Sunday, January 14, 2007

Larry, however, was totally real

College students live an unreal existence. There are a few fixed obligations, such as lecture times or deadlines for papers; otherwise, you can pretty much decide what you want to do, how much of it you are going to do, and when you are going to do it.

For me, entering Princeton in 1970 in the second year of coeducation, the unreality was multiplied many times by being one of the few “girls” (we weren’t “women” then) on campus, by going from my highly urbanized New York existence to the beautiful, foliage-filled campus, and by the group of distinct personalities, backgrounds and accents from all over the world that I encountered for the first time. Especially during my first year, I often had no idea where I had landed.

Larry, however, was totally real.

In sharp contrast to the rest of college existence, which was tended to the free-form, Larry expected results and product, delivered on time and competently done on a tight schedule. It was from Larry and the ‘Prince’ that I developed a life-long fidelity to meeting deadlines, to turning out good written work, to getting the facts straight and reporting them accurately. And Larry was the first person who made it clear that I should not be overly impressed with myself, just because I had had the good fortune to get myself admitted to Princeton: I still had to prove myself every day.

Nights spent at the press with Larry were a reminder that there was a world out there beyond college. We talked about real-life concerns, such as his firefighting and his pride in raising his daughter, and we frequently debated the relative merits of his Catholicism versus my Judaism. Over the two-and-a-half years that I worked on the ‘Prince,' I watched his initial professed skepticism about the wisdom of coeducation melt into pride as we “girls” on the paper worked our way up the ladder to the editorial board, where we participated in running the show.

Larry kept me grounded. I’ll always remember him for that.

— Diana Savit ‘73, senior news editor emerita

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

With Larry, laughing and learning

I wasn't on the ‘Prince’ editorial staff or the ad staff. I was just one of the students who went to the ‘Prince’ office every afternoon and worked for Larry setting the day’s ads so that everything was ready to go for the editorial staff at night.

It would just be me, Larry and maybe one other person as we worked the afternoon away, laughing and learning. We learned how to work those old machines (long gone to printer’s heaven) that would run out long strips of headline copy and we learned to make everything look right, laying ads out in the “DuPraz way.” But most of all we learned about dedication, hard work and about having a passion for something meaningful.

In so many ways Larry was the ‘Prince,’ acting as the glue that kept the paper going while decades of Princetonians came and went. He will be missed but he will be remembered in our hearts and in each new issue of the ‘Prince’ that rolls off the presses.

-- Pamela Clifton '79, 'Prince' alumna

'He contributed so much more'

I had the honor of being managing editor under Larry, and like everyone else, his passing has stirred very deep emotions. As I wrote to a friend recently, this has been like losing a father. The sadness we all feel is a reflection of how many memories we all have of this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime character named Larry DuPraz.

Larry “retired” in 1987, just as I was retiring from the editorship. We decided to surprise him with a special 4-page insert, much of which was later reprinted in the Alumni Weekly. With the help of Brian, we somehow managed to get it done without Larry knowing about it.

That night we could tell that Larry was a little upset about only getting a small box on the front page announcing that this was his last paper. Right before we shot the front page, we inserted a different box that said to look inside for a special insert. We told Larry that he should go to the Packet with us to watch the last paper roll off the press.

The highlight of my 4 years at Princeton was watching Larry pick the paper off the press run, and look inside to find comments from the governor, Frank Deford, etc. The story about Larry’s life even surprised him with the fact that Claudia was pregnant with his fourth grandchild. (What a good sport she was to play along.)

That moment is memorialized in the drawing of Larry on the Prince website. I believe it is time to name the ‘Prince’ building on University Place Larry DuPraz Hall. Although he might not have contributed the millions of dollars that usually gets your name on a building, he contributed so much more.

Thanks Larry.

— Andy Schneider ’87, managing editor emeritus

A nightmare introduction to Compugraphic

We recall Larry’s attention to detail, punctuality and confidence. I remember the one night when that all seemed to fall apart.

