Spotlight on an Alum

Meet FSI Alum Tony Rodriguez ’79!

FSI Alum: Tony Rodriguez ’79

Tony Rodriguez ’79 grew up in Newark, New Jersey. At Princeton, he majored in Economics in order to pursue a career in business. He also concentrated in Romance Languages. Tony chose Princeton because it was the best university in a variety of respects. In fact, his guidance counselor explained that, at Princeton, he would be able to attain a high caliber education no matter what major he chose. Coming from a working-class family, Tony was worried he wouldn’t fit in at Princeton, but ultimately he decided to take that risk.

Since there were no residential colleges at Princeton in the 1970s, per se, Tony instead identifies as a member of the Terrace eating club. He believes that Terrace brought together great people with the most unusual and diverse perspectives. At that time, it was also the most affordable eating club. Tony was also a member of WPRB (an on-campus radio station), which he believes allowed him to diversify his musical tastes. As a DJ at WPRB, Tony enlarged his friend group, surrounding himself with a diverse group of people.

When asked about his favorite part of the Princeton experience, Tony proudly responds that the precept system was – and remains – outstanding. With precepts, Tony explains, you learn from fantastic lecturers as well as the amazing students sitting beside you in class. People debate and challenge each other, developing the skills necessary to take on the world at large. Tony believes Princeton does well at academically engaging their students through this precept system.

The most important thing Tony believes Princeton taught him was the value of critical thinking and the ability to dive deep into subjects, especially through the senior thesis experience. He also believes that the more exposed you are to different perspectives on campus, the better your critical thinking skills will become. To him, Princeton teaches you how to think for yourself in the ways most suited to your abilities.

If Tony could change any element of Princeton, he would make the school even more financially accessible. From his perspective, tuition at Princeton is still too high for the lower middle-class – that is, those who are neither wealthy nor poor enough to qualify for financial aid. Tony also wishes that Princeton would broadcast its resources more widely, as students who need more academic, financial, and personal help often don’t reach out because they do not know how

Tony hopes that, as you read this, you might work harder to step out of your comfort zone, and meet different kinds of people you never had the opportunity to meet in your hometown. He also believes that other first-gen, low-income students should never doubt themselves; if you can make it to Princeton, you can go far beyond, too.

At A Glance: Tony Rodriguez ’79

Major: Economics, with a minor concentration in Romance Languages

Residential College/Eating Club: Terrace

Favorite Activity: Participating in precept/engaging in discussions

If you could be any building on campus, which building would you be and why:

Blair Arch because although it looks beautiful and majestic, it was also the crossroads of campus back then. It had a Grand Central Station vibe to it, where you would run into so many different people when passing through it.

You can contact Tony by email at: tonyrodriguez@alumni.princeton.edu