“Building the House of Knowledge:” The Graduate College Centennial

A new exhibition that opens at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library on Sept. 16, 2013, chronicles the events and decisions framing the development of America’s first graduate residential college.

Procter Hall view: The centerpiece of the Graduate College, Procter Hall and the beautiful stained glass Great West Window looking towards the Cleveland Memorial Tower, ca. 1913

Procter Hall view: The centerpiece of the Graduate College, Procter Hall and the beautiful stained glass Great West Window looking towards the Cleveland Memorial Tower, ca. 1913

Marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of Princeton’s Graduate College, “Building the House of Knowledge:” The Graduate College Centennial is filled with letters, documents and photographs from Princeton’s University Archives that reveal the story of how the concept of resident graduate education went from an inspired idea to a grand achievement, but not without significant controversy that brought nationwide attention to Princeton.

A view from behind the monumental statue of Andrew Fleming West, erected in the Graduate College quad in the 1920s, looking toward the Cleveland Memorial Tower. West was the first Dean of the Graduate School and driving force behind building the Graduate College.  Cleveland Tower was built as the national monument for President Grover Cleveland, who retired to Princeton after leaving the White House, and was a University trustee and supporter of graduate education.

A view from behind the monumental statue of Andrew Fleming West, erected in the Graduate College quad in the 1920s, looking toward the Cleveland Memorial Tower.

Beginning with the desire for a residential graduate program expressed at Princeton’s Sesquicentennial celebrations, the exhibition reveals the initial agreement of University President Woodrow Wilson and Dean of the Graduate School Andrew Fleming West on the plans for building the Graduate College. Early on, however, disagreements over the use of endowment funding and an appropriate location for the new Graduate College led to battle lines being drawn—with faculty and trustees viewed as being on either Dean West’s or President Wilson’s side. Reports and letters from West, Wilson, and eminent trustees such as Moses Taylor Pyne and former U.S. President Grover Cleveland reveal elements of the dissension developing at the administrative level. Letters from significant Graduate College benefactor and alumnus William C. Procter, Class of 1883 and of Procter and Gamble fame, show how directed endowment bequests played a role in the controversy. These letters and reports focus on how endowment funding and bequests and the choice of a site for the residential building contributed to the heated debate, and possibly influenced the resignation of President Wilson.

Photographs from the archives detail some of the architectural plans and ultimate construction of the Graduate College 17 years after the vision of resident graduate education was first presented. A final case shows photographs of later additions to the original Graduate College in the 1920s and 1960s as increased enrollment pressures necessitated adding rooms to the venerable structure originally built in 1913.

“Building the House of Knowledge:” The Graduate College Centennial is free and open to the public in the Wiess Lounge at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, 65 Olden Street, until June 6, 2014. The exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday.

by: Sara Griffiths

 

 

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