In September 1972, I was the night editor for the first ‘Prince’ to be published in offset, out of 48 University Place, rather than at the Princeton Herald. The managing board had bought a new system from Compugraphic and we had a brand new minicomputer standing on the third floor, as well as new entry keyboards, printers, wax machines and other gadgets. Hanging from the minicomputer like unfamiliar laundry were various font strips sheathed in plastic packs. There were little copy knives and blue highlighters.

Larry had installed some paste-up tables for paste-up of each page, on which he had previously prepared as many of the ads as possible.

We had two new typesetters (one was Mary Anne, but I can’t recall the other) who had to take each typewritten and edited story and convert them to punchtapes that could be fed into the minicomputer along with the right font strip for copy, then another with another font strip for each headline.

The Compugraphic machine then fed us printed stories that we were supposed to proof, get errors fixed with new punchtapes, etc.

Sounds easy, right? Remember, folks, this was 1972 and we were in the analog age. We were still using typewriters on the first floor.

It was a nightmare. We messed up everything. None of us on the night editing crew had the slightest idea of what to do, since only Larry had been trained at Compugraphic. We did not conduct a dry run before Freshmen Week. It was a disaster. Tape after tape was misfed. Font strips were run incorrectly. We botched the paste machine. Then when a story finally appeared error-free, we pasted it in wrong. But at least Larry knew how to set it correctly, along with some rules. The old man had not lost his sense of craftsmanship.

He also did not lose his cool, although he just put up with us. Nor did he let loose with his “college boy” comments, since he wasn’t familiar with the new routine, either. Somehow, by about 3 a.m., things began to fit together as we started to get the hang of it.

Totally exhausted and prone to make mistakes, we managed to finish an eight-page issue and make all the corrections — at 6:20 a.m. With a letter opener, I gouged a memorial into one of the press room bulletin boards.

Larry didn’t wait around. He drove the paper to the Princeton Packet and the ‘Prince’ went to press. Very, very late.

That whole night, nobody ever thought of giving up, as there was little choice. The paper had to go to press, although I recall at one point Dupraz suggested maybe we cancel the issue. I don’t think that our new chairman, Mark Stevens, thought for a second about that.

Larry never once mentioned that first night again but I know he remembered it. The next night was much smoother!

Bye, Larry.

— David Zielenziger ’74 chairman emeritus

Larry’s lessons — of journalism, sure, but also of life

Larry Dupraz was retired by the time my class arrived on campus. But as we at the ‘Prince’ quickly learned, retirement had little bearing on his involvement at the paper.

Larry, as one of the upperclassmen told me early in my career at 48 University Place, “came with the building.” He defined the institution, not just with his stories of past editors and his sharp critiques of our own performance, but with the caring touch he brought to every issue that published during his long tenure at the ‘Prince.’

He showed his care brusquely, less with hugs than with zingers. We were typically told that the headline didn’t fit right, that the photo was blurry, that today’s edition could be the worst one published in 120 years. We rolled our eyes at this man who was older than our grandparents, but he usually had a point.

During my year as editor-in-chief, Larry’s successor as production manager, Brian Smith, broke his collarbone a few days before classes were set to begin for the fall semester. I called Larry — and, of course, he was at the building within five minutes.

Suddenly, the verbal darts I’d come to expect were gone. He even stopped calling me “Dicky Boy,” my DuPraz-generated nickname, for a few days. This man who learned his craft with hot lead and moveable type was quickly navigating QuarkXPress on a Mac. Needless to say, we made deadline.

My senior year, as part of a paper for a writing class, I prepared a long profile of Larry. It brought me into contact with some of my most prominent ‘Prince’ predecessors — Rhodes scholars and Pulitzer Prize-winners, and some of the most top names in journalism.

Some themes emerged. Every managing board was the “sorriest bunch of jerks ever to come through this place” — until their tenures were finished. No one was immune from his bark, but no one felt too much bite.

Most of all, he became a friend to hundreds of the undergrads who came through the door — his door — on University Place. Years or decades later, they remembered Larry’s lessons — of journalism, sure, but also of life: humility, decency, dedication, common sense.

Many would reconvene annually at the Reunions barbeque behind the ‘Prince’ building — doctors and lawyers and writers and reporters whose bond was a few years spending too many nights with too much pizza and Coke at a student newspaper. And Larry was always in the middle of the action, flipping burgers and spinning tales, among friends.

-- Rick Klein '98, editor-in-chief emeritus

Don't take "no" for an answer

One of my favorite memories of Larry dates back to January 1971 when we were producing the annual “joke issue.” We wanted him to put the front page of the ‘Prince’ on the press upside down. That would mean that, in the morning, sleepy undergrads would try to open the ‘Prince’ from the right, like a book, only to discover that this copy opened from the left. But only the front page. To read the rest of the paper, they would have to fumble around and turn it over again.

It was a compositor’s joke. But Larry said it was a stupid idea and insisted it wouldn’t work. Still, the paper was full of stupid ideas that day. President Robert Goheen ’40 had been kidnapped by ROTC students. Exams had been cancelled. Princeton was dropping out of the NCAA. The hockey coach was quitting to cut cane in Cuba.

That January in 1971, he was surrounded by a group of students who had worked him harder than most. After all, we had been blessed by more news in our brief tenure at Princeton than any other cohort of students — before or since. While we wrote for the ‘Prince,’ the university had gone co-ed, Whig Hall had burned, African-American students had taken over a building and, amid a wave of anti-war protests, the University had gone on strike. And those were just the highlights.

Now, as we seniors prepared to turn over the paper to juniors and get to work on our theses, we wanted to have a little fun. But Larry wasn’t done with us yet. He had one more lesson to teach.

Thirty-five years ago, as the cold January night wore on, the magic moment neared when Larry would load the forms onto the aging press that would produce one of our last editions.

“Larry, what about putting the front page in upside down?” We asked.

“Impossible. It won’t work,” he declared.

“Would you please give it a try?”

Without saying a word, he rotated the form 180 degrees and slipped it onto the press. Done.

With that, we learned one of the most important lessons of the DuPraz School of Journalism: Don’t take “no” for an answer.

— Greg Conderacci ’71, editor-in-chief emeritus

'He scared me shitless'

I was the only girl on the staff of the ‘Prince’ in 1970 when I first met Larry and, I have to admit, he scared me shitless. I’d never met an adult who was so gruff and foul-mouthed and who made me feel like such a clumsy idiot out there at the presses.

But I held my quakes inside and learned as fast as I could until one day, amazingly, I found I could proofread hot lead type upside-down and backwards, just as he did. I also found I could read Larry DuPraz better and better and began to appreciate that he held us to the highest standards of deadline journalism, and that underneath his gruffness was an incredible commitment to the ‘Prince’ and to us as growing adults. For his part, I know Larry registered my discomfort and that of others and brought his firehouse language in line a bit – or maybe we just got used to it!

In the end, we girls could feel the love, and we got those jolly, enthusiastic and prideful embraces from Larry at Reunions and we, in turn, told him of our accomplishments and his part in them. This was a fabulous man – holding together our journalists’ clan both during Princeton and after.

-- Robin Herman '73, sports editor emerita

Larry, through the ages

-- Stephen Hsia '08, Princetonian cartoonist

'One of the most important mentors in my life'

Like hundreds, maybe thousands of other ‘Prince’ staffers, I began my education in type, composition and page makeup when I started working as a night editor under Larry DuPraz’s supervision my freshman year, in the fall of 1966.

I think my edit board was among the last that Larry had to put up with in teaching the mysteries of hot-metal composition: setting headline type upside down in a composing stick, finding the “fi” ligature in the California job case, feeling just how much torque to use when tightening the quoins in a chase full of type.

Larry made it clear from the outset that we were a bunch of bums, compared to the class before us, but after a year or so of his watchful tutelage, our edit board had become the new high standard of comparison. Not that we were ever to be trusted with the real hot metal coming out of the big linotype machine …

To this day, as an editor, I still practice the trade Larry introduced to me. It’s amazing to think that one of the best imitations of Archie Bunker I ever met became one of the most important mentors of my life.

I saw him at Reunions in June 2005, when he and I and a fireman or two shot the breeze for a good half-hour about the demise of hot metal and the plight of the volunteer firefighter in the borough, while Larry supervised the burgers and dogs. He was a happy man that day, in his element at the center of the action.

-- Peter Brown ’70, editor emeritus

'Are you a writer or a reporter?'

I first ran across Larry in the fall of 2001, early in my freshman year, when my editors asked me to call the firehouse to inquire about a campus fire. He got on the phone, and I explained I was a writer for The Daily Princetonian. “Are you a writer or a reporter?” he asked, and without letting me answer, declared: “You’re a reporter!” I came away from the phone call a little terrified, but with the lesson that working on the ‘Prince’ was just about getting the facts straight.

A year later — by now I knew Larry well — my editors sent me to Princeton Medical Center to write about a chemical spill. I rode down Witherspoon Street on my bike, stopping only at an intersection where Larry was directing traffic. He urged me on my way. The next day, my editor told me that Larry said he liked my story, which gave me a burst of pride.

I knew Larry best from my time as editor-in-chief during the 2004-05 year, almost two decades after he officially retired. He was still making those infamous visits to the office to criticize and correct our mistakes. Yet those two moments from my freshman and sophomore years are most vivid in my memory of Larry: He had an irascible personality, but a gentle soul. He knew when a sharp-tongued barb would put me in my place and when a compliment would give me the encouragement I needed.

During my year as editor, I was subject to especially stinging assault from Larry for trying to convert the tabloid into a color broadsheet. Yet over time, he saw the staff was excited by the change. Though we were fundamentally altering his baby — the 11 inch by 17 inch reminder of years spent toiling late at night with hot lead — he was proud of us for achieving the new paper.

Larry knew he was respected by generations of alumni — more than six decades of them in the end — but it was always clear his goal was simple. He wanted us to succeed. Not just at the Prince, but in Princeton, and through our lives.

— Zachary Goldfarb ’05, editor-in-chief emeritus

Making you feet 10 feet tall

Larry was blunter than his trademark flat-top haircut. Spying a new freshman writer, he’d growl, “Who are you?” Once he compared a ‘Prince’ put out by our board to toilet paper.
If it was Larry’s manner that shook most of us at first, it was his values that held our attention and respect — and which have ultimately served all of us so well, particularly those who went on to careers in journalism.

Those values were simple: Excellence, responsibility, staying on top of the news. As much as he might push his crew of unruly undergraduates to wrap up the paper on time, Larry knew when deadlines were worth bending. If we didn’t jump on a late-night police-scanner call, Larry’s voice would sound out. “Aren’t you going to cover the news?”

But as much as Larry was typecast as curmudgeon and teacher, it was the role of mentor and friend he played best. He wanted to know about academics and how your thesis was coming. As years went by, the inquiries evolved into checking on spouse and kids. To know that someone with such high standards cared about you — well, it made you feel 10 feet tall. It still does.

— Tom Weber ’89, chairman emeritus

Larry, doing what he does best, with Tom Weber '89 and Ann Pao '89. (Photo courtesy Mudd Manuscript Library.)

Larry, the legend

I always found it strange when I was a student at Princeton in the 1970s that my best professor was not on the faculty. I had great teachers, but Larry was the best.

