By Gwen McNamara, Special Writer
More than just a place to eat, study, and socialize, the Ivy Club has a far greater impact on its members. Across generations, the Club has intrinsically sought to nurture the whole individual. But how? Here Ivy alums share their insight.
Values & Tradition
From the formality and richness of its physical environment to its time-honored traditions, the Ivy Club makes an impact without saying a word.
“The physical environment of the Club demands respect,” said James Griffin, ’55. “When you respect your physical environment, you respect your peers and fellow students.” Without a written code of conduct, the Ivy Club’s unspoken standard of behavior creates a civil and engaging environment that fosters harmony.
“What I think about are the values that are part of the fabric of the Club,” said Rob Engel, ’86. “They really help shape and nurture how people conduct themselves and think about the world.”
“There is no hiding in Ivy,” added Allison Bridges, ’96. “When you arrive at the Club for a meal, you do not choose any seat at any table, but instead are expected to sit at the next available seat. Ivy is structured to force its members to socialize with everyone in the Club and not just immediate friends.”
While this system may seem intimidating to some, in the end everyone benefits. “Communications skills are so critical and Ivy pushes its members to hone theirs,” Bridges said. “The life skill of being able to talk to – and actually enjoy the company of – a wide array of people is so important.”
“At Princeton it’s easy to get stuck in the minutia of your workload, balancing athletics, academics, and extracurriculars,” said Antony Taylor, ’01. “Ivy is a place where you can get out of the myopia and be a part of a shared experience that’s truly unique and different than the rest of the college experience.”
“I think the whole concept of friendship is at the heart of what Ivy is all about,” said Engel. “Through Ivy, I’ve developed incredibly strong friendships, which is nurturing in a lot of different ways. When you have that level of richness and deep connection it’s very powerful. It becomes part of your development as an individual and a key cornerstone for life.”
“Other organizations on campus are strong affinity groups – football, Triangle Club – you join to be a part of a specific group, because of a shared interest,” said Griffin. “Ivy focuses on the individual to create an eclecticism that keeps the place vibrant.”
“To some Ivy carries an elitist label, but the Club actually teaches more about inclusion than anything else,” added Engel. “Our members are incredibly diverse. They are pursuing different passions and come from different backgrounds. This experience really enables you to develop a far greater appreciation for other people’s thoughts and opinions.”
Taylor agrees. “When I bickered, the conversations during the interview process were some of the most interesting I’d had in college,” he said. “I was floored. People looked you in the eye and spoke with passion and conviction. It was inspiring. When I got back to my dorm room, I immediately called my mom and said ‘I have to tell you about this place.’” Since joining, the friendships he made at Ivy have transcended graduation. “My closest friends were at Ivy and we have remained great friends all these years later.”
From programs that expose students to the opera
or other cultures, to its new Leadership Program,
the Ivy Club strives to create opportunities for
members to learn and grow.
According to Engel, these opportunities are invaluable.“It can’t help but impact people,” he said. “Being able to spend time with a great leader who is providing a snapshot of all the experiences they’ve had – the good, the bad, what they’d have done differently – that’s some of the best education you can get.”
“My hope is that as students are able to hear the stories of these great leaders, they will understand that they too can make a difference in the world,” added Bridges. “Much of leadership is being willing to take risks and make hard decisions while staying true to what you believe in. The more young people hear about that element of leadership, the more likely they are to have the courage and will power to become true leaders themselves.”
A Lifelong Impact
In so many ways – both tangible and intangible – Ivy seeks to develop the whole individual. Time at Ivy comes at a period in life when members are malleable and experiences can truly impact who they become. “It’s tough to pinpoint specifically what makes Ivy, Ivy,” said Taylor. “College isn’t just about academic achievement or athletic achievement, but it’s more about rounding you out as a person. It’s rare to find a place that does that – Ivy did that for me.”