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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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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Dean Fred Hargadon on Princeton admissions, circa 1990

Today’s post was written by Lisa Dunkley ’83, Project Analyst at the Office of Development, who worked under Fred Hargadon from 1988 to 1994.

“Yes!”  Those of us who knew, or knew of, Dean Fred Hargadon cannot hear that exclamation without thinking about the blunt, welcome way successful Princeton applicants (and Stanford students before them) learned their admission results.  The phrase became so strongly identified with him that Hargadon Hall, the Whitman College dormitory that was an honorific gift from several anonymous alumni, has the word engraved in stone at the building entrance.  The simplicity of the message belied the long hours and deep experience that led to those decisions.

I worked in Princeton’s undergraduate admission office from 1988 to 1994, and was one of the first three people the Dean hired. I first met Fred at my interview—he is a tall, unassuming and often endearingly rumpled man. I was working in book publishing, and he is a voracious reader. We talked at length and with ease about books, and on occasion he would interject a question. I was a little tense, waiting for the “real” interview to begin. After about 45 minutes or so Fred stood and thanked me for coming: that was the interview. In retrospect I was impressed at how my answers revealed much more than I realized, an experience I found as disconcerting as it was fascinating. When Fred offered me the job a few weeks later, there was only one answer: Yes!

An admission neophyte, I was clueless about how differently the office operated under his watch compared to his predecessors, but I didn’t particularly care. Fred’s approach seemed right to me: admission was all about the applicant: our responsibility was to pay very sharp attention to all details and to make the playing field as even as possible for everyone, from the child of itinerant farm workers to the offspring of royalty, both real and conferred. Our job was to render a reasoned opinion about how well each student took advantage of whatever resources were at his or her disposal. “Children don’t choose where they grow up,” he once told me.

Fred was very open about how he ran the annual process and discussed it with audiences on many occasions over the years (of which this videotape is one). When he was asked how he managed to balance all of the competing interests at play in each year’s applicant group—a frequent question—he said that his goal was to leave every special interest group only slightly unhappy.
Staff training was unlike anything I’d known before. During the admission season, “first readers” like me passed our folders to more senior officers. Later we would review the finer observations they had added to our summaries: it was the best kind of one-on-one tutoring we could have. Summers are traditionally slow in admission, when most of us either meet with campus visitors or take vacation. In this “off season,” Fred’s strong preference was for us to read books of all kinds. He had a list of recommendations (from On Excellence to The Phantom Tollbooth), but there was sound reasoning behind this exercise: it was our responsibility to have a wide, deep and flexible vocabulary to describe each applicant with as much accuracy as possible. “There is a right word for everything,” he told us.

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“Princeton Football, the Winning Way,” 1975

Today’s blog is written by Mark F. Bernstein ’83, author of Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession (2001). A previous entry from him about Princeton football can be found here.

The title of this video notwithstanding, Princeton football fell on hard times after the decision to abandon the single wing offense in the late Sixties.
In 1973, hoping to revive their fortunes, they hired Bob Casciola ’58, a former All-Ivy tackle, as head coach. Casciola had been an assistant coach under Robert Colman and is credited with persuading future All-American Cosmo Iacavazzi ’66 to attend Princeton. The team finished last in the Ivy League in Casciola’s first season, but improved in 1974 as Walt Snickenberger ’75 won the Asa Bushnell Cup as Ivy League Player of the Year. That raised hopes that the Tigers could return to the top of the standings in 1975.
Those 1975 Tigers had several good players, including quarterback Ron Beible ’76, a civil engineering major who set several Princeton passing records.       The film reflects the changing university. In addition to the long hair and flamboyant ’70s clothes (including Beible’s white shoes), there were African-Americans on the team and female cheerleaders on the sidelines (0:15). Several interviews were filmed outside Jadwin Gymnasium, which opened in 1969. Casciola refers to the lack of spring practice, a rule for Ivy football teams that dates to the early 1950s and predates the formal creation of a league.
The film also shows different helmet logos. Princeton experimented with several designs during this period, including the abstract striped tiger tail and the cartoon running tiger. Not until 1998 did they revert to the classic “Michigan” helmet design that coach Fritz Crisler had inaugurated at Princeton during the 1930s.
Unfortunately, the high hopes for the 1975 season were not realized. The team won its first three games but finished 4-5 and fifth in the Ivy League. Casciola continued as coach until 1977 and later served as chief operating officer of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets.
Nineteen seventy-five was, however, a more successful year for Princeton’s men’s basketball team, which won the National Invitational Tournament.
–Mark F. Bernstein ’83
This 16mm film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 0218)

