“Princeton: A Search for Answers,” 1973

During a morning session of the President’s Conference in the early 1970s, a member of the student panel told the assembled alumni that she had come to Princeton “not to find a way of making a living, but instead to find a way of making a life.” Filmmakers Julian Krainin and DeWitt Sage used this statement in their proposal in 1972 for a new recruitment film for Princeton University. “It seems that it should be the responsibility of a great university not so much to answer the question of how to “make a life,” but to present the student with at least the tools and courage with which he or she might discover the answer.”

The resulting film Princeton: A Search for Answers won an Oscar  in 1974 for Documentary Short Subject. Film producer and director Joshua Logan ’31, who had started his stage writing and directing career in Princeton’s Triangle Club, was one of the first to see it. “I not only believe that it is a moving, funny, and stimulating account of a University I once knew but had almost forgotten,”  he wrote to his fellow members of the Academy. “It tells about the gleam that flits across the human mind and gives us all something to hope for, to live for. It makes the human race quite a bit more respectable then (sic) we have recently thought it to be.” The film which has recently been remastered (2013) is featured here.

In order to write the film treatment and script, Dewitt Sage spent several months on campus, attending classes and seminars, and talking with students, faculty and staff. Once the film treatment was approved, Julian Krainin took over to supervise the actual camera work. During 1972 and early 1973 fourteen and a half hours of 16mm color footage was shot for the thirty minute film. The outtakes are kept in the University Archives. To accompany the film, the Office of Communications produced a handsome brochure with quotes and information about the faculty featured (see SearchForAnswers.pdf).

As already suggested by the title, the film’s main emphasis is on education, scholarship, and student-instructor relations. The film includes footage of tutorials and lectures by physics professor and Dean of the Faculty Aaron Lemonick (1:50, 9:11), and professors Edward Cone (Music, 3:01, 29:48), John Wheeler (Physics 7:05), Daniel Seltzer (English, 12:39), and Ann Douglas Wood (English, 25:02). Wheeler is filmed during a lecture about the implications of black holes (he is credited with coining the phrase in 1967), while Dan Seltzer teaches a Shakespeare acting class and lectures about Henry IV (Part 2). Additional footage features Princeton president William Bowen during a question and answer session with alumni and undergraduates (9:55, 26:11, 27:49) and the work of two graduate students: Niall O’Murchadha (Physics, 5:10, 26:51) and Maury Wolfe (Architecture, 16:11).

Produced only a few years after the introduction of co-education in 1969, at a time when diversification of the student body was a priority for Princeton, women and African American students feature prominently in campus scenes (9:40, 20:56, 24:36) and in the class rooms. There is little emphasis in the film on extracurricular activities. In addition to footage of the Glee Club singing Bach in Alexander Hall (directed by Professor of Music Walter Nollner, 17:47), sport scenes are limited to marathon running and rowing (23:25). Additional footage includes students sharing their views of Princeton in a pub (19:45, the legal drinking age was still eighteen!) Some historical photographs and footage is shown at 22:27, including a fragment of a chemistry lecture by the famous Hubert Alyea (previously featured) and the Triangle Club.

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Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, An Overview

Since 1951, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has conducted research aimed at developing controlled nuclear fusion as an energy alternative to fossil fuels. Founded by Lyman Spitzer *38, the PPPL is a joint project of Princeton University and the US Department of Energy, located on Princeton’s James Forrestal Campus. This 1989 publicity film highlights the PPPL’s history, projects, and progress toward its mission of developing sustainable nuclear fusion.

The film’s focus is the PPPL’s main experiment in the 1980s and 1990s, the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR). This device used magnetic fields to contain a plasma made of hydrogen isotopes which were heated to a temperature so high that their nuclei fuse together into a new molecule, generating energy as a byproduct. TFTR’s goal was to develop a process of generating more energy through the fusion than the amount of electricity required to power the reactor containing the plasma. By 1989, TFTR’s successes included achieving a then record-temperature of  200 million degrees Celsius and confirming existence of a so-called “bootstrap current” within plasmas.

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Student, Scholar, and President: Four Hours with Robert Goheen

It did not take long after coming to Princeton in 1994 for me to appreciate the importance of Robert Goheen and his place in University history. During his time in the president’s office, the University was transformed physically, socially, and academically and became the modern University it is today. But as I studied the records in the University Archives and came up to speed with his administration’s accomplishments, I had no sense of the man who oversaw this watershed era until one day Goheen visited Mudd Library to conduct research himself.

Expecting an oversize character on the order of Yale’s Kingman Brewster—Goheen’s contemporary who was a caricature in Doonesbury—I found just the opposite. He was a quiet, unassuming man who, if not for knowing his name from the daily log, I would have assumed to be just another of the many senior scholars who visited the library and dutifully went about their work. He did not ask for nor expect any special treatment, nor did his demeanor call attention to himself in any way. I would learn that was the essence of Bob Goheen.

In the coming years, there were a number of occasions where I crossed paths with Goheen, including one spring day when I went to his house to pick up his non-Princeton papers.  Later, Secretary of the University Robert Durkee asked me to conduct a video oral history interview with Goheen with the Alumni Council’s Kathy Taylor serving as producer. The four, hour-long videos here are the result of our efforts, and they document the man’s remarkable 72-year association with Princeton as a student, faculty member, and president.

All four interviews are described in a finding aid that contains links to the transcripts of the interviews.  (The transcripts also have time stamps which closely correspond with the video time stamp.)

The first interview, conducted on October 21, 2004, covers Goheen’s early life, his undergraduate, graduate, and faculty careers at Princeton, and his selection as University President at age 37. He also reflects on his mentor, Professor Whitney Oates, long-serving trustee Dean Mathey, his predecessor Harold Dodds, and Freddie Fox. (In each interview, I asked Goheen to discuss various people with whom he crossed paths. He freely admited that recalling specific anecdotes is not one of his strengths, and so these tend to be impressionistic.)   (Read the transcript.)

In the second interview (conducted on October 26, 2004), Goheen discussed the state of the University upon becoming president, the $53 Million Campaign, the growth and allocation of the University budget, coeducation, the eating clubs, and his contemporary Ivy League presidents. Of special note is his discussion of the 1963 Spring riots (15:35) as they related to the civil rights demonstrations in the South.  (Read the transcript.)

In the third interview (November 4, 2004), Goheen discusses coeducation in more detail, campus architecture, the establishment of the Provost’s Office, William Bowen, the growth of the graduate school, and changes in University governance and the Kelley Committee. (Read the transcript.)

The final interview (January 6, 2005) covers the creation of the Council on the Princeton University Community (CPUC), the Vietnam War and campus unrest including the campus strike of 1970, the Board of Trustees, his decision to resign as president, and his life afterwards, including his foundation work and his time as Ambassador to India. (Read the transcript.)

Generally speaking, as an archivist, I am concerned with preserving records, not generating them. But in interviewing Goheen, it was a chance to not only create what I hope will be a useful documentation of his long association with Princeton, it was also an honor and a pleasure.
Dan Linke
University Archivist

“Princeton University: Conversations that matter,” 1991

After the 1960 and 1961 “Princeton newsreels” featured last week, which marked a new stage in Princeton’s public relations efforts, it is interesting to make a 30-year leap to view a film that was produced for the Admissions Office by Andrew Greenspan: “Princeton University: Conversations that Matter” (1991). Focusing on the academic climate and intellectual exchanges, the film uses a markedly different format than the Orange Key Society film of 1962, which was also aimed at prospective students.

This film uses footage of discussion groups, lectures and seminars, and individual meetings between students and faculty, touching upon a wide range of subjects within the sciences and humanities. Professors featured include, among others, Cornel West (African American Studies, 1.13 and following), Peter Brown (History, 4:31), Robert Fagles (reading from his translation of the Iliad 6:57), Toni Morrison (English, 8:27 and following), John Fleming (English and Comparative Literature, 9:05), John Conway (Mathematics, 12:36), Steve Mackey (Music, 18:24 and following), and Michael Littman (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, 19:19). In addition, the film addresses individual students’ research and creative writing projects. The footage includes an acting class by playwright David Rabe (16:02) and training sessions with basketball coach Pete Carril (2:50 and following).

The film won a Gold Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

This VHS video is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1293).