Like every new arrival to the ‘Prince’ I sought to prove myself to Larry. At the beginning nothing I said was right (and I am pretty sure that at least some of it must have been). One night he even insisted when I said it was Tuesday that, no it wasn’t, it was Wednesday. Eventually, I realized Larry really was disagreeing just to disagree.

He was teaching: the ultimate practitioner of Hegelian thesis-antithesis-synthesis. He eventually explained that the paper we were working on was for Wednesday. From the twinkle in his eye, I could tell he had thought of that explanation only long after he had disagreed that it was Tuesday, but the point he taught better than those I studied in philosophy courses was to look at things in less-than-obvious ways and then decide what you really think.

Another night he insisted, when talking about his father, Papa DuPraz, who founded Lahiere’s, that despite the fact that he knew no French he was sure that the common French last name DuPrez is routinely mispronounced while according to French rules of pronunciation his own name, DuPraz, had to be pronounced due-pray (rather than the due-prah that French majors on the staff kindly informed him was correct).

After many disagreements during the night, he laughed his gravelly laugh, demonstrated he was fluent in French, and explained it was true in the dialect of the region his father came from.
Everyone who works with me now, three decades on, periodically hears about Larry, as often as not when they don’t meet reasonable standards and I explain to them in my favorite Larry-ism — referring to a hand-pasted line of corrected type in a now-obsolete technology — that something “is crookeder than a hen’s ass”.

Newspapers by their nature are ephemeral, like lives. Very occasionally, exceptionally, there is something legendary about them and they go on, casting ripples long into the future through those they touch, lessons they illuminate, or the truths they tell. Larry is that exception.

— Nicholas A. Ulanov '78, editor-in-chief emeritus

A check in a box

In the first two years after The Daily Princetonian switched to printing with cold type, Larry Dupraz and I spent many nights in the pressroom putting together the program for ice hockey games. One evening, a colleague of Larry’s from the fire department saw the light in the window and shouted up to us. Larry shouted down, “Hey, you’ve got to come up here and see all this great new equipment we’ve got!”

Larry showed him the machine that turned punch tape into body copy. Then Larry sat down at the separate machine used to make headlines and larger type used in advertising.

“Look at this!” Larry said. “I can make a check! I make a box! I can make … "

“OK,” said the friend. “But can you make a check IN a box?”

Did you make a box first, then backspace, change the point size and make the check?

Or did you make the box, change the point size, then backspace and make the check?

Or did you start with the check, then make the box?

In the next two hours, Larry used up more than $100 worth of pricey film, figuring out exactly how to make a check, perfectly centered, in a box. For the next several months, barely a day went by that there wasn’t at least one ad in the Prince that included a check in a box.

That was in 1972. In 2003, Larry sent me an e-mail that concluded: “During your first 50 years, I too, have learned many things through your knowledge, so you see it works both ways (the check in the box, etc.)”

— John Wilheim '75, sports editor emeritus

Gruff, but caring

Gruff but caring encapsulates my (like probably most ‘Prince’ alums’) sentiments of Larry. When I learned of his passing, two recollections surfaced.

The first (gruff): Having completed my term as editorial chairman (punctuated by Larry’s alternative complaints that our editorials were too liberal and my hair too long), I spent the next several weeks closeted in Firestone trying to make up for lost ground on my thesis.s

After some progress, I decided one afternoon to return to the ‘Prince’ to see how the new board was faring and to visit with Larry and Brenda (Brenda was a saint, often stepping in to resolve issues between Larry and almost equally head-strong editors; one night Larry made good on his proverbial threat not to lay in one of our editorials; Brenda said not to worry she would — and did — set it).

Arriving at the ‘Prince,’ I found myself amidst a sit-in; if memory serves, the students were protesting the new board’s coverage of their divestment in South Africa campaign. Threading my way upstairs, Larry saw me and apparently surmised that I was with the protestors. Approaching me, he demanded how I could be part of the sit-in, disrupting the operation of the newspaper.