A lesson for fundraisers: the solicitation process for “A Campaign for Princeton,” 1982

In a previous blog we discussed the three-year $53 Million Campaign, launched at the beginning of Robert’s Goheen’s presidency in 1959. On an even larger scale was the five-year fundraising campaign that was launched on February 19, 1982 during the presidency of Goheen’s successor William G. Bowen. The goal for “A Campaign for Princeton” was set at $275 million (raised to $330 million in January 1984). Three years into the campaign, the fund drive ran like a “well-oiled machine,” according to the Daily Princetonian, bringing in more than $1 million a week. Fifty-five professionals worked with a body of 2.500 alumni volunteers, spread over seventeen regions, who were trained to ask fellow alumni to give at their maximum capacity. Featured here is “You Ask For It: An Introduction to Campaign Solicitation,” an instructional film that, however much a product of the 1980s, may still be of interest for today’s fundraisers.

The campaign goals were summarized in a Campaign Primer, published at the launch of the campaign. A full list and description of the goals, which included academic programs, facilities, student aid, and residential colleges, can be found at  CampaignPrimer.pdf.

Alumni solicitors prepared to “make an ask” to prospective donors with the help of a written solicitation plan, provided by Princeton’s campaign staff. The solicitation plan, according to the Volunteer Handbook, contained particular information about the “prospect” as well as specific guidelines on how to work with the person to “help ensure maximum giving.”  For the first time in Princeton’s fundraising history, alumni with capital gift potential were asked to make one single commitment to the campaign that included both Annual Giving (AG) and a capital gift (this was known as a “joint ask”). As the campaign was spread over five years, it allowed for all alumni to be addressed with their class’ major reunion goals in mind.

Solicitors were not meant  to be bashful about their “ask.” Outright gifts of cash or assets (generally securities) were first priority, according to the Volunteer Handbook, but if that was a problem, other charitable tax planning techniques were encouraged. “If you are persuaded that a donor simply cannot meet the requested level through an outright gift, you should then introduce Planned Giving to the negotiation.” Since these techniques were rather sophisticated, further negotiations were referred to Princeton’s Planned Giving staff.

The above VHS video features two alumni ‘novices’ to the soliciting process, who ask an experienced alumnus named Jim, a regional chairman in charge of Major Gifts, in a staged interview for advice. The woman in the film is in charge of “Special Gifts” for her Class’ 10th Reunion, and the male novice alumnus is asked to solicit money for a large capital gift from a man who never donated more than $2.500 for Annual Giving. The film lets Jim go back in history, showing one failed soliciting attempt at the beginning of his career, because he was not well enough prepared (1:05). This is followed by his account of one recent successful attempt, in which an alumnus ended up giving much more than he initially thought he could manage, partially through Planned Giving (5:03).

Although the University Archives contain a lot of information about the campaign itself, information about the VHS film featured here is lacking. In the lists of Regional Chairmen Major Gifts, provided in the Volunteer Handbook, there is no James or Jim, hence the people in the staged interview may not be actual alumni. If you can provide more information about the making of the film, please let us know!

For more information on the campaign itself, see The Story of A Campaign for Princeton, 1981-1986 by William McCleery.

This VHS video is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (Item no. 1422)

Men’s Basketball — Princeton vs. Georgetown, 1989: Who does not like a David versus Goliath matchup?

On March 17, 1989, in the opening round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Princeton University, seeded #16, faced national powerhouse Georgetown University, seeded #1 in the East Region. It was a classic David versus Goliath matchup. Since the tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a #16 seed has never defeated a #1 seed. There have been some close calls, but none closer than Georgetown’s narrow one point victory over Princeton.

