Five from Princeton recognized for leadership on critical issues to New Jersey and society during pandemic

Friday, Aug 27, 2021
by Jonathan Garaffa and Tracy Meyer

President Eisgruber, Princeton Innovation’s Priestley, Gonzalez of new Center for Access and Opportunity, and donors Feliciano and Jones named 2021 ROI-NJ Influencers in Higher Education

Three members of Princeton's leadership, faculty, and staff, plus two alumni, have been named 2021 Influencers in Higher Education by ROI-NJ for their work with the University. This year’s selections by the business news media company highlight Princeton's efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic to keep the campus community safe; advance research and innovation; and expand access and opportunity to higher education.

ROI-NJ honored Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber for “his exemplary leadership” in the midst of the pandemic – “Few had better plans for housing and testing.” – and for “thoughtfully addressing issues of racial justice and equality with honesty and reflection.” ROI-NJ also noted Princeton’s recent establishment of an on-campus branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, an international community of scientists focused on cancer research, with the goals of preventing and controlling cancer. The Ludwig Princeton Branch will be the first Ludwig location to focus exclusively on cancer metabolism and the relationship between diet and tumor metastasis.

ROI-NJ recognized faculty member Rodney Priestley for his role as the University’s first-ever vice dean for innovation, “a position created to cultivate interactions between Princeton faculty, researchers and students and outside partners in the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors.” Since Priestley took on this new role in February 2020, he has launched Princeton Innovation and, with it, a steadily accelerating slate of new opportunities and events, many of which are open to those beyond the Princeton University community. On the same day ROI-NJ announced its list of influencers, Princeton announced the formation of a new regional innovation hub funded by the National Science Foundation. The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Northeast Hub aims to accelerate the transformation of scientific discoveries into technologies that improve everyday lives.

ROI-NJ also honored Khristina Gonzalez, the Bob Peck '88 Director of the new Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity, noting that Gonzalez “leads a suite of programs that support first-generation, lower-income, veteran and nontraditional students.” The new Bloomberg Center will also “serve as a hub for research and innovation in the field of college access and success.”

Kwanza Jones and José E. Feliciano

Kwanza Jones ’93 and José E. Feliciano ’94, in front of FitzRandolph Gate on campus, celebrate Princeton University Reunions — her 26th reunion, his 25th. Photo courtesy Kwanza Jones and José E. Feliciano

Among its "doers and donors" recognitions, ROI-NJ cited entrepreneurs and University alumni José Feliciano ‘94 and Kwanza Jones ‘93.  Feliciano and Jones contributed $20 million towards the University’s construction of two adjoining dormitories at a new University residential college. ROI-NJ noted that their donation is the largest gift to date by Black and Latino donors in Princeton history and will “directly help the university’s strategic goal of undergraduate expansion.” Feliciano and Jones are the co-founders of the Kwanza Jones & José E. Feliciano SUPERCHARGED Initiative (KJSI), committing more than $75 million to founders, fund managers, and educational organizations dedicated to finding solutions to humanity’s challenges. Jones was a 2020 featured speaker at Engage, Princeton’s innovation and entrepreneurship conference.

Read ROI-NJ’s list of 2021 Influencers in Higher Education.