Initially taken aback, I explained I had come to visit Brenda and him, and had no knowledge of the protest. I suggested that because of our board’s prior dealings with the divestment group, I might be able to assist. Without missing a beat (or with any apology), he barked, “Do it, and clear out my building so we can get the paper out.”

The second (caring): I attended the ‘Prince’ barbecue at last year’s Reunions. Although an off- year for the class of ’78, my oldest child, Zack, was to be an incoming freshman and wanted to experience Reunions. I introduced him to Larry, who, while making his standard deprecatory remarks about lawyers and commenting on my receding hairline, actually expressed warm sentiments.

The best part of the afternoon, though, was the public reading of excerpts about Larry from James Axtell’s "The Making of Princeton University." Larry actually seemed touched by the description of “the ‘Larry DuPraz School of Journalism,’ ” the reference to “Professor DuPraz,” and, lastly, to the applause of the assembled group. We didn’t know it then, but it was a most fitting way to say good- bye.

— Alan Klinger ’78, editorial chairman emeritus

'You damn kids don't understand the mathematics'

I can still hear Larry marching into the production room proclaiming that “you damn kids don't understand the mathematics” of how the paper is put together. He was right, of course. It always seemed easier to just do what our predecessors had done (headlines were this size, photos had to go here) without understanding why. At some point, I realized it would be easier to stop getting berated and actually learn something.

When I became an attorney, the easy thing to do was simply to take a form contract and mark it up to reflect what I was working on. But of course, I would hear Larry telling me I didn't understand the mathematics. So I took it upon myself to learn why a provision was there and I became a better lawyer. When I switched careers and began managing money, it was always easy to shy away from an investment that was too complex. And there was Larry in my head, telling me I didn't understand the mathematics — unwittingly pointing me to ways to make more money for my investors.

Getting a Princeton degree was nice, but it didn't compare to Larry looking at me suspiciously on my last night on duty and saying “you know, you weren't the worst chairman in the history of the paper.” That to me was an honor.

— Marc Sole ’03, editor-in-chief emeritus

My favorite Princeton professor

Let me tell you about the Larry DuPraz School of Journalism, a.k.a. The Daily Princetonian. There was no grade inflation at the DuPraz School of Journalism. The standards were consistent, unwavering over the six decades that Larry provided our “adult supervision.” He always measured you against the best editors and writers in the Princetonian’s modern history. Larry was the keeper of those quality standards, and we worked hard to earn his begrudging respect. Larry’s respect and admiration were more important to me than the “A” grade I received on my senior thesis.

While his standards and his flat-top crew cut never changed, Larry was a remarkably adaptive individual. He led the student editors through a series of difficult technology transitions. The biggest transition, however, was Princeton: from the all-male homogeneity of the 1950s and 1960s to the coeducational, multi-racial Princeton of the latter decades of the century. The Larry Dupraz fan club is as diverse as Princeton itself. Why? Because Larry treated every staff member as an individual, a person who had an opportunity to make a contribution.

So, what did we learn at the Dupraz School? We learned how to organize our ideas, manage our time, communicate and produce under the pressure of a daily deadline. Sounds like a pretty good education to me.

Thank you, Larry, my favorite Princeton professor.

— Peter Seldin '76, sports editor emeritus

A tribute to Larry

Even as he lay sick in his hospital bed, only weeks before his death, Larry DuPraz still had it in him to pick up the phone and give me hell. As usual, there was something in the morning's paper that wasn't quite right.

Larry cared deeply about the 'Prince,' and he never let us forget that we should too. No error was too small to correct. No mistake was too small to regret. Excellence in everything we do was the only thing he would -- and we should, he told us -- accept.

Many alumni have written to me in recent weeks, asking for a forum to share their memories of Larry. We'll post everything we receive on this blog. (Those interested in contributing should email me.) I hope that here we can, in some small way, all pay tribute to a man who gave so much to The Daily Princetonian, and to us.

-- Chanakya Sethi '07, editor-in-chief