The video below features four segments from the game. At the beginning of the broadcast (0.04), Dick Vitale, noted college basketball commentator and analyst, and John Saunders discuss the game. Vitale promises to don a Princeton cheerleader outfit if Princeton can beat Georgetown. He, like so many others, gave the Tigers little chance against the bigger, faster, and stronger Hoyas. Princeton took the floor as twenty-three point underdogs.

The starting line ups are presented in the second segment (0:28), and viewers can watch the first six minutes of the game (from 3:58), and see the final three minutes of play (from 12:03), including Vitale’s reaction to Princeton’s performance and near victory.
Georgetown, under head coach John Thompson, entered the tournament ranked #2 in the country and had recently won the Big East Conference title. They had a 26-4 pre-tournament record, and the team was loaded with talent, including freshman star and future NBA player Alonzo Mourning and senior captain Charles Smith, the Big East Player of the Year. Many predicted them to win the tournament.

Callill1.jpgPrinceton, led by their famously colorful coach Pete Carril (left), was 19-8 overall, and as Ivy League champions had earned an automatic bid to the national tournament. They were a young team, with only one junior, Matt Lapin, and one senior, Ivy League Player of the Year and captain Bob Scrabis, on the roster. But, this was also a Princeton team that led the nation in defense, allowing only 53 points per game.

How could Princeton stay with Georgetown and keep the game close? The “Princeton Offense,” the hallmark of Carril’s coaching style, slowed down the Hoyas and forced an entirely different style of play. The “Princeton Offense” spread the floor, utilizing a three guard set, and made the contest a half court game. Clock management and patience were key.
In those days the shot clock was 45 seconds, and it was quite typical for Princeton to run the clock down for 30 seconds before they even began their offensive set. With constant ball movement and passing, the guards looked for players moving toward the basket, especially by back door cuts, which led to easy lay ups.
This style of play stymied Georgetown throughout the first half, and Princeton’s confidence seemed to grow with each basket. They picked up rebounds, scrambled for loose balls, limited turnovers, and generally frustrated the Hoyas. At half time, Princeton led 29-21, and there was a noticeable buzz of excitement in the arena.

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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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James Baker at Princeton before and after the Cold War

Baker at Princeton

In 1949, as the United States and its western allies established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to “contain” Soviet expansion into Europe, James A. Baker III was a freshman at Princeton. He was, in his words, “focused more on making grades, playing tennis and rugby, and chasing girls — not necessarily in that order — than on U.S. foreign policy” (Baker p. 287).

In his memoir, Baker provides a good-natured account of his early years here. “I became a member of both Princeton’s Right Wing Club — so named because we spent much of our time using our right arms to hoist spirituous beverages — and the 21 Club, another social organization with a similar mission” (Baker p. 9). But by the time he left Princeton, Baker had produced serious work; he found his interest in history and classics and had written his senior thesis about parliamentary politics in Britain in the two preceding decades.

The Cold War would soon find him, however. Baker graduated in 1952 and immediately entered the U.S. Marine Corps’ officer training program while the Korean War was still ongoing. The Cold War would continue to shape Baker’s career, by which he was both a witness to and agent of the fall of the Soviet Union. By the end of 1991, Baker had served as Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff and Treasury Secretary and as Secretary of State for George H. W. Bush.

Return to Princeton

This video, documenting a talk by Baker co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School and the Class of 1993, was delivered on December 12, 1991 in Alexander Hall. Baker was then serving as Secretary of State.

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Princeton’s Bicentennial: Charter Day, October 19, 1946

In the 1946-1947 academic year, Princeton celebrated its 200th anniversary with a series of convocations and events, ending with a concluding ceremony, captured in a newsreel, which included a convocation address by US President Harry Truman. Today’s blog features another newsreel about the University’s bicentennial year that focuses on “Charter Day,” October 19, 1946. In addition to Princeton’s almost 200-year old charter and the “largest procession in Princeton history” at the time (which included 23 honorary degrees recipients), the newsreel addresses the beginning of intercollegiate football, depicting a re-enactment of the first football game between Princeton and Rutgers from November 6, 1869 during halftime of the 1946 Princeton-Rutgers game.

