 I agreed to serve on the Advisory Council of the Princeton German Department and eventually to take over the job of director of the Princeton German Summer Work Program on a pro bono basis. Since then organizing internships for Princetonians has become my favourite obsession. We now usually place between 20 and 30 undergraduates a year in a wide variety of internships ranging from corporations to museums, law practices and government ministries.

With the help of our alumni in Germany and Austria we have been able to place our undergraduates in some unusually interesting internships. A Princeton alumna, for example, got to work for Angela Merkel during the time when she became the first female chancellor in German history. Others have had fascinating internships at world famous museums such as the Städel in Frankfurt, the Zwinger in Dresden or the Kunsthalle in Bremen. Every year Germany’s foremost economic research institute, the ifo, takes a Princeton intern. Several of our musicians have interned with Richard Wagner’s great granddaughter at the Kunstfest Weimar. The German parliament as well as various state ministries are also usually willing to take an intern.

The main challenge in expanding these memorable opportunities for our undergraduates is to find adequate funding for the non-paid internships. While it is usually possible to find a paid internship for engineers and technically oriented students, internships in the cultural and political areas are generally unpaid. For that reason we spend a lot of our effort raising funds to support these unpaid internships. Our fondest hope is to be able to set up an endowment soon which will fund these internships in perpetuity.

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