Solveig Gold and Marisa Salazar Named Pyne Prize Co-winners

Solveig Gold and Marisa Salazar have been named co-winners of the University's 2017 Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, the highest general distinction conferred on an undergraduate. They were recognized for their accomplishments at a luncheon during Alumni Day on campus Saturday, February 25, 2017. Solveig's and Marisa’s remarks from the luncheon are below. Marisa delivered her remarks in English and in American Sign Language; her fellow student, Briana Christophers ‘17 translated and delivered Marisa's remarks in Spanish. Read more about Solveig Gold and Marisa Salazar in this News at Princeton article and watch them deliver their remarks here.

Solveig Gold on left (photo by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications)

Marisa Salazar on right (photo by Momo Wolapaye, Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students)

Solveig Gold '17: Pyne Prize Address

On September 12, 2013, twelve ambitious and confident freshmen arrived fifteen minutes early to our first Princeton precept, eager to impress our professor and each other. During the next hour and a half, we talked over and around each other, determined to prove that we, and we alone, had the most authoritative and original interpretation of the Iliad.

This was the beginning of the Humanities Sequence, or “HUM,” as it is affectionately called—a yearlong, team-taught, interdisciplinary course on the Western canon from Homer to Nietzsche—and for the next week or so, our precepts continued in this manner. Then, one sunny September morning, we received our first essay grades at Princeton. Mine was a C+.

The Humanities Sequence, I like to say, puts the “HUM” in “humility.” The course is a window into a conversation with the artists and thinkers, across time and space, who have given voice to the same emotions and pondered the same questions; however, before we freshmen tried to enter that conversation ourselves, our professors sought to remind us just how little we knew. Each classic book we haphazardly skimmed in one night could, they told us, be the subject of its own course or even its own field of study. Our essays and class discussions were to focus on one, bite-sized quotation at a time: after all, in an hour-and-a-half-long precept, we could not possibly become experts on the entire Divine Comedy, but we could perhaps learn a little something about its first four lines.

Moreover, we learned the most little something when we listened, instead of talking over one another. To the extent that we could enter the age-old conversation of artists and thinkers, we entered it not as individuals, but as a class, composed of students from different backgrounds harboring different, even opposing, worldviews. As we discovered from watching our six co-professors daily challenge each other in the lecture hall, our answers to the big questions these books raised were stronger after they had come under fire from our peers—to quote John Stuart Mill, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” Together, we reached an understanding of the texts—and of each other—that we could never have reached sitting alone in the library.

Conversation, I have found, is the heart of the Princeton experience. It begins in the classroom, where our professors foster disagreement in pursuit of truth. Some memorable examples from my Princeton experience include “Constitutional Interpretation,” in which conservative Professor Robby George responded convincingly with liberal counterarguments to students’ conservative arguments, and “Spinoza’s Intellectual World,” in which Professors Tony Grafton, Russ Leo, Dan Garber, and Nigel Smith taught by example how to engage in a rigorous yet friendly debate.

The conversation continues, then, as we dive into our JPs and theses: the joy of working with an advisor is that he or she does not simply grade our work, but rather devotes hours to discussing our topics in person, urging us to consider arguments we have not yet encountered. How many late nights did I spend in Chancellor Green Rotunda with Professor Andrew Ford, both of us in costume, figuring out how to bring Euripides’ Medea to life? How many afternoons in Professor Christian Wildberg’s office, not in costume, poring over grammatical minutiae in Plotinus’ Enneads?

A further conversation still has defined my extracurricular life here: a musical one. Every afternoon under the baton of Gabriel Crouch and every night in 300 Henry Hall with the Tigerlilies, I join my voice with others. In choral singing as in classroom discussion, multiple voices produce what one alone cannot, and it is by listening closely to those around us that we create the truest sound.

And some of the very best conversations have been the unfiltered ones that occur around the dinner table. As I tell my Orange Key tours, I am particularly grateful for the emphasis Princeton places on mealtimes—in dining halls, Eating Clubs, and Co-Ops. In my home, family dinner is the most important part of every day because it is a time to learn from and debate with the people around you, and I love that Princeton recognizes that—they want us to be learning, not just in the classroom, but all day long around the various kinds of tables on this campus. In the process, our fellow conversationalists—be they students or professors—become our dearest friends. From discussing my existential crises at 4 am with the nocturnal Professor Joshua Katz to beer-soaked heart-to-hearts with friends over late-night Frist pizza, it is conversation that binds us ever closer as a community.

