Dear Mr. Mudd: Princeton Theological Seminary

By Spencer Shen ’16

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Is Princeton Theological Seminary part of Princeton University?

Alexander Hall ca 1843 (1)

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Alexander Hall, ca. 1843. Image courtesy Princeton Theological Seminary Archives.

A. In short, no. The two are separate institutions. However, they enjoy a cooperative relationship that began in 1811. In 1810, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church judged that the College of New Jersey (Princeton) had grown too secular to train ministers and decided to establish a theological seminary. The following year, the trustees of the College approached the General Assembly to propose Princeton as the seminary’s location, giving birth to agreements below:

  • The trustees engage not to interfere in any way with the Assembly and its directors in carrying out the plan of the seminary adopted in 1810.
  • The trustees permit the Assembly to erect buildings necessary for the seminary on the College grounds.
  • The trustees engage to grant accommodations to the Assembly in their present buildings when desirable.
  • The trustees engage to receive such students as are sent by the Assembly and to endeavor to reduce the College expense.
  • The trustees undertake to receive moneys for investment, subject to the Assembly’s order.
  • The trustees grant to the seminary the use of the College library, subject to certain rules.
  • The trustees agree to help the Assembly to establish a preparatory school.
  • The Assembly is at liberty to remove at any time the seminary elsewhere, and the trustees promise to establish no professorship of theology in the College while the seminary shall remain at Princeton.
  • The trustees engage to use certain moneys in their hands chiefly according to the recommendation of the Assembly.

Other than this agreement, there has never been an organic connection between the two institutions.

On May 30, 1812, 31 directors of the Seminary were elected, including the Reverend Dr. Archibald Alexander of Philadelphia, who was soon elected professor of didactic and polemic theology on June 2. The seminary officially opened on August 12 with the inauguration of Dr. Alexander and the matriculation of three students.

Today, the Princeton Theological Seminary is one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. In 2014-2015, 523 students from 20 countries were enrolled at the seminary, receiving instruction from 61 faculty members. Its libraries contain nearly 1.3 million items, which are also open to Princeton University students and faculty. Despite their separate identities, the Seminary and the University cooperate to enrich their academic and civic communities through the sharing of certain resources.

For further information concerning the Princeton Theological Seminary, please contact Kenneth Henke, Curator of Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library, P.O. Box 821, Princeton, NJ, 08542-0111. He can also be reached by email.

This post was originally written by Rosemary Switzer (2003) as an FAQ page on our old website. It has been revised and expanded here by Spencer Shen ’16 as part of the launch of our new website.

Related Sources:

Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109)

Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978. Also available online.

Moorhead, James H. Princeton Seminary in American Culture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.

Selden, William K. Princeton Theological Seminary: A Narrative History, 1812-1992. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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