Category Archives: From the Archives

Today in Princeton history, 1912: Wilson wins!

One hundred years ago today, Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, won the U.S. presidential election, becoming the second Princeton alumnus to earn the nation’s highest office. The next issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, dated Nov. 6, 1912, described the scene on election day:
“The election of Ex-President Woodrow Wilson ’79 to the Presidency of the United States was jubilantly celebrated in Princeton. President Hibben ordered the bell rung and the national flag raised on Nassau Hall, suspended the exercises of the University and made Wednesday a holiday, and sent the following message to the President-elect: ‘In the name of Princeton University I extend to you the congratulations and best wishes of your Alma Mater upon your election to the Presidency of the United States.’ ”
The Nov. 6, 1912, issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly.
Faculty, students, and local alumni awaited election updates in Alexander Hall, and when the telegraphs began to indicate that Wilson’s victory was secure, the undergraduates embarked on a campus parade, first calling on Hibben at Prospect and then marching on to Cleveland Lane, where Wilson and his family were receiving the returns. Wilson greeted his supporters from the front porch, speaking with the professorial eloquence that had served him well on the campaign trail.
“The lesson of this election is a lesson of responsibility,” Wilson said, according to PAW. “I believe that a great cause has triumphed, but a cause can not go forward by the activities of a single man or a single Congress; it must be done by prolonged efforts. I summon you for the rest of your lives to work to set this government forward by the processes of justice, equality, and fairness.”
Wilson’s election earned top billing but shared PAW’s cover with another important event: the Princeton-Harvard football game.

From the Archives: Nassau Hall in the nation’s service

June and July are among the slowest months of the year on Princeton’s campus, with no classes in session and only a scattering of students in the libraries and labs. But in the summer of 1783, the University – then the College of New Jersey – was filled with activity. Anti-government protests by Continental Army veterans in Philadelphia forced Congress to leave the city and reconvene at Princeton’s Nassau Hall, beginning on June 30. In the excerpt below, taken from a 1956 issue of Princeton Alumni Weekly that celebrated the 200th anniversary of Nassau Hall, history professor Thomas J. Wertenbaker explained the building’s brief role as the nation’s capitol.
From the “Nassau Hall Issue” of Princeton Alumni Weekly
Sept. 12, 1956
Historic Events

By Thomas J. Wertenbaker

… As Nassau Hall had been the first capitol of the state of New Jersey, in the summer of 1783 it became the capitol of the United States. As the Revolutionary War drew to a close rumors spread among the Continental troops that they were to be dismissed without receiving their back pay. Congress had been making desperate efforts to raise the money, but it was handicapped by the fact that it was not empowered to levy taxes. Late in June 1783, things took a serious turn, when a body of troops stationed in Philadelphia sent a threatening letter to Congress.
When Congress failed to meet their demands, they marched on the State House, two or three hundred strong, and stationed themselves around the buildings. Some of them went so far as to point their guns at the windows, and several actually laid hands on President Elias Boudinot. Congress was alarmed and deeply incensed at the insult to the authority of the United States. After it had made urgent appeals to the Pennsylvania Council for protection, and that body refused to call out the militia, it decided to move to Princeton.

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From the Archives: Princeton’s masters of March


For college basketball fans, March is a magical time of year, and Princeton could have two reasons to celebrate this month, if both the men’s and women’s basketball teams reach the postseason. In honor of Tiger hoops teams present and past, we flipped through the archives to find PAW covers that celebrated great seasons on the hardwood.

Click any photo below to view as a slide show.

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From the Archives: Jason Garrett ’89 at Princeton

How big of a star was Jason Garrett ’89 in his Princeton days? Well, big enough to land on the cover of the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Garrett, officially named head coach of the Dallas Cowboys Jan. 6, was a focal point of “A Season in Seven Days,” which offered an in-depth look at the week leading up to the Princeton-Yale game in his senior year.
Led by Garrett’s sharp passing, the Tigers beat the Elis in New Haven for the first time in more than two decades. Garrett won the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League’s most valuable player, but Princeton fell short of an Ivy title. A year later, brother Judd Garrett ’90, a star running back, would lead the Tigers to a championship.
Below, read more about Jason Garrett and his teammates from the 1988 team.
From PAW, Dec. 7, 1988
A Season in Seven Days
By David Williamson ’84 
Sunday, November 6
FOR A FEW anxious moments late one recent Saturday afternoon, Princeton’s head football coach, Steve Tosches, saw his worst nightmare come true. His Tigers had a three-touchdown lead over Colgate when Princeton’s star quarterback, Jason Garrett ’89, scrambled around left end on a broken play. In similar straits in the first quarter, Garrett had slipped over to the left sideline and scampered for a sixty-one-yard gain. This time, he turned upfield and was promptly hammered by the Colgate safety. Garrett crumpled to the ground and didn’t get up.
On the Princeton bench, the players and coaches fell silent. Garrett was the team captain and had been the quarterback on every offensive down during the season, so the Tigers would miss him badly if he were seriously injured. Finally, Jason staggered to his feet, weaving like a punch-drunk boxer. The field judge called over to Tosches: “Hey coach, you gotta get him out of here. He got his bell rung pretty good.”
By the time Garrett reached the bench, he was insisting that he was fine, even if he was still a little woozy. “It was a stupid play on my part,” he said later. “I should have slid under the tackle.” Brian Barren ’89, the backup quarterback, replaced Garrett, and the Princeton offense promptly scored on its next drive to push its lead to four touchdowns.

