On May 10, 1991, President George H.W. Bush came to Princeton’s campus to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and dedicate the University’s Social Science Complex. This $20 million dollar project included the newly constructed Bendheim and Fisher Halls, as well as a renovation of Corwin Hall. This Reel Mudd blog post includes video of both of these events, along with other scenes related to the President’s visit.
In this short video from around 1983, President Bowen discusses Wu Hall, the then-new dining facility for Butler College. The video highlights three elements that played increasingly significant roles in shaping Princeton over the following decades: the support of alumnus Gordon Wu, the residential colleges system, and the architecture of alumnus Robert Venturi.
The Support of Gordon Wu ’58
The Vision of William Bowen *58
“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.
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.”
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.
As 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.
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).
Today’s post is written by Rev. Frederick Borsch ’57, former Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel 1981-1988.
Or, since lore had it that alumnus and plutocrat Harvey Firestone had donated a goodly part of the over two million dollars for building the Chapel, it was also “Firestone’s Folly.” We heard that this sobriquet had been given by earlier critics who would have preferred that the money be used for laboratories, libraries and faculty salaries. At the time, however, President Hibben had acclaimed the Chapel as Princeton’s two million dollar witness against materialism!
Ernest Gordon became the Chapel’s Dean in 1955. He was “earnest” all right (a little joke of ours), but what a change he brought to the worship with his Scot’s burr, his energetic faith and dramatic story of conversion to Christianity during his four years in a miserable Japanese concentration camp. A handsome man with a certain winsomeness about him (still seen in the film), he invited Billy Graham to campus for what was in affect a mission to undergraduates.
Later Gordon would twice invite (over a number of protests) Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Chapel’s pulpit and preside over the Chapel during the civil rights movement, then a memorial service for Dr. King, turmoil and protests over the Vietnam War–some of these gatherings taking place in the Chapel. As part of all that, a measure of interest in religion grew, but not necessarily in formal church-going. By 1964 all Chapel requirements had finally been dropped as the University became still more secular in outlook and at the same time more diverse in terms of religions. I had to wonder if Dean Gordon did not wince to himself when, at the end of the film, he commented on how important the Chapel was for undergraduates although far fewer were coming to his Sunday morning services than in earlier years.
Truth in blogging: in 1981 I succeeded Ernest Gordon as Dean, and one can read something more about his ministry, the Chapel and the times in my forthcoming Keeping Faith at Princeton: A Brief History of Religious Pluralism at Princeton and Other Universities (Princeton University Press, 2011).
–Frederick Borsch ‘57
Robertson Hall, the building that currently houses the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (WWSPIA) has been featured in two newsreels: the “Princeton newsreel” of 1961, announcing the, at the time anonymous, $35 million gift of Charles S. Robertson ’26 and his wife, Marie; and the 1966 newsreel about President Lyndon Johnson’s visit to dedicate the building. This post features the building that originally housed the Woodrow Wilson School: Corwin Hall, erected in 1951 and originally known as “Wilson Hall,” which had to be moved 100 feet to make way for the new WWSPIA facility.
The spectacular move of the building to its present site between Wallace and Robertson Hall was recorded via time lapse filming on an 8mm camera by Lawrence l. Rauch *49, who donated the footage to the Princeton University Archives. The engineering feat was accomplished by the New York firm of Spencