A Princeton Degree For a Yalie: George H.W. Bush Visits Princeton, 1991

On May 10, 1991, President George H.W. Bush came to Princeton’s campus to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and dedicate the University’s Social Science Complex. This $20 million dollar project included the newly constructed Bendheim and Fisher Halls, as well as a renovation of Corwin Hall. This Reel Mudd blog post includes video of both of these events, along with other scenes related to the President’s visit.

President Bush’s visit was notable for several reasons. This ceremony was Bush’s first appearance outside of Washington DC after suffering atrial fibrillation while jogging at Camp David. In addition, Bush’s speech (beginning at 00:50:26) was expected to be a major policy speech, though a report indicates that the president rewrote the address en route to Princeton in order to tone down direct attacks on Congress (Daily Princetonian, Volume 115, Number 65, 13 May 1991). While still peppered with criticism of Congress, the President’s talk was mainly a discussion of the Executive Branch’s policy making role compared to that of the Legislative, and Bush’s personal opposition to creating new bureaucracies. The speech is also peppered with humor about the Princeton/Yale rivalry and the President’s place within it (51:42), as well as Bush’s health(50:39), the Nude Olympics (51:22), John F. Kennedy (52:02), and the Princeton allegiances of Secretaries of State George Shultz ’42 and James Baker ‘52  (52:28).
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Bush Receives his honorary degree from President Shapiro *64.
Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series, Box MP2

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Residential Colleges and Wu Hall

In this short video from around 1983, President Bowen discusses Wu Hall, the then-new dining facility for Butler College. The video highlights three elements that played increasingly significant roles in shaping Princeton over the following decades: the support of alumnus Gordon Wu, the residential colleges system, and the architecture of alumnus Robert Venturi.

We don’t know the exact purpose for which this video was created, but it may have been part of the promotional material for A Campaign for Princeton, the fundraising campaign that officially ran from 1982 to 1986. As previously discussed on this blogA Campaign for Princetonwas enormously successful, bringing in an average of $1,000,000 per week at its height.The Support of Gordon Wu ’58

In 1981, before the campaign even officially began, alumnus Gordon Y.S. Wu donated $1,000,000 to it. Wu earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering from Princeton in 1958 and subsequently returned to his native Hong Kong. There, he founded Hopewell Holdings, a firm whose notable projects have included highways, hotels, railroads and power plants throughout Asia. Wu has been described as one of the wealthiest businessmen in Hong Kong and as one of the most influential engineers and businessmen in the world.
As A Campaign for Princeton was officially being launched in 1982, Princeton announced that Wu had donated an additional 25 million Hong Kong dollars in honor of his class’s upcoming 25th anniversary reunion. The funds, then equal to approximately USD $4.3 million, were used primarily to construct a dining facility for the then-new Butler College.
As generous as these donations were, they represented only a small fraction of what was to come. In 1995, Wu made a historic pledge to the With One Accord fundraising campaign, which was held as part of the University’s 250th anniversary. That year, Wu pledged to donate USD $100 million, the largest gift ever by a foreigner to a U.S. university, with the last payment scheduled to coincide with his class’ 50th anniversary reunion in 2008. Wu is currently serving as a Trustee of Princeton University, with a term ending in 2012.
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The Vision of William Bowen *58

Although dwarfed in magnitude by his later donations, Wu’s 1982 donation has impacted the lives of literally thousands of Princetonians. It gave physical form to President Bowen’s aspirations for the residential college system, which has defined the Princeton undergraduate experience for every class since.
President Bowen (right) formed the Committee on Undergraduate Residential Life (CURL) in 1978. Made up of administrators, faculty and students, the committee was charged with addressing the intertwined issues of Princeton student housing, dining and socialization. Although some of the proposals in the committee’s final report – particularly those relating to eating clubs – did not come to pass, its primary proposal, the establishment of three new residential colleges, came to fruition within a few short years.
Two of the three new colleges, Rockefeller and Mathey, were established in extant buildings in Princeton’s traditional collegiate gothic style. Butler College, however, was housed in the “New New Quad,” which the Daily Princetonian defined for incoming freshman as, Group of five newer dorms located on the lower-lower campus, fondly known as “The Sticks,” “New New World,” or “Brave New Quad.””
The construction of Wu Hall transformed this “group of dorms” into a true residential college. As the first Master of Butler College, Emory Elliot, said near the end of the first semester that Wu Hall was open, “It’s enabled the spirit of the college to come into full blossom.” He also described the new servery and dining facility as having a “friendly atmosphere conducive to having people come together.” Footage about Butler College and Wu Hall after the 2009 renovations can be found here.