But perhaps my favorite conversation—and the conversation we celebrate here today—is the one with Princetonians through the generations. As I remember each time I take out a library book and read the long list of past due dates on the inside of the back cover, we current Princeton students are not the first to enter the canonized conversation of artists and thinkers, nor will we be the last. The legacy of Princeton alumni is everywhere we look, from the names of our buildings to the authors of our books to the accumulation of graffiti desperately scribbled into the desks of McCosh 50 by the bored students of yesteryear. I do not always agree with those alumni’s opinions or decisions, but I am always grateful to listen to their voices in the great, ongoing Princeton conversation…and to add my own voice to the mix.

Today I thank everyone who has been a part of the Princeton conversation—during my time here, and beyond. My best friends: Euripides, Plato, Plotinus, Augustine. Just kidding. Claire, Elizabeth, Emily, Erynn, Marc, Zach: you have challenged me and supported me in the classroom, at the lunch table, and on the stage. Professors Crouch, Ford, George, Grafton, Katz, and Wildberg: you’ve been my graders (some of you tougher than others!)…but you’ve also been my friends and cheerleaders. My parents, my grandparents, and Lord Nelson, my Norwich terrier: you paid the tuition bills…and you instilled in me a lifelong love of conversation and the courage to speak my mind. Finally, Dean Deignan, Dean Dolan, and President Eisgruber: you have humbled me beyond belief with this award today, but, more than that, you have devoted your lives to upholding and expanding the conversation on this campus. Looking out at you all on this Alumni Day, I am reminded just how remarkable that conversation is. Many of us here may disagree on many issues, large and small, but today, out of the hum of disagreement comes one resounding truth. We tune every heart and every voice, and despite, or perhaps because of, our disagreement, we all with one accord rejoice…in praise of Old Nassau. Thank you.

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Marisa Salazar '17: Pyne Prize Address

Thank you very much, President Eisgruber, Dean Deignan, Dean Dolan, and everyone here today.

When I stepped onto campus during Princeton Preview in April 2013, a new world opened before me. I had never encountered such an intense mixture of energy, intelligence, passion, and camaraderie as I found in those few days. But what stood out to me were the diverse, vibrant, interconnected communities from which Princeton was formed and which have shaped my time here.

The first and most obvious community is the academic one. At Princeton rather than being only a recipient of knowledge, I have learned how to interact with arguments from communities of scholars, how to construct my own arguments, and how to conduct scientific research. I have learned that sometimes Taylor Swift dance parties with classmates are necessary parts of problem set study sessions. I have found beauty and wonder in organic chemistry, 19th century literature, and many more subjects, taught by professors who were not only interested in teaching me material, but also in learning who I am. I am especially grateful to my thesis advisor Professor Knowles and the members of my lab who have mentored to me.

While the academic community at Princeton has had a large influence on my time here, I have also learned an immeasurable amount from another community—my network of friends, mentors, and classmates. From my freshman year zee group, to my own advisees, to the staff of Whitman College, to the staff at the McGraw Center--so many people have invested into my life through their mentorship and their friendships, and have helped make Princeton my home as well as my university.

Among my various communities, two in particular stand out. At Princeton I have had the opportunity to be involved with a Christian fellowship, PEF, which has encouraged me in my faith and also spurred me to apply the principles I believe to my everyday interactions. Additionally, I have had deep discussions about the meaning of faith, God, good, and life with friends of all faiths.

I have also had the privilege at Princeton of being part of a new community of language learners. A good friend of mine is Deaf and I became a member of the American Sign Language club which helped found.

[In ASL] It has been an honor to work to ensure that future generations of students have the ability to learn about the Deaf community and to become part of the community of signers on campus. [End of ASL]

Lastly, another community has intersected with my time here at Princeton--that of my family and friends in New Mexico. I am especially grateful to my family, including my dad and grandma who are here today, for supporting me throughout my time here. I’m also grateful to Princeton for helping me grow and develop in my identity as a member of my local community. As a second-generation immigrant, I have spent my life at the intersection of two cultures; I have never felt fully Mexican nor fully American.

