For generations of Princeton alumni, PAW contributor George Peterson ’69 wrote in 1967, “memories of undergraduate years invariably include the proctors.” At the time, the men in suits and hats had been charged with maintaining order on the campus for nearly a century. They filled other roles as well, like transporting ill students to the infirmary or delivering urgent messages. By 1967, there were seven proctors, working with a growing campus security department that employed 63 uniformed officers.
The Office of the Proctor, created by President James McCosh in 1870, began as a department of one — Matt Goldie, who held the post for 22 years. Goldie was well respected and had a reputation for being “square and honest,” according to A Princeton Companion. The reputations of his successors were mixed. There were some who earned affection from the students — the Princeton University Band paid tribute to one, Mike Kopliner, by forming a giant K in his honor during a halftime show. Others were labeled “the Pinkertons of Princeton” in a popular student song from the 1930s and ’40s.
One memorable proctor, the 6-foot-7-inch Herbert “Axel” Peterson, explained the group’s philosophy in a 1967 interview with The Prince: “We treat the boys like they want to be treated. If they don’t give us trouble, we won’t give them any.”