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Being Jewish at Princeton: from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s days to the Center of Jewish Life

“The Princeton of today is not the Princeton of Scott Fitzgerald. And by that I mean you can feel comfortable being Jewish, you can feel comfortable being Asian, you can feel comfortable being African American. And while this might not always have been true (…) it is definitely true today.” The speaker is Erik Ruben ’98 (1:46), one of the students featured in the promotional video below about the Center for Jewish Life, which opened in 1993. Today’s entry takes a brief look at the history of the admission of Jewish students at Princeton since the 1920s.

F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s 1920 debut novel, This Side of Paradise, was set at Princeton and reflected the atmosphere of the eating clubs and of the university itself, which (not to Princeton’s liking) he described as “the pleasantest country club in America.” Fitzgerald wrote his book at a time when some northeastern colleges and universities, particularly in urban areas where many Eastern European Jewish immigrants had settled, perceived they had a “Jewish problem” in that if they admitted too many Jewish students, Protestant middle and upper class students would be driven away. Columbia, which had the largest Jewish enrollment at 40%, was the first to impose a quota in 1921. Princeton, however, always claimed not to use quotas. As late as 1948 Radcliffe Heermance, Princeton’s first director of admissions from 1922 to 1950, vehemently denied a claim that Princeton used a quota to keep Jewish students under 4%. “We’ve never had a quota system, we don’t have a quota system, we will never have a quota system” he told the Daily Princetonian.

Hutchins121770.jpgA letter from former University of Chicago president Robert Hutchins, who visited Princeton President John Grier Hibben in the early 1930s, indicated otherwise. Hutchins wrote Princeton senior Steven L. Buenning ’71 In December 1970, as Buenning was seeking information for his senior thesis, a biography about Hibben. In the letter Hutchins recalls how he had asked Hibben about the number of Jewish students at Princeton. According to Hutchins, Hibben claimed that the number just happened, whereupon his wife exclaimed: “Jack Hibben, I don’t see how you can sit there and lie to this young man. You know very well that you and Dean Eisenhart get together every year and fix the quota.”
This anecdote has been quoted in several books, and in their footnotes the authors refer to Buenning’s thesis only, which includes quotes from the letter. Above we reproduce the original letter, which is found in Hibben’s presidential papers in the Office of the President Records (AC117, Series 14, Box 65, folder 6). The first paragraph, in which Hutchins recalls Hibben’s professed ignorance about the reasons why black students did not come to Princeton, is remarkable in itself. Unlike Yale and Harvard, Princeton did not admit African American students  until World War II (the first four African Americans were in the Navy V-12 program).  For more information about African American students at Princeton, see our previous blog.

Heermance limited Jewish enrollment by developing an admission policy that put an emphasis on “character,” which, however subjective, was still regarded as defensible in public. Criteria like “manhood,” “leadership” “participation in athletics” and “home environment and companions” were assessed by using interviews, letters of recommendation, and a social ranking system. A powerful disincentive to even apply was the anti-Semitic reputation of Princeton’s eating clubs, which considered most Jews “unclubbable.”

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Post-War Princeton: The building of Firestone Library, the Dillon Gym, and Bicentennial celebrations, 1945-1949

From the start of the Depression until the end of World War II, construction activity at Princeton, like at other universities, was at a near standstill. The first buildings to be erected here as part of the post-war building boom on American campuses were the Dillon Gym and the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library. The four silent films discussed on this post, which are all in color, capture the beginning of the construction of Firestone Library, the dedication of the Dillon Gym in June 1947, and other activities at the close of the bicentennial celebrations of 1946-1947 and the immediate years thereafter.

The origin of the 16mm film that is featured here is unknown. Although it seems excruciatingly slow at times, the 14 minute long time lapse footage spans almost one and a half years, during which the excavation work for Firestone Library was undertaken, the structure of the three underground floors almost completed, and the steel structure of the upper part of the library erected.