Black alumni looking back, 1996

Harvard offered its first degree to an African American student in 1870, with Yale following in 1874. At Princeton, however, the first two black students graduated only in 1947 and 1948, after arriving on campus as members of the Navy’s wartime V-12 program. Historically the “Ivy League school for Southern gentlemen,” Princeton was a little “tardy,” according to Cornel West (then director of the Center for African American Studies) in the documentary featured here (32:01). In the words of Franklin Moore, Associate Director of Admissions 1970-1980: “If you had a segregationist attitude or would like to cherish that attitude a little longer before real life hit you after you graduated, this was the place to come to.” (31:35).

The first two black graduates, John Howard ’47 and James Ward ’48, are among the 35 alumni who were interviewed for the documentary Looking Back: Reflections of Black Princeton Alumni, which was written and directed by Melvin McCray ’74 and produced by McCray and Calvin Norman ’77 on the occasion of Princeton’s 250th anniversary in 1996. Most of the alumni interviewed are from the 1960s and 1970s, when the administration started to make diversification of the student body a priority. In the documentary Robert F. Goheen, president between 1957 and 1972, explains how the racial riots of 1963 in the South made him realize that Princeton, which counted only seven African American undergraduates in 1962, should provide more educational opportunities to qualified blacks (20:52). Goheen’s successors William G. Bowen (President 1972-1988) and Harold T. Shapiro (President 1988-2001) are also interviewed, as well as Carl Fields (Assistant Director of Student Aid 1964-68 and Assistant Dean of the College 1968-1972), and the aforementioned Franklin Moore.

The 75 minute documentary, in which alumni describe contrasting experiences and feelings, is divided into several chapters: “The early history” (2:59), “Inclusion” (20:46), “Diverse backgrounds” (25:59), “First impressions” (28:44), “A matter of race” (31:57), “Academics” (43:51), “Nassau Hall Protest” (detailing the protest of April 14, 1978 over Princeton’s investments in South Africa, 56:40), “Graduation” (1:01:35), “One Word” (1:04:20), and “Parting thoughts” (1:05:20). In the first chapter Woodrow Wilson’s racism is discussed (6:16). The introduction of coeducation in 1969 is discussed at 48:43.

In addition to the interviews, the producers use historical footage and photographs (including materials from Mudd Manuscript Library and private sources) and renderings of “Old Nassau and “Going Back” by the a capella group “The Persuasions.” The documentary was produced under the auspices of the Steering Committee for Princeton’s 250th Anniversary, in conjunction with the Association of Black Princeton Alumni (ABPA) and the Alumni Council. It won a Bronze Medal from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (1998).

This VHS video is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1361).

Freddie Fox ’39 about old and new: “A Walk in the Springtime,” 1974

After last week’s film about living and learning at Princeton in 1962, it is interesting to watch “A Walk in the Springtime,” created only twelve years later. The film features the legendary Frederic C. Fox, ’39, whose love and knowledge of Princeton’s history and lore made him the first and only Keeper of Princetoniana in 1976. Helped by his classmate Sandy Maxwell ’39 and Arthur (Buz) Schmidt ’74 (“He looks like a radical but he is only just the son of a classmate” 0:18) Fox reaches out to the many alumni who were uncomfortable with the rapidly changing face of campus.

As with other colleges, the civil rights movement and American involvement in Vietnam had sparked political activism at Princeton, including student demand to be part of campus governance. In addition, the traditionally all-male primarily white, Protestant, private-school educated student body had diversified.  Of particular concern for conservative alumni was the introduction of coeducation in 1969. In the film Fox, Maxwell, and Schmidt, take viewers on a tour, with the aim to show that although some things have changed much is still the same.

The film opens with Freddie Fox in front of Nassau Hall’s two bronze tigers, pointing out that one is male and the other female (1:25). After a brief visit to Firestone Library, Fox, Maxwell, and Schmidt sing Princeton songs at the piano in Prospect (8:38). The last part of the film, shot from the top floor of Fine Hall (11:56), contains extensive shots of the old and new buildings on campus.

Outtakes are shown below. Frederic C. Fox died in 1981 at age 63.

These Umatic UC-30 videos are part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (items no. 0516 and 0528).

These Umatic UC-30 videos are part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (items no. 0516 and 0528).