Cuando era niña no podía hablar español. Pues, podía hablar algunas frases, pero no podía tener conversaciones en español, que me daba mucha pena porque mi bisabuela, mi abuela, y mucha de mi familia hablan español más que inglés. En el departamento de español aquí en Princeton, encontré profesores que además de enseñarme gramática, me enseñaron pensar sobre las diferentes culturas de los hispanohablantes, los asuntos que los inmigrantes enfrentan y el vínculo entre el idioma y la cultura. Mediante un programa de Princeton, también viajé a Bolivia por dos meses. Tras estas experiencias, no sólo crecí mi conocimiento de español, sino también en mi identidad.

I am so grateful to be receiving this prize because this award honors not only me, but also, but mostly, the people—the family, the friends, the communities which have nourished and supported me, and have made my experience here so rich and fulfilling. Ultimately, I am grateful to God for the opportunities he has provided.

The richness and beauty of these communities at Princeton have widened my worldview and I hope to use what I have learned here to better serve the international community in my future as a doctor.

Translation below provided and delivered by Briana Christophers:

Muchísimas gracias, Presidente, Dean Deignan, Dean Dolan, y todo el mundo que está aquí hoy.

Cuando visité a Princeton en abril del 2013, fui introducida a un nuevo mundo. Nunca había conectado con personas con tanta energía, inteligencia y compasión. Pero lo que más me ha impactado es la cantidad de comunidades simultáneas que existen en este lugar y que han cambiado mi vida. 

Mi primera comunidad aquí en Princeton ha sido mi comunidad académica. En la universidad he aprendido como participar en discusiones académicas y en investigaciones científicas. Mis colegas me han enseñado que a veces es necesario tomar un momento para bailar cuando estamos trabajando en la tarea. Aprecio a mis profesores que no sólo me han enseñado como estudiante, pero también se han preocupado de mí como persona, especialmente mi instructor de laboratorio que me ha aconsejado tanto durante este año.

Además, tengo que darle gracias a mi comunidad de amigos, mentores y colegas que me han impactado bastante durante mis cuatro años--incluyendo mis primeros amigos y los trabajadores de Whitman y McGraw. Estoy bien agradecida por todo el tiempo y el amor que me han brindado.

También estoy agradecida de ser parte del grupo cristiano PEF que me ha ayudado incorporar mis principios en todos momentos de mi vida cotidiana además de ser un lugar donde puedo tener conversaciones sobre fe y Dios.

También quiero reconocer a la organización de lengua de signos americana que ha sido otra comunidad para mí. Estoy bien orgullosa de haber trabajado en el proyecto para crecer la presencia de la comunidad sorda de Princeton.

Finalmente, quiero reconocer que estudiar en Princeton me ha dado la oportunidad de conectar mejor con mi familia. Estoy bien agradecida de mi familia, incluyendo a mi papá y mi abuela que están presentes hoy. He vivido en la intersección de dos culturas como alguien de segunda generación.

When I was younger I could not speak Spanish - while I could speak a few disparate phrases, I could not carry on a full conversation in Spanish. I was ashamed because my great-grandmother, grandmother and much of my family speak mostly Spanish. Taking Spanish at Princeton, I met professors who encouraged me to learn more than just the grammar and taught me to consider how culture varies across the Spanish-speaking world, how immigrants face hardship, and how culture and language are interrelated. Through an international internship, I had the opportunity to travel to Bolivia for two months in the summer. These experiences as a student have had a profound impact on not only my Spanish speaking abilities but also my identity.

Estoy bien agradecida de haber recibido este premio porque este premio no sólo me reconoce a mí, sino reconoce a todos que me han influido y apoyado: mi familia, mis amigos y mi comunidad. Le doy gracias a Dios por las oportunidades que me ha proveído. Mis experiencias como estudiante en Princeton serán bien importantes para servir a la comunidad internacional en mi futuro como doctora.

Muchísimas gracias.