This Week in Princeton History for June 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Liberty Bell is in town, the first woman earns a Princeton degree, and more.

June 13, 1878—A member of the Class of 1878 writes that he is disappointed by the College of New Jersey (Princeton)’s invitation to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes to speak at Commencement, saying his appearance would dishonor the graduates and Commencement would be “made subservient to outsiders.” It is ultimately a moot point; Hayes declines the invitation.

College of New Jersey (Princeton) Commencement Program, 1878. Princeton University Commencement Records (AC115), Box 2, Folder 18.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 5-11

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Commencement is held without predicted problems, a senior praises William Howard Taft, and more.

June 5, 1978—Princeton University’s Board of Trustees votes to include coverage for abortion under the student health insurance plan.

This article by an anonymous female Princeton University student details her experiences with health care prior to the decision to cover abortion under the student health plan (Princeton Forerunner, November 30, 1976).

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This Week in Princeton History for February 20-26

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a Supreme Court justice visit ignites protest, the women’s squash team completes eight undefeated seasons, and more.

February 21, 1920—Princeton University holds a special graduation ceremony for students who missed their own but have now returned from war.

Princeton University Commencement Records (AC115), Box 6.

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Bob Dylan’s Honorary Princeton University Degree

When news of Bob Dylan being honored with a Nobel Prize in Literature broke a few months ago, the Swedish Academy responsible for the award acknowledged that it might appear to be an inappropriate choice. Dylan, as a musician, might not be thought of as an author so much as a composer. “If you look back,” permanent secretary Sara Danius told the press, “you discover Homer and Sappho, and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to … But we still read Homer and Sappho…and we enjoy it, and same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read, and should be read.”

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Bob Dylan at Princeton University, June 9, 1970. Honorary Degree Records (AC106), Box 6.

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This Week in Princeton History for July 25-31

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Presbyterians worry about drinking, the campus operator has a bit less to do, and more.

July 27, 1937—William H. Smathers, who represents New Jersey in the U.S. Senate, writes a response to a letter from one of its professors, William Starr Myers, that makes headlines for its vitriol: “Your letter … convinces me that you are unfit to come in contact with youngsters and confirms my suspicion that ‘dear old Princeton’ would be a bad place to send my two boys who were born and raised in New Jersey. I would not want one of my sons to come under the influence of a mentality so small and so warped…” Myers wrote to Smathers to criticize him for voting in favor of expanding the Supreme Court to 15 justices as Franklin Delano Roosevelt had proposed.

July 29, 1897—The Prohibitionist New York Voice derides Princeton University for employing faculty who have signed a petition for a liquor license for the Princeton Inn, which they identify as the school’s “official grog shop”.

New York Voice headline

Headline from the New York Voice, July 29, 1897. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 343, Folder 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 1-7

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a sitting U.S. president gives the Commencement address, a judge tries to get information about damage to Nassau Hall, and more.

June 2, 1851—Thomas Mifflin Hall, Class of 1853, celebrates his sixteenth birthday at Princeton by attempting to do some work for class: “I did not get out all the lesson, as I fell asleep while studying,” he notes in his diary.

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Thomas Mifflin Hall’s diary entry for June 2, 1851. Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334), Box 10.

June 3, 1980—Princeton sophomore Lynda M. Clarizio ’82 casts her vote as a delegate in New Jersey’s fifth congressional district for Senator Ted Kennedy for U.S. President. She was one of eight Kennedy supporters selected from 37 contenders at the April 13, 1980 convention in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

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Lynda Clarizio. Photo from Daily Princetonian.

June 4, 1996—Sitting U.S. President Bill Clinton gives the Commencement address at Princeton. He asks students not to forget that Americans have a “common purpose.” “Because of the education you have, if America does well, you will do very well. If America is a good country to live in, you will be able to build a very good life.”

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Charles P. Stowell ’96 shakes hands with U.S. President Bill Clinton at Princeton’s 1996 Commencement. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 170.

