The People Project with Georges

Interview with Georges Pigault

Hi Georges. So, why do you have an “s” at the end of your first name?

That’s the French spelling of my name. I grew up in Paris. My parents came here in the mid-80’s because my father had a commission with an art gallery in New York. He was an artist. We later became naturalized citizens.

Do you still speak French?

Yes, French and Bulgarian. My mom is from Bulgaria. She came to Paris in the late 60's to study art at the Beaux Arts. That's where she met my dad. We always spoke both French and Bulgarian at home and I spent summers with my Bulgarian grandparents as a child. I'm very lucky to have had exposure to both Eastern and Western Europe early on.

Tell me about the role that “luck” played in your life.

He was my moral compass growing up

Now that so many of us are separated from our older family members in the COVID pandemic, I really treasure what my own grandparents contributed to my life. My grandfather was a professor of classics and epigraphy at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria. He invested a lot of time in me during our summers together. He was my moral compass growing up. Luckily, we also spent time together in the U.S. after we left france. He was a visiting scholar at Princeton, so I got to see him more often.

Did you follow in your grandfather's footsteps?

Yes and no. I did graduate from Princeton, but I did not study classics. I studied mechanical engineering. Even though that's a pretty practical area of study, I had a hard time when I graduated into a very tight job markets in 1992. Many of my engineering class-mates went on to graduate school, so the job market did not affect them as much. I think my son, who will be graduating next year, is going to face the same challenge as a result of COVID and its impact. He and his generation have already experienced unprecedented change when all their classes became virtual.