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P-Rade brings in the bucks for Princeton

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SCOTT JAGOW: Two words that many of us dread: Class reunion. Tis’ the season for those. This weekend, Princeton holds its reunion weekend. But few of the university’s alums dread this event. That’s because Princeton knows how do it right. And all that alumni loyalty adds up to cold, hard cash for the school. Amy Scott has more.

AMY SCOTT: Let’s start with the P-Rade.

That’s Princetonian for parade. Each year, thousands of alumni march through campus wearing matching costumes in the school colors.

GEORGE KHOURI: Some sort of orange and black sports jackets. Maybe samurai warriors.

That’s George Khouri, class of ’64. And then there are the fireworks.

MARGY KHOURI: It’s like Mardi Gras. It’s just unbelievable.

That’s Khouri’s wife, Margy Khouri. University officials won’t say how much the school spends on the whole lavish affair. But Tim Seiler says it’s money well spent.

Seiler directs The Fundraising School at Indiana University. He says Princeton boasts the highest alumni giving rate of any university in the country.

TIM SEILER: What the alumni give back far exceeds by a multiple of 10, 20, 30, what has to go into putting on the event. So it’s an investment with a very high return.

Princeton alumni and friends gave the school more than $40 million last year. Seiler says schools like Notre Dame study Princeton to emulate its fundraising success. State schools are learning the game, too. But why are Princeton alums so loyal, and so generous? Nearly 60 percent of them gave money to the school last year. At rival Harvard, that rate was less than 40 percent.

Diane Hasling graduated from Princeton in 1979. She says indoctrination is key. It begins the moment a student gets that acceptance letter.

DIANE HASLING: And you get on campus Freshman Week and you are hit with all your class identity and everybody cheers you with your class numbers and you start forming this bond as a class unit.

All this bonding has created a tight-knit Princeton community. Hasling says friends and family who went to other schools think all this fanaticism is just a bit nuts — the kind of nuts any institution that has to raise money would kill for.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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