June 6, 1828—A Middlesex County judge begins an inquiry into a firecracker explosion in a Princeton classroom on May 28, which destroyed its stove and blew out its windows. The faculty minutes note: “three students being called before him, refused to give testimony, avowing their determination to go to jail, rather than be placed under oath at this time.” The judge orders them to return at a later date. Ultimately, a student will anonymously confess and send $150 to cover the damages, and the matter will be dropped.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for January 26-February 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an Oscar winner dies, the University holds a winter Commencement to send students off to war more quickly, and more.

January 26, 1992—Jose Ferrer ’33 dies at the age of 80. Though best known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of the title character in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1949, he had already made an impression on Princeton. The Class of 1933 named him the “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” among them upon graduation. Like his friend James Stewart ’32, Ferrer was an architecture major who got his start in show business through involvement in Triangle Club.

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Jose Ferrer was named “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” by the Class of 1933 (photo from 1933 Nassau Herald).

January 27, 1934—An Ice Carnival held in Baker Rink raises $900 for charity, which is donated to the Princeton Nursery School.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 22-28

For last week’s installment in our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its students and alumni, click here.

George Washington attends Commencement, Dr. Patch Adams speaks in McCosh 50, and more.

September 23, 1946—A record-breaking 2,350 people attend the University’s bicentennial Convocation in the Chapel, with a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

September 24, 1783—College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) Class of 1783 Valedictorian and future College President Ashbel Green gives an address to a Commencement audience that includes George Washington and the Continental Congress.

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Portrait of Ashbel Green by an unknown artist.

September 25, 2002—The doctor made famous by Robin Williams’ portrayal of him in the eponymous Patch Adams speaks to a packed audience in McCosh 50.

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Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams addresses the crowd in McCosh 50. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

September 26, 1929—Frick Laboratory (Chemistry) opens. After housing the Chemistry department for 81 years, it will be renamed 20 Washington Road in 2010, when the new Frick Lab is opened.  (Click to view photos of the old Frick Lab under construction and the newly completed building in 1929. An interior view is available here.)

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

Princeton’s 250th Anniversary Commencement with speaker President Bill Clinton

On June 6th, 1996, as part of the University’s 250th Anniversary celebration, U.S. President Bill Clinton delivered the principal address at the 249th Commencement ceremonies, a departure from the Princeton tradition of having the University President deliver the ceremony’s major remarks.

The video includes the entire commencement program starting with the procession (00:02), then the remarks of Princeton University President Harold Shapiro (4:40), the Latin Salutatory of Charles Parker Stole (6:40), Provost Jeremiah Ostriker (10:47), Dean of the College Nancy Weiss Malkiel (13:00), the Valedictory of Brian Patrick Duff (21:25), Dean of the Graduate School John Wilson (25:31), Dean of the Faculty Amy Gutmann (29:28), University Board of Trustees chair Robert H. Rawson ’66 (32:39), and the presentation of Clinton’s honorary degree (33:00).
At (41:58) President Harold T. Shapiro gives a history of U.S. Presidents participating in Princeton Commencements.
President William Clinton’s speech runs (44:52-1:15:05).
The program concludes with final remarks from President Shapiro and the reading of the Benediction by Dean Gibson (1:17:19) and then the singing of Old Nassau.
Here you can read the transcript as a part of The American Presidency Project.

In 2010 the Princeton University Archives uploaded the following video from C-TEC highlighting the broadcast preceding speech. It includes a number of interviews with faculty and staff.

Class of 1929 Commencement and a potpourri of student activities

While the traditions around Commencement have changed some over the University’s 267 year history, overall it is a remarkably consistent ceremony. Let’s take a look back to 1929.  This video shows a number of scenes from a typical Commencement week. We begin with the procession of graduates led by the faculty.  Following that, you see a view of the audience assembled on front campus, with some shots of the stage in front of Nassau Hall, where the event is still held today. Finally you will see a few members of the Class of 1929 receiving their degrees, something that has changed. As the typical graduating class now is over 1,100, diplomas are distributed after the commencement ceremony, not handed out individually.

The golf team is featured at 3:50, polo at 4:54, members of the Daily Princetonian, Bric-a-Brac, student council, Triangle Club and Senior Prom committee featured at 6:16, baseball at 8:56 and finally the P-rade at 10:32.

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Team roster in the 1931 Bric-a-Brac

 

Can you identify anyone in these films? Add your comments!

For more Commencement videos click here!