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From the Archives: Remembering F. Scott Fitzgerald ’17

Dec. 21 marks the 70th anniversary of the death of F. Scott Fitzgerald ’17, famed novelist and loyal Princetonian (though, as many readers will recall, not a graduate – he left school as a junior and published This Side of Paradise a few years later, at age 23). Fitzgerald was reading the Princeton Alumni Weekly when he suffered a fatal heart attack at age 44.
F. Scott Fitzgerald ’17 in 1937. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection)

In the months before his death, he had been working sporadically as a Hollywood screenwriter. His literary reputation had gradually dwindled in the 1930s, but the man who famously quipped that “there are no second acts in American life” achieved remarkable posthumous acclaim, thanks in part to fellow alumni like the literary critic Edmund Wilson ’16 and author Arthur Mizener ’30, Fitzgerald’s first biographer.

Fitzgerald is among Princeton’s best known alumni, and by at least one measure, one of the most influential. He’s been featured on PAW’s cover at least twice, and his life and loves continue to fascinate Princeton readers. In 1996, to mark the centennial of his birth, the University hosted a conference that examined his work and an exhibit at Firestone Library, drawn from his papers held in the University’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.  
Fitzgerald’s legacy – or more precisely, the legacy of This Side of Paradise – has not always been regarded with warmth on campus. In a 1966 article, PAW editor John D. Davies ’41 noted that Princeton was still trying to escape the stereotypes that the novel had portrayed and quoted an unnamed admission official who said, “No one will ever know the damage Scott Fitzgerald did when he called this place a country club.” But the administration’s stance seems to have softened in the last half-century. In the Frist Campus Center, there’s even a line about Amory Blaine painted on one of the walls: “It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being.”
To commemorate Fitzgerald, we present his PAW memorial, written by his classmates and published Jan. 27, 1941:
Many of us of the Class of 1917 felt that a bright page of our youth had been torn out and crumpled up when we learned of the death of Scott Fitzgerald, who died of a heart attack in Hollywood, Calif., on December 21. Scott’s whole early career is typified in his very first face to face encounter with the authorities at Princeton. He needed extra points to be admitted to the freshman class, and, on his unconventional plea before the faculty committee that it was his seventeenth birthday, the members of the committee laughed and admitted him.

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From the Archives: Captain Hobey Baker 1914

Captain Hobart A. H. Baker 1914, in a photo from the Jan. 15, 1919, issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Click on any image to view as a slide show.

On Nov. 11, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame will induct Hobey Baker, Class of 1914, a legendary football and hockey star at Princeton. That Baker would be honored on Veterans Day seems appropriate: A World War I fighter pilot, he died in a flying accident the month after the Allies and Germans signed the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice that ended the war.

Baker, a native of Bala-Cynwyd, Pa., was an agile and swift open-field runner on the football field. He also earned acclaim for his kicking skills. But it was in hockey that he truly dazzled, earning a reputation as the greatest player of his era. At the time, hockey was a relatively minor sport on campus, in part because Princeton did not have its own rink. Varsity games were played in New York City.

Baker’s athletic exploits were well known to his contemporaries, but shortly after his death, the Princeton Alumni Weekly took a closer look at his contributions as an aviator with an article written by Maj. Charles Biddle 1911, a flying ace and one of Baker’s former commanders. In it, Biddle describes Baker as “a striking example of the finest that America can produce” – courageous, unselfish, and modest.

The full text of Biddle’s article is included below.

From PAW, Jan. 15, 1919

Captain Hobart Baker’s career in the service

By Maj. Charles J. Biddle 1911

To the many friends of Captain Hobart A. H. Baker 1914 the news from France that he was killed in an accident while flying at the Toul aerodrome on Saturday, December 21st, came as a great shock. With the fighting at an end we had all been hoping to see him home before long, where we could personally do him the honor which he so richly deserved, for no one ever knew Hobey Baker who did not admire him for his many splendid qualities and the work he had done, and love him for the man he was. His death makes us realize more than ever that the great war did not end with the signing of the armistice, nor will it end for many years to come, and we know that our friend has laid down his life for a cause to which his whole heart was devoted, just as surely as though he had gone down in combat on the lines.

After a long and phenomenal career as an athlete at Princeton, Hobey Baker took up flying more than a year before America’s entry into the war, with the idea of fitting himself for the service should the need arise. As might have been expected of probably the best and most successful athlete this country ever produced, he excelled in flying as he had in football and hockey. 

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From the Archives: Football’s Blairstown retreat

Princeton football’s 1967 training camp at Blairstown. (George Peterson ’65/PAW Archives)

On Aug. 25, Princeton football kicked off practice for the 2010 season on campus, at the recently renovated Finney and Campbell fields. But previous generations of Tigers may remember a very different site for August workouts: Blairstown, N.J., near the Delaware Water Gap. The secluded retreat hosted football’s preseason practices from 1949 to 1972, when new coach Bob Casciola ’58 decided to work out on campus to accommodate a larger roster and provide indoor options on rainy days. In 1967, a few years before Blairstown’s final football camp, PAW featured the training locale in the photo essay reprinted below.

