‘Dean of Deans’: Fred Hargadon, Admissions Dean From 1988 to 2003, Dies at 80

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Fred Hargadon (Photo: Frank Wojciechowski)

Fred Hargadon, Princeton’s dean of admission for 15 years and such a dominant figure in college admissions that he was known as the “dean of admission deans,” died Jan. 15. He was 80 and lived in Princeton.

Renowned for the personal attention he gave each application, “Dean Fred” welcomed successful students with an acceptance letter beginning: “Yes!” In his honor, the word was carved into a stone at the entrance of Hargadon Hall in Whitman College. The strong relationships he built with students, especially with athletes, continued during their time on campus; he was an honorary member of several classes and gave the Baccalaureate address just before he retired in 2003.

“It was extraordinary how many students he kept in touch with,” said former president Harold Shapiro *64, who hired the tall and often rumpled Hargadon in 1988. “For many students, he is the person they remember the most from Princeton.”

Hargadon’s tenure at Princeton spanned a period of change and increasing competition in college admissions. When he began, after five years heading admissions at Swarthmore and 15 years at Stanford, about 16 percent of applicants were accepted to Princeton each year. When he left, the admission rate was about 10 percent. He also was a strong supporter of early-decision admission over early action.

“The academic strength of the student body grew measurably” during his time as dean, said Professor Nancy Weiss Malkiel, the former dean of the college. “The student body became much closer to being balanced in terms of gender and much more diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, and socioeconomically.”

Strong student support notwithstanding, Hargadon had his critics. He retired in 2003, a year after admission staff members used applicants’ Social Security numbers and birth dates to check their admission status at Yale. After a University investigation, Hargadon apologized in a statement for the “unwarranted breach in confidentiality.” A book about admission in the Ivy League, The Chosen by Jerome Karabel, suggested that policies put in place by Hargadon to bolster Princeton’s competitive position inadvertently led to a decline in the number of Jewish students at Princeton. He disagreed sharply.

Despite the criticism, the adoration among Princeton alumni remained. After learning of his death, one alumna wrote on Facebook, “Thanks for taking a chance on me, Dean Fred.”

Share your favorite memory or story of Fred Hargadon below or by sending an email to paw@princeton.edu. Selected remembrances will be printed in a future issue of PAW.

 

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Read more in the PAW archives:

Getting In: A 1995 profile of Hargadon, by Bill Paul ’70

‘Just Plain Wrong’: Hargadon’s response to Jerome Karabel, author of The Chosen

 

Also available online:

On the Reel Mudd blog, Lisa Dunkley ’83 recalls her years working with Hargadon

Video from the University Archives: Hargadon on admissions, circa 1990

From the University, a story about Hargadon’s remarks at Baccalaureate in 2003

Video of the 2003 “Fred Fest,” from the University (requires RealPlayer)

On Flickr, photos from the 2007 dedication of Hargadon Hall

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