Firestone ground.jpgAs can be seen on this campus map, the space between Washington Road and the then library (what is now Chancellor Green and Pyne Hall) was quite open. During most of the film the camera is facing the Engineering Building on Washington Road (now Burr and Green Hall), and moves between the Joseph Henry House, home of the Dean of the College (the white house seen on the left) and the ’77 Laboratory (the square brick building with the crescent shaped windows on the right). This biology laboratory, donated by the Class of 1877 at its tenth reunion, was demolished in the summer of 1946, which is captured starting at 9:15. The ’77 Lab appears as a pile of rubble at 9:21, when the Bracket Dynamo Laboratory behind it becomes visible. This second lab is gradually broken down in the footage that follows.

The Joseph Henry House, however, was not destroyed but moved instead, for the third time since it was built in 1837. Although the camera focused on the excavation work, preparations for the move to its present location, which according to the Prince started in April 1946, can be followed from 8:40 at the top of the screen. The actual move took place at the end of May, and the house can be seen to have moved a few yards between 9:45 and 9:48. Most of the footage concerns the digging and excavation work prior to the construction work, which had started on Christmas Eve 1945, and was subcontracted to George M. Brewster and Sons (Turner Construction Company was the contractor). The work of Brewster’s “blasting crew,” which according to the Prince in March consisted of a “blast expert,” a “powder monkey” and twelve drillers, can be followed from 3:28, with two explosions visible at 4:35 and 6:48.

Only the last few minutes of the film (10:39-14.15), capture the beginning of the construction of the Firestone Library itself, starting with the lowest floor. The snow at 11.31, surrounding the concrete columns, indicates that a year has passed since the time lapse filming began. On January 15, 1947 the Prince wrote that most of the underground structure had been completed. The footage at 11.53, which includes a view on Nassau Street, must have been filmed during or shortly after February 1947, when the library, according to the Prince had risen above the ground. The film ends with footage of the building of the steel structure of the library’s three floors (13:11), the last shots of which indicating that it is springtime now (13:32).

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Interview with Dean Ernest Gordon and tour of University Chapel, 1977

Today’s post is written by Rev. Frederick Borsch ’57, former Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel 1981-1988.

“A sermon in stone” is a familiar description of the Princeton University Chapel, and it is used to introduce this 1977 film tour of the Chapel’s architecture and windows through an interview with its then Dean Ernest Gordon. Although an effort was made to give the program a semblance of informality, it comes across now as rather rehearsed. First telecast (Nov. 27, 1977) as a 10 minute segment in a Sunday morning NBC-TV series, “The First Estate: Religion in Review,” the film is also, however, not without attractive and educational features. Since the Chapel remains essentially the same, the information is not dated, and there is much to appreciate in watching it. For considerable further information about the Chapel, one can go to the University’s Office of Religious Life’s site about the History of the Chapel to find links to a self-guided tour and an extensive audio-tour. There is also Richard Stilwell’s splendid The Chapel of Princeton University (Princeton University Press, 1971). Next one could go to the Chapel.
“Bring binoculars,” was the advice I was given, as that is the only way to take in much of the detail. The film seems to have been made in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the 1928 dedication of the Chapel. I first entered the building as a freshman in 1953 when it was 25 years old. We undergrads, of course, had other names for the building–not least because attendance at religious services was then required of freshmen and sophomores on every other weekend. One of my roommates, though not himself Jewish, usually went to their Friday evening services in order to get his chit signed and have the rest of the week-end free. Other of my friends might go to a denominational service, but often enough on Sunday mornings we went to the ecumenical (though rather Presbyterian) “God Box” or “Firestone South,” so labeled because the Chapel was neighbor to our more frequent destination–the Firestone Library just across the plaza.

Or, since lore had it that alumnus and plutocrat Harvey Firestone had donated a goodly part of the over two million dollars for building the Chapel, it was also “Firestone’s Folly.” We heard that this sobriquet had been given by earlier critics who would have preferred that the money be used for laboratories, libraries and faculty salaries. At the time, however, President Hibben had acclaimed the Chapel as Princeton’s two million dollar witness against materialism!