From 1949 to 1972, Blairstown served as the football team’s secluded training retreat.

From PAW, Nov. 14, 1967

A Blairstown Portfolio

Photographed by George Peterson ’65

The Princeton Summer Camp is located three miles north of Blairstown, New Jersey, not far from the Delaware Water Gap. The Camp is owned by Princeton’s Student Christian Association and financed, independent of the University, by charity.

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From the Archives: The women’s track trifecta

When the Ivy League’s track and field teams compete at the Outdoor Heptagonals May 8-9 at Princeton’s Weaver Track, the Tiger women will be aiming for a rare trifecta — Ivy titles in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track in the same academic year. The last — and only — women’s team to accomplish that feat also ran for Princeton, in 1980-81. Below, PAW looks back in the archives for its account of that remarkable team, which, like this year’s squad, was coached by Peter Farrell. Farrell, now in his 33rd season, enters the weekend with 24 Ivy track or cross country championships, eight in each season.

Fans of Ivy track and field history also may be interested in Brett Hoover’s story about the 1970 Heps, contested during the tumultuous days following the American invasion of Cambodia and the shootings at Kent State University.
From PAW, May 18, 1981

Women’s Track: Ahead of the Pack

By Mark J. Sherman ’83

Much like the people charged with delivering the daily mail, it seems that nothing can keep the swift-footed members of the women’s track team from completing their appointed rounds, way ahead of their competition. Head Coach Peter Farrell’s squad handily defeated two opponents in dual meets, easily won the Ivy meet, and qualified a couple of runners for the national championships.

If this all sounds familiar, it should. In three years as a varsity sport, the team has taken the Ivies all three times. And earlier this year, the Tigers won the first running of the indoor Ivy championships as well as the Ivy cross country title.

But Farrell refuses to rest on his laurels. He is, in his own estimation, one of the few Ivy women’s coaches to recruit actively. The annual influx of talented runners has given Princeton substantial depth, enough to make up for the loss through injury of two key performers this spring. Middle-distance runner Eve Thompson ’82 sat out the entire outdoor season, and hurdler Sari Chang ’84 missed the Ivies, but their teammates kept the Tigers well represented in the score sheets. “We could afford a couple of problem spots here and there, because the trademark of this team is balanced scoring,” says Coach Farrell.

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Princeton’s first Earth Day


The May 5, 1970, PAW featured an unusual sight on the cover: Nassau Street, closed to traffic “for the first time in memory.” Students and townspeople wandered on the road and rode bicycles April 19, kicking off Princeton’s first Earth Day celebration. Princetonians will be back on the street Saturday, April 24, for Communiversity, Princeton’s annual town-gown festival. Below, PAW’s coverage of the Earth Week events in 1970.

From PAW, May 5, 1970

The University: Earth Day

Earth Day, April 22, was only part of Earth Week at Princeton. On Sunday, April 19, students and townspeople gathered in front of Nassau Hall and spread out for litter clean-up marches in various parts of the campus and community. Two hours later, the debris was dumped near the PJ&B railroad station.

There was also a memorial service for the internal combustion engine, a band concert, and exhibition of 100 wooden panels on which Princeton artists depicted aspects of the environmental crisis. For two hours, Nassau Street was closed to traffic while the crowd sang “This Land is Your Land,” handed out “polluter” awards, watched tricycle races, and looked at displays of “eco-pornography.”

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PAW turns 110

FirstPAWcover-thumbApril 7 marks the 110th anniversary of PAW’s first issue, pictured at right, and to celebrate, The Weekly Blog flipped through the 14 pages that launched our magazine.

By linking alumni with the University, The Princeton Alumni Weekly aimed to serve both constituencies, as the first editors wrote:

“The only way for colleges to test their work is to raise their heads occasionally from academic introspection, and look about in the world of men. Perhaps they have been doing well by their sons; if so, it is good to know it. Peradventure wrongly; it is better to know that.”

The content that interested alumni then is not altogether different from what interests PAW’s readers today. One of the magazine’s top priorities was to report on endowments and finances, including rates of return for the last 20 years — details that previously had not been made public. The first issue highlighted campus events, including a pair of lectures by former U.S. President Grover Cleveland, then a Princeton resident.

Class news and obituaries held a prominent place in the second half of the magazine. One example, from the Class of 1896 column: “Gordon Johnston, formerly of the Rough Riders, is now a lieutenant of the 43rd Regiment, serving in the Philippines. … Lieut. Johnston distinguished himself for bravery by putting to rout with a small band over a thousand armed Filipinos after a hard day’s work in saving a town from a fire started by the enemy.”

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From the Archives: Princeton’s 1975 NIT title


March 23 marks the 35th anniversary of one of Princeton’s brightest basketball moments — the men’s team’s victory over Providence in the championship game of the 1975 National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Led by captains Armond Hill ’85 and Mickey Steuerer ’76, Princeton went 18-8 in the regular season and won its last nine games, but Penn won the Ivy League, earning a spot to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers accepted an NIT bid, and while the Quakers made a first-round exit in the NCAAs, coach Pete Carril’s team continued its winning streak, building a following with each successive trip to New York. The championship run was a crowning achievement for Tim van Blommesteyn ’75, left, and Brien O’Neill ’75, who appeared on PAW’s April 15, 1975, cover. Below, read Dan White ’65’s account of Princeton’s improbable postseason.