Princeton’s charter, granted to the University on October 22, 1746 (then still known as the “College of New Jersey”) is shown fleetingly in the newsreel (0:38). Readers of our regular blog already know that the charter, on intermittent display during the celebration of Mudd Manuscript Library’s 50th anniversary, is actually not the original (which was lost) but the second charter, drawn up in 1748. (An explanation can be found in our Frequently Asked Questions.) The famous early picture of Nassau Hall that follows at 0:48 is the copper engraving by Philadelphia artist Henry Dawkins (copied from a drawing by Princeton student William Tennent, Class of 1758), which was printed in Samuel Blair’s Account of the College of New Jersey (1764). For more information about the engraver, who was also a counterfeiter of paper money, see Julie Mellby’s Graphic Arts blog.

Over 500 people comprised the academic procession that opened and closed the morning’s convocation, according to the Prince, including faculty, trustees, representatives of all alumni classes and members of the Undergraduate Council. The procession included an official delegation from the United Nations, headed by Secretary General Trygve Lie, and members from the State Bicentennial Commission, including Walter E. Edge, Governor of New Jersey. Lie (1:42) and Edge (2:11) were among the 23 honorary degree recipients, as were the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, the Spanish writer Salvador De Madariaga, and the French philosopher Jacques Maritain (2:21–not all recipients are clearly visible).

The last eight minutes of the newsreel are occupied by the 38th Rutgers-Princeton football game in the afternoon (2:47), with a humorous reenactment of the first Rutgers-Princeton game of November 6, 1869 (5:51), considered the ‘birth’ of intercollegiate football. A description of the football game and the reenactment by Theatre Intime and members of the Rutgers soccer team can be found in the Prince. A copy of the program notes about the 1869 football game, with an explanation of the rules, may be downloaded at Twenty-four Stalwart Men.pdf. A second article from the program, summarizing the history of the Princeton-Rutgers football rivalry, can be viewed at  77 Years Princeton-Rutgers.pdf. More information about early football can be found in Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession by Mark Bernstein ’83, who wrote our previous blog entry.

The footage on this 16mm film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (part of item no. 0092).

Post-war Princeton football newsreels (1947-1956)

Today’s blog is written by Mark F. Bernstein ’83, author of Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession (2001).

The decade after World War II was a Golden Age of Princeton football. Under the leadership of coach Charlie Caldwell ’25, the Tigers were often nationally ranked and it was not unusual for newsreel cameras to film Princeton games. These Paramount newsreels give highlights from across that era, although the clips are not in chronological order.

The first game shown here, a 13-7 victory over Penn in 1951, was almost certainly broadcast on national television, as the Quakers had a lucrative contract with ABC to broadcast all their home games. Dick Kazmaier ’52, a triple-threat tailback in Princeton’s distinctive single wing offense, won the Heisman Trophy that year, graced the cover of Time magazine, and was named the AP’s athlete of the year, beating out such luminaries as Otto Graham and Stan Musial. Kazmaier showed off his passing skills here with a bomb to Frank McPhee ’53. (0:48)
The second clip shows a 42-20 loss to Yale in 1956, the first year of Ivy League competition. Although it is not known if this game was broadcast, one concession to television in those years was a recommendation that the road team wear white uniforms, which made the teams easier to distinguish on black-and-white TV sets. For generations before that, Princeton always wore black and orange, whether playing at home or on the road. Nineteen fifty-six was also Caldwell’s last full season as coach. He died of cancer the following year and was succeeded by his assistant, Dick Colman.
Caldwell was just beginning to build his dynasty in 1947, when the third clip was filmed showing a 26-7 loss to the Quakers. Dick West ’48 provided the lone highlight, connecting with George Sella ’50 for a touchdown. (3:40) West played for the Tigers in 1942 but interrupted his education to join the military. Sella, like Dick Kazmaier, was later drafted by the Chicago Bears but decided to pass up the NFL for Harvard Business School.
The final clip shows a hard-fought 24-20 victory over Navy during the undefeated 1951 season.   The win was Princeton’s fifteenth in a row. Their streak would eventually extend to 24 games before Penn snapped it the following year.

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