Yet it was hard not to stand–literally stand–in awe of the building and all it represented. I stood there. I worshipped in the Ralph Adams Cram Anglo-collegiate Gothic tribute to the unity of faith and knowledge. The visage of the philosopher-skeptic David Hume could even be glimpsed in one of the windows. I listened to the Aeolian-Skinner organ while admiring what has been called the “finest assemblage of stained glass in all the western hemisphere.” (Recently the windows were completely refurbished and restored to the tune of something like ten million dollars. The building and its fabric have over the years been very well endowed!) As an English major, I liked to sense the whole building as a paean to Christian humanism and to pick out Chaucer, Shakespeare, George Herbert, Donne, Milton, Blake, Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot. In the only apparent attempt at humor in the 1977 film (other than a reference of Donne’s “unholy” sonnets), Dean Gordon notes the tiger on which William Blake seems to sit. “Tiger, tiger, burning bring / In the forests of the night,” runs through one’s mind, followed by “tiger, tiger, tiger; sis, sis, sis; boom, boom, boom; ah.”

Ernest Gordon became the Chapel’s Dean in 1955. He was “earnest” all right (a little joke of ours), but what a change he brought to the worship with his Scot’s burr, his energetic faith and dramatic story of conversion to Christianity during his four years in a miserable Japanese concentration camp. A handsome man with a certain winsomeness about him (still seen in the film), he invited Billy Graham to campus for what was in affect a mission to undergraduates.

Later Gordon would twice invite (over a number of protests) Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Chapel’s pulpit and preside over the Chapel during the civil rights movement, then a memorial service for Dr. King, turmoil and protests over the Vietnam War–some of these gatherings taking place in the Chapel. As part of all that, a measure of interest in religion grew, but not necessarily in formal church-going. By 1964 all Chapel requirements had finally been dropped as the University became still more secular in outlook and at the same time more diverse in terms of religions. I had to wonder if Dean Gordon did not wince to himself when, at the end of the film, he commented on how important the Chapel was for undergraduates although far fewer were coming to his Sunday morning services than in earlier years.

Truth in blogging: in 1981 I succeeded Ernest Gordon as Dean, and one can read something more about his ministry, the Chapel and the times in my forthcoming Keeping Faith at Princeton: A Brief History of Religious Pluralism at Princeton and Other Universities (Princeton University Press, 2011).

–Frederick Borsch ‘57

This 16mm film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1974)

Moving Corwin Hall 100 feet, May 20, 1963

Robertson Hall, the building that currently houses the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (WWSPIA) has been featured in two newsreels: the “Princeton newsreel” of 1961, announcing the, at the time anonymous, $35 million gift of Charles S. Robertson ’26 and his wife, Marie; and the 1966 newsreel about President Lyndon Johnson’s visit to dedicate the building. This post features the building that originally housed the Woodrow Wilson School: Corwin Hall, erected in 1951 and originally known as “Wilson Hall,” which had to be moved 100 feet to make way for the new WWSPIA facility.

The spectacular move of the building to its present site between Wallace and Robertson Hall was recorded via time lapse filming on an 8mm camera by Lawrence l. Rauch *49, who donated the footage to the Princeton University Archives. The engineering feat was accomplished by the New York firm of Spencer, White, and Prentiss, using hydraulic jacks to push the building along twelve steel tracks. The actual moving took only twelve hours but two months were needed to prepare for it and another three months to secure the building to its new foundation.

When Robertson Hall was completed in 1965, Wilson Hall was re-assigned to one of WWSPIA’s chief allies, the Department of Politics, and to the Center of International Studies. Its name was changed to Corwin Hall, in honor of Edward S. Corwin, the first chairman of the Department of Politics and the long-time holder of the McCormick Professorship of Jurisprudence, the professorship originally held by Woodrow Wilson.

This 8mm film, a gift from Lawrence L. Rauch *49, is part of the Princeton University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1980). Adapted from the post by John DeLooper in Mudd Manuscript Library’s Blog with excerpts from Alexander Leitch A Princeton Companion (Princeton University Press, 1978).  

Keeping the donor base informed: Princeton newsreels, 1960-1961

During the $53 Million Campaign (1959-1962) a 13 x 10 foot scale model of the Princeton campus  toured 19 major cities and displayed at meetings of the regional leaders of the fund drive. To keep Princeton alumni further informed about progress and developments on campus, the Alumni Council sponsored two “Princeton Newsreels” in 1960 and 1961. The two 30-minute films are interesting to watch, not only because they feature new facilities, achievements in sports and science, and notable events (from Hurricane Donna in 1960 to the donation of $35 million for the Woodrow Wilson School in 1961), but because they also document the University’s first attempts to reach out to its donor base through the medium of film.  Contrasting the two films, one cannot help but note that the second film is much smoother in its presentation than the first.