From PAW, April 15, 1975

‘The Smart Shall Take from the Strong’

Princeton wins the National Invitation Tournament

By Dan White ’65

It was the most unlikely finish of the past decade. Originally picked to win less than half of its games, Princeton’s basketball team went undefeated against its last 13 opponents and captured the National Invitation Tournament championship. In becoming the first Ivy school ever to win a post-season tourney, it triumphed over Holy Cross, South Carolina, Oregon, and Providence. Princeton’s winning streak, currently the longest of any major college, propelled it to 12th place in the national rankings of the Associated Press.

Yet what will be remembered about this season is not so much a single victory (like the upset of South Carolina), or brilliant play (Tim van Blommesteyn racing downcourt with a stolen ball), or frustrating loss (Brown edging Princeton out of the Ivy lead), as the euphoria that caught up everyone, university and town alike, in the end.

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Top five most-commented stories of 2009

i-ed760e23f75ec2a84bb110ee3db59e02-2009.jpgProviding more opportunities for alumni to comment on stories and letters was one significant goal of PAW’s 2008 Web site redesign, and in the last year, a growing number of readers weighed in online. Below are links to the five items that drew the most comments.

1. Princeton’s feminization (May 13)

When an alumnus bemoaned the loss of the “distinct masculine flavor of an all-male college,” readers roundly rejected his lament. But there was one issue up for debate: whether or not PAW should have published the letter.

2. The envelope, please … (March 4)

Our Web feature spotlighting award-winning Princetonians on the screen, stage, and television drew an enthusiastic response — and nominations of a few alumni we’d missed.

3. The cosmic apocalypse (Feb. 11)

This feature story about research of the Big Bang attracted thoughtful replies.

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Top five PAW features of 2009

i-ed760e23f75ec2a84bb110ee3db59e02-2009.jpgThe following stories ranked at the top of PAW’s Web traffic statistics in 2009.

1. Inventing the future, by Joel Achenbach ’82

i-ded881e150adb756b0c95f9e16d1174c-012809.pngNathan Myhrvold *83 has one of the premier résumés of the digital age. He didn’t merely work in software; he founded Microsoft Research and spent 13 years as an all-purpose sage and eccentric genius at the side of Bill Gates.

He didn’t merely study physics and math; he studied them at Princeton, where the physics and math faculties are among the best in the world — and then he flew off to Cambridge for some tutelage at the feet of Stephen Hawking.

He doesn’t merely like to cook: He’s a master chef (and has worked in one of Seattle’s best restaurants) who once won a barbecue contest in Memphis. He doesn’t just take pictures: He’s an award-winning wildlife photographer. … (Jan. 28)

2. Mrs. Obama goes to Washington, by Peter Slevin ’78

i-179a701f73c00590412118a27f956e64-031809.pngIt was Inauguration Day. The 44th president had just taken the oath of office, and his brother-in-law, Craig Robinson ’83, was checking out his sister’s new digs, better known as the White House. A staff member, one of 93 who work for the first family, gave Robinson and his wife, Kelly, a tour that took them to the Truman Balcony, overlooking the South Lawn and the Washington Monument beyond.

“We took in the view and the history. My wife and I were just shaking our heads,” Robinson says. “When you grow up in a place that’s one-bedroom, one-bath, you’re not thinking at any point, ‘My sister’s going to live in the White House,’ or ‘My mother’s going to live in the White House.’ “

Live there they do, completing an improbable journey that took Michelle Obama ’85, the daughter of a city utility worker, from a small walkup in South Shore on Chicago’s South Side to the heart of American political power. … (March 18)

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Conrad ’53, Princeton’s man on the moon


Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53 unfurls an American flag during his Nov. 19, 1969, moonwalk. (Courtesy NASA)

On Nov. 19, 1969, Apollo 12 astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53 departed his landing craft and stepped onto the surface of the moon, becoming the third person — and the only Princetonian — to do so. His first words on the moon included an ecstatic tip of the cap to his more staid (and taller) colleague, Neil Armstrong. “Whoopee!” Conrad said, according to The New York Times. “Man, that may have been a small one for Neil but that’s a long one for me.”

The photo at right shows Conrad planting the American flag during the moonwalk. He also carried the flag of his alma mater, and today, 40 years after that memorable stroll, that Princeton flag resides in the University Archives.

Conrad, who died in 1999 after sustaining injuries in a motorcycle accident, was a devoted aviator and engineering student as an undergraduate. After graduation, he became a Navy test pilot and later an astronaut trainee. He was known for his sense of humor, according to the profile below, which was first published shortly after Apollo 12’s safe return.

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Where it all began: Princeton vs. Rutgers

i-1f9d037aa16dacac7abb6212e3236179-princeton1883.jpg i-b6d2be89bed5d801cc4540a543c768e5-rutgers.jpg

Princeton’s 1883 squad, left, notched the Tigers’ 10th straight win over Rutgers in a 61-0 blowout. The Scarlet Knights would gain the upper hand in the 1970s. At right, a statue in New Brunswick commemorates the first game. (Photos: Athletics at Princeton: A History; courtesy

College football was born in New Jersey, 140 years ago today, when a team from Princeton traveled to New Brunswick to challenge Rutgers. The rules from that first contest differ greatly from those used today. Each team fielded 25 players who advanced the ball by kicking it or batting it with their hands (catching the ball was permitted, but running with it was not). The home team won, 6-4. Princeton topped Rutgers in a rematch one week later, the season’s only other game.

In a span of 111 years, the Tigers and Scarlet Knights played 71 times. While Princeton had a 53-17-1 record in the series, Rutgers dominated the later years, winning nine of the last 13 games. In 1980, PAW covered the final installment in football’s oldest rivalry. See story below.

From PAW, Oct. 20, 1980

Going Separate Ways

Rutgers 44, Princeton 13

By Martin E. Robins ’64

If the Brown game was a fork in the road, then the last game in the Rutgers series was a freeway interchange where the Scarlet Knights were jockeying for a spot in the fast lane, while the Tigers were exiting to the slower pace of secondary highways. Outdistancing Princeton 44-13, Rutgers ran up the highest point total and widest victory margin it has ever enjoyed in the 111-year history of college football’s oldest rivalry. In so doing, it vindicated Nassau Hall’s decision to let the two teams go their separate ways.

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From the Archives: Moving in, 1994


They’re back: A new school year begins, 1994

Finding a place to rest amidst the hustle and bustle of student move-in day can be a challenge. Ashley Hall ’95’s peaceful repose in September 1994 caught the attention of PAW, which featured her on its Oct. 12, 1994, cover. (Hall, a caption explained, was working at the booth of the Student Futon Agency.)

As the Class of 1998 arrived on campus, the top news was the proportion of freshman women — 47.5 percent of the class, then a Princeton record. See story below.


From PAW, Oct. 12, 1994

University greets Class of ’98

In the 25th year of coeducation, a record number of first-year women

Princeton began its 25th year as a coeducational institution last month by greeting a freshman class with the highest proportion of women ever. Some 47.5 percent of the Class of 1998, which numbers 1,158, is female; if prospective engineering students are removed from the count, women are a 51.2 percent majority.

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From the Archives: Palmer Stadium


Princeton football practice kicks off this week, and in September, Princeton Stadium will begin its 12th year as the team’s home. But the familiar venue still has a long way to go to match the history of its predecessor, Palmer Stadium, the Tigers’ legendary lair from 1914 to 1994.

Just before the start of the 1974 football season, Palmer’s 60th anniversary year, PAW contributor Dan White ’65 took a look back at the stadium’s construction and its enduring charm. See story below.

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Sotomayor in PAW

More about Sonia Sotomayor ’76

Our brief look at the Supreme Court nominee’s appearances in the Princeton Alumni Weekly includes a story from the July 15, 2009, issue, additional comments from alumni who knew her well at Princeton, and three pieces from the archives: the 1976 Pyne Prize announcement, a 1995 profile, and the 2001 presentation of Sotomayor’s honorary degree.

(Photo: Office of Communications, Princeton University)

Sotomayor ’76 recalled as activist for Latino causes at Princeton (PAW, July 15, 2009)

Federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor ’76, nominated May 26 for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, excelled academically at Princeton while advocating to increase the number of Latino faculty and students.

She graduated summa cum laude as a history major, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and was a co-winner of the Pyne Prize. Her thesis dealt with modern Puerto Rican history.

William G. Bowen *58, who became Princeton’s president the year Sotomayor arrived at the University, told The New Yorker that he remembered her as “remarkably mature” and that she “worked very purposefully, but always constructively, to take a good place and make it better.”

Sotomayor was a founder of the Latino Student Organization and a member of the Third World Center’s governing board, and helped organize Latino students as volunteers to provide Spanish-speaking skills at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. She became co-chairwoman of a student group called Acción Puertorriquena, and was among a group of Puerto Rican and Chicano students who filed a 1974 complaint with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare charging the University with “an institutional pattern of discrimination.”

In videotaped remarks from an early 1990s conference on women in the judiciary, Sotomayor described herself as “a product of affirmative action … My test scores were not comparable to my colleagues at Princeton and Yale [where she went to law school and was editor of the law journal]. Not so far off so that I wasn’t able to succeed at those institutions.” She told the New York Daily News that Princeton was the “single most growing event of my life.”

Sergio Sotolongo ’77, who knew Sotomayor both in high school and at Princeton, described her as a “deep thinker, extremely focused” and added: “Clearly, she identified herself as a Latina and was active on a number of political issues on campus.” She would be “a terrific justice,” he said.

The daughter of parents from Puerto Rico, Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx, N.Y. She was nominated as a federal judge in 1991, and in 1997 was nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Princeton in 2001 for her “wisdom and judgment that cross cultural boundaries.” She became a University trustee in 2007.

If confirmed to succeed Justice David Souter, she would become the first Hispanic justice and the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She would become the second Princeton graduate on the current court and the 11th overall. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. ’72 joined the court Jan. 31, 2006. By W. Raymond Ollwerther ’71

Recalling Sotomayor ’76 at Princeton (PAW online, July 15, 2009)

PAW invited two alumni who knew Sonia Sotomayor ’76 well during their years at Princeton to write about their experiences working with her and to comment on media portrayals of her since her nomination to the Supreme Court. Here are their responses.

Sergio Sotolongo ’77:

We attended the same high school, Cardinal Spellman High School, located in the Bronx. Sonia was one year ahead of me. While in high school, we participated on the debate and public speaking team as well as the student government. Sonia also was instrumental in my decision to attend Princeton, as we spoke about the relative merits of the school and I drew on her experiences as a freshman in guiding my decision to attend Princeton. While at Princeton we spoke frequently on a number of issues, including course work, professors, current political issues, etc. We were both members of the Third World Center.

Sonia is extremely focused and was very studious. She would spend a fair amount of time in Firestone. At the same time, she possesses a strong sense of herself and a pleasant disposition. Clearly, she identified herself as a Latina and was active on a number of political issues on campus. I would also describe her as a person who is a deep thinker and analyzes various parts of a problem before reacting.

There are a number of people who don’t know Sonia and would not want her named to the Supreme Court. In my estimation, she would make a terrific justice. I would offer the following reasons:

– She has a stellar resume and has proved that she possess the intellectual capacity to excel.

– She possesses more experience as an appellate judge than other justices in the current court.

– As an appellate judge, she has had fewer decisions overturned by the Supreme Court as compared with the current court.

Clearly, her appointment would be historic, and she would serve the country well.


Joseph B. Schubert ’74:

Recent contacts have been limited, but when we overlapped at Princeton, our contact was frequent — similar circles of friends, academic interests, and goals. My closest friend at Princeton was Margarita Rosa ’74, one of the first Puerto Rican women at Princeton, who also became a lawyer in New York City and remains a close friend of Sonia’s and mine.

At Princeton, Sonia was at first seemingly meek, quiet, and brainy. All of us knew early on that she was driven. Part of the drive stemmed from a need to prove that she was equal to those from privileged backgrounds. Sonia could not only “keep up,” she beat them at their own game by excelling beyond students of all backgrounds. I’ll never forget how proud we felt when we were invited back to Princeton to witness the conferring of the Pyne Prize — vindicating the hopes of all of us with similar backgrounds who knew we were just as talented and could, if given the chance, become leaders of the next generation.

Yet Sonia’s was a compassionate and sensitive ambition. I never saw her take advantage of a person or a situation to advance herself personally at the expense of the particular cause she was advocating. No one knew that she was working on the HEW complaint, for example, until it was polished to her high standards. Then she set out to convince the rest of us of its merits. Many students felt a complaint with an outside party was the wrong tactic at the wrong time. But Sonia slowly convinced other student leaders — it would be a visible and political statement, and would enable us to gain some political leverage in bargaining with the administration. The skeptics were dead wrong. Not only were there immediate results — a student-initiated seminar on Puerto Rican history and intensified efforts to recruit Latino faculty and administrators, for example — but the long-term results are still being felt today. Now it is a given that Princeton has Latino role models at all levels of faculty, administration, and student body. In addition to reflecting the country’s own diversity, Princeton has gained valuable recruiting tools and is a more hospitable place for what will soon be the nation’s largest minority group.

Sonia could easily have tried to “blend in” at Princeton as many minority students do today, but for her that was never an option. As one of the first Puerto Rican women at Princeton and Yale Law School, she never forgot her roots or her community and always turned that unique perspective into an asset. She knew she would be a role model as a “first” in many fields and that she had to be deliberative and careful in what would be a highly public life. Yet she never trumpeted her successes, even those that brought about significant change at Princeton and the larger community.

I saw her in New York two weeks ago and the years haven’t changed her — her first words were to inquire about my partner’s recent death and wishing that she could have reached out more when he died. She remains as I fondly remember her — a warm, generous-hearted, and idealistic person — qualities that will be an asset to the nation as she serves on its highest court.

How that reaction compares with the ways she has been portrayed since her nomination:

I’ll briefly address three – Sonia is a radical, Sonia is outside the mainstream, and she is not “brainy” enough.

The notion of Sonia as a wild-eyed radical with an “activist” agenda is laughable. Radicals were certainly at Princeton — those who bombed ROTC and IDA, those who engaged in violent protests, those who disrupted conferences and took over buildings. She and most others were too practical to use such tactics and, frankly, knew they would produce backlash. She and others knew that the changes she sought had to be incremental and permanent, and pressure could be just as effective if it was planned, rational, and consensus-building. Thoughtful commentators who have reviewed her 17 years of judicial decisions have been unable to establish a hard-right or hard-left agenda.

Sonia is solidly within the mainstream, and particularly the American mainstream of the 21st century. The next 20 years will see a majority-minority nation, based on demographic projections. How can a nation govern itself effectively if its leaders don’t reflect its population? The right-wing fringe is using its tiresome weapon, fear, to try to hold back the tide, including using grossly exaggerated rhetoric from her speeches and pointing to her membership in civil-rights advocacy organizations. Americans, particularly Latinos, know the truth. The speeches and her memberships place her solidly in the middle of the current American populace, and, if anything, on the cautious, deliberative, and careful side of the Latino spectrum. We have too much to lose were that not the case.

Sonia isn’t brainy enough? The only record that matters on this score is her 17 years of judicial opinions. One legal colleague who went to law school in New York said that there were only two judges on the Second Circuit he studied whom he could count on to have cogent, well-reasoned opinions that were widely respected — those of Sonia and Kimba Wood.

Summa cum laude and Pyne Prize at Princeton, editor of the Yale Law Journal, appointed and confirmed twice to the federal bench by a skeptical and at times hostile Congress — if those don’t constitute intellectual gravitas in America today, and if any of these concerns prevent her confirmation, then the nation has much greater problems than ideology or race. It has problems with its soul.

Alumni Day: Awards Presentations (PAW, March 8, 1976)

The highlight of the luncheon was the presentation of the university’s four top alumni and undergraduate awards. This year’s Woodrow Wilson Prize went to George F. Kennan ’25. The James Madison Medal, honoring an outstanding alumnus of the Graduate School, was given to Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster *50, the former Supreme Commander of NATO and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has served
every president since Eisenhower. Goodpaster holds three degrees from Princeton: a M.S. in engineering, a M.A. in politics, and a Ph.D. in international relations. …

The M. Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, the university’s highest undergraduate award, was divided between Sonia Maria Sotomayor ’76 of the Bronx, New York, and J. David Germany ’76 of Mansfield, Ohio. Sotomayor, a history major who has earned almost all A’s her last two years, has been particularly active in improving the quality of campus life for minority students. She has served on the student-faculty Discipline Committee, on the governing board of the Third World Center, and as a founder of the Latino Student Organization. In accepting the prize, she said:

“The people I represent are diverse in their opinions, cultures, and experiences. However, we are united by a common bond. We are attempting to exist distinctly within the rich Princeton tradition without the tension of having our identities constantly challenged and without the frustrations of isolation. . . . The challenge to both myself and to Princeton is to go beyond simple recognition. I hope today also marks the beginning of a new era for all of us — a new era in which Princeton’s traditions can be further enriched by being broadened to accommodate and harmonize with the beat of those of us who march to different drummers.”

Germany, who has earned 21 A+’s and 9 A’s at Princeton, has had the unusual distinction of being enlisted by the economics department to teach in one of its upperclass courses. He has also served as editor-in-chief of the Nassau Herald, co-director of the Campus Fund Drive, and as the Undergraduate Parking Administrator — adjudicating appeals of campus parking violations. He is active in intramural athletics and spent parts of his summers backpacking in the High Sierras. In his acceptance speech, he remarked:

“The Princeton I have experienced is a direct reflection of the interests and concerns of her alumni, and if I have done well here, it is because of the environment I have so enjoyed. . . . No matter what your interests are, there always seems to be somebody who is willing to guide you along in your work. . . and this flexibility is the means by which people as different in background and goals as Sonia and myself can simultaneously find Princeton rewarding.”

Sonia Sotomayor ’76 rescues America’s pastime (PAW, May 10, 1995)

Talk about Princeton in the nation’s service. On March 31st, Sonia Sotomayor ’76, a federal judge on the United States District Court in Manhattan, issued an injunction against the owners of major-league baseball teams, enjoining them from unilaterally imposing contract terms to govern the 1995 baseball season. Thanks to this ruling, the players ended their strike, the owners accepted the players’ offer to return to work, and “America’s pastime” is underway again, after a painful, 234-day hiatus.

Sotomayor’s commitment to community and public service stretches further than the national pastime. In an interview with Princeton Today this winter, Sotomayor credited Princeton with stimulating her interest in public service. “At Princeton. . . the size of the institution makes it possible to really get involved,” she said. “You’re paid attention to at Princeton, and you have a sense of having a positive impact.”

[Sotomayor, who has been inundated with requests for interviews since the baseball decision, said that as much as she loves Princeton, in fairness to the many other requests she has had for interviews, she would have to decline PAW’s request as well.]

Sotomayor, the Southern District of New York’s youngest judge (she is forty) and the first who is an American of Puerto Rican descent, grew up in a Bronx housing project and went to local Catholic schools. Her parents were from Puerto Rico — her father, who spoke only Spanish, died when she was nine. Sotomayor has said her mother “had almost a fanatical emphasis on education.”

At Princeton, she majored in history and received nearly all A’s in her last two years. Her academic achievement was equaled by her efforts on behalf of minority students. She was a founder of the Latino Student Organization and sat on the Third World Center’s governing board. She also organized Latino students as volunteers at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital to provide needed Spanish-speaking skills, and served on the student-faculty discipline committee. “Invovement in my community is a very important ingredient in my life,” she told Princeton Today.

In her senior year, Sotomayor was a cowinner (with classmate J. David Germany) of the M. Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, Princeton’s highest undergraduate award. At the award ceremony on Alumni Day, she spoke about minority students at Princeton, who she noted are diverse in their opinions, cultures, and experiences, but are united by the common bond of the university.

“We are attempting to exist distinctly within the rich Princeton tradition, without the tension of having our identities constantly challenged and without the frustrations of isolation,” she said. “The challenge to both myself and to Princeton is to go beyond simple recognition. I hope today also marks the beginning of a new era for all of us — a new era in which Princeton’s traditions can be further enriched by being broadened to accommodate and harmonize with the beat of those of us who march to different drummers.”

After Princeton came Yale Law School, where she edited the Yale Law Journal. According to the Washington Post, during Sotomayor’s third year, a partner at a large Washington, D.C., law firm asked her some discriminatory questions, and she filed a formal complaint. The firm subsequently issued an apology.

After law school, she worked for five years as an assistant district attorney in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. In 1984, she joined Pavia & Harcourt, where she specialized in commercial litigation, counting among her clients Ferrari and Fendi. She was made a partner in 1988.

Sotomayor also continued her community activities with pro bono work. From 1980 to 1992, she served on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. She was appointed by the mayor as a founding member of the New York City Campaign Public Finance Board, which distributes public money for municipal election campaigns. She also sat on the board of the State of New York Mortgage Agency, which helps provide mortgage-insurance coverage to low-income housing and AIDS hospices.

U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recommended Sotomayor to President Bush for appointment to a judgeship on the Manhattan district court, and on October 2nd, 1992, she was sworn in. A week before the ceremony, Sotomayor told The New York Times what she expected to see on the bench: “95 percent of the cases before most judges are fairly mundane. The cases that shake the world don’t come along every day.”

Yet, when the fate of America’s game arrived in her courtroom, Sotomayor handled it with aplomb. In a typically down-to-earth opening remark, she said, “I hope that none of you assumed that my lack of knowledge of any of the intimate details of your dispute meant that I was not a baseball fan. You can’t grow up in the South Bronx without knowing about baseball.”

— Robin L. Michaelson ’89

Honorary Degree Recipients (PAW, July 4, 2001)

Kevin Gover ’78, Doctor of Laws

Attorney specializing in federal law relating to Indians and Indian tribal law

As an undergraduate, Gover marched on campus with placards drawing attention to the plight of the American Indian. Later, as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior, he oversaw the operations of the bureau’s programs, including those related to recognition, trust assets, self-determination, water rights, tribal courts, and education.


Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee, Doctor of Fine Arts

Filmmaker, actor, and writer

Lee’s films have been praised for intelligently and sensitively capturing relationships in American society, among African Americans and between African Americans and whites. His work shows that silence about racial or personal differences is divisive, and that communication, even about painful issues, can build a united nation.


Aaron Lemonick *54, Doctor of Science

Professor of physics, emeritus, Princeton University

In 1961, Lemonick came to Princeton as an associate professor in physics and as associate director of the Princeton-Pennsylvania Accelerator. He became dean of the Graduate School in 1969, and in 1973 he was named dean of the faculty, a position he held until 1989. He is a winner of the President’s Distinguished Teaching Award. More recently, he has helped local elementary school teachers develop creative methods to teach science.


Jane Lubchenco, Doctor of Science

Environmental scientist and marine ecologist, Oregon State University

Lubchenco has gained an international reputation for her efforts to increase understanding of the natural dynamics of the Earth’s ecosystems. Called a visionary leader in the international scientific community, she has been one of the most influential voices for science and science policy in our nation and the world.


William Felton Russell, Doctor of Humanities

Former professional basketball player and a member of the board of the National Mentoring Partnership

As a basketball star for the Boston Celtics, Russell revolutionized the role of defense in basketball. Elected an NBA All-Star 11 times, five-time winner of the Most Valuable Player Award, he has also gained recognition for his successful efforts to break racial barriers in sports and win equality for African Americans. He was the first African American to coach a major league professional team.


Courtland D. Perkins, Doctor of Science

Professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, emeritus, Princeton University

Perkins joined the faculty in 1945 to head up a fledgling program in flight test engineering and stayed until he retired in 1978. His pioneering text on aircraft stability and control laid the groundwork for scientifically testing the limits of flight in air and space. As engineer, teacher, administrator, and adviser, he has inspired students who have advanced the frontiers of knowledge, captained the aerospace industry, and planted Princeton’s flag on the moon.


Sonia Sotomayor ’76, Doctor of Laws

Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

In 1992, after a decade as an attorney, Sotomayor was appointed district judge for the Southern District of New York. In 1998 she moved to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Her decisions include a 1995 injunction that ended an impasse between baseball owners and players, a reinterpretation of copyright law in the context of new media, and rulings in favor of public access to private information and in defense of religious freedom.

Howard C. Baskerville 1907

An American hero in Iran


April 20, 2009, marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Howard C. Baskerville, Class of 1907, a fact briefly noted on the op-ed page of Saturday’s New York Times. Baskerville, a teacher and aspiring theologian, went to northern Iran after college to teach in a school run by Presbyterian missionaries. While there, he became increasingly sympathetic with students who fought in favor of the constitutionalist government, and eventually he joined the cause. Leading 150 troops in defense of Tabriz, the city where he taught, Baskerville was shot and killed by a sniper. He became a martyr in the town and remains revered by many.

In a May 2007 PAW story, Mark Bernstein ’83 described Baskerville’s gravesite:

Set in a small walled courtyard amid apricot and almond trees, the grave is a plain stone sarcophagus carved with the martyr’s name — Howard Baskerville, a member of Princeton’s Class of 1907 — and the dates of his birth (April 13, 1885) and death (April 20, 1909). A hundred years ago, the site, in the city of Tabriz, was a cemetery and hospital grounds for Presbyterian missionaries. Whoever once carefully tended to Howard Baskerville’s grave, and his alone, with fresh flowers, no longer does so. The Armenian man who lives in the adjoining house built the wall in part to discourage pilgrims, but Tabrizis still can direct a visitor to the site.
That it is the grave of an American and a Princetonian makes the place remarkable. That it is the grave of a martyr to constitutional liberty, and that it is still honored in the heart of a nation whose government is hostile to the United States and many of its values, makes it more remarkable still.

To read more of Baskerville’s story, click here.