The first newsreel opens with an introduction by the 41 year-old president Robert F. Goheen ’40, and a freshmen lecture about the honor system by Walker Stevenson ’35, president of the National Alumni Association (1:30). The scale model of the campus, mentioned above, is featured at 6:41, when administrative vice-president Edgar M. Gemmell ’34 explains the expansions planned for the next three years. The footage following captures the Hibben and Magie faculty apartments under construction (6:41) as well as the five new dormitories of the New Quad (Class of 1937, Class of 1938, Class of 1939, Dodge-Osborn, and Gauss Halls), the first buildings to be finished since the start of the $53 Million Campaign (7:27).

aircar.jpg“Examples of Research” opens with a bird experiment on the roof of Guyot Hall (7:55), followed by the Princeton-Pennsylvania Proton Accelerator, a particle research facility on the Forrestal Campus since 1957 (8:59). In addition, the newsreel includes a demonstration of the thermoheliodon and the heliodon, developed by the Architectural Laboratory to determine the effects of sunlight, wind and radiation (10:19), and research at the Department of Aeronautical Engineering into problems that occur with low speed flight (11:29; footage includes “air car” shown above). In addition, the newsreel features faculty who won an award in 1960: the later Nobel Prize winner Eugene Wigner, Professor of Physics, who received the “Atoms for Peace Award” (15:02) and History Professor Robert Palmer, who won the Bancroft prize for his book Age of the Democratic Revolution (15:25).
The second half of the film features particular places and events, including alumni in the “Princeton Today” program who visited the new C-site at the “Matterhorn Project” (renamed the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 1961), a project for magnetic fusion research funded by the Atomic Energy Commission that had only been declassified in 1958 (15:47, with more about the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in the second newsreel). This is followed by the appointment of three new trustees (17:15), the foreign language laboratory (18:57), achievements in sports (track, squash, and lacrosse at 20:06; football (with coach Dick Colman) at 25:04), and Reunions (20:54, with the Class of ’35). In addition, the film includes footage of Triangle chorines during a performance of Breakfast in Bedlam, which toured various military bases and hospitals in Europe during the summer (18:05). The newsreel also documents Hurricane Donna, the only hurricane on record to have struck every East Coast state between Florida and Maine, which hit the campus on September 12, 1960 (23:38).
The second newsreel that was produced during the $53 Million Campaign is more crisply presented, with a clear division into five chapters. The first chapter, “New Facilities,” shows new campus edifices: the Engineering Quadrangle (1:42), the John Foster Dulles Library of Diplomatic History (2:11), the Hibben and Magie apartments at Carnegie Lake (2:22), the new playing fields (2:37), and the dormitory quad with Wilcox Hall (2:48). It is followed by images of students moving into their dormitories (3:44), Class of 1965 freshmen, the new Dean of the College J. Merrill Knapp with Dean Ernest Gordon (4:36), and keycepts “in operation” (4:57).
“Sports” (6:26), the subject of the second chapter, features basketball (6:28), swimming (7:04), track (8:11), and football (8:24), with brief footage of important games and closeups of athletes. In the next chapter, “The Search for Knowledge” (11:32), the number of research project previously featured is reduced to two. The first concerns the new Model C Stellarator at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), the new name of “Project Matterhorn” discussed in the earlier newsreel. The large stellarator, for which facilities had been built in 1960, replaced previous models that had been used in the 1950s. As a second example of Princeton’s achievements in science the research of biology professor Arthur K. Parpart is discussed (14:21).
The fourth chapter, “Going Back” (15:43) includes footage of the Class of 1936’s 25th and the Class of 1911’s 50th reunion, with Joseph Cashman and Dr. William H. Hudnut from the Class of 1886 as members of the Old Guard. (Footage of President Robert Goheen ’40, Grant Sanger ’31, Harold Helm ’21, and Walker Stevenson ’35 is at 16:43). The “major Princeton event of 1961” is saved for last: “Princeton in International Affairs” (19:29) features the $35 million anonymous gift from a foundation (initially called the “X” Foundation, later known as the Robertson Foundation) to establish a professional school for public service at the Woodrow Wilson School. The newsreel ends with a statement by Gardner Patterson, who was the director of the Woodrow Wilson School and of the new program (20:35).
These 16mm films are part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 0083 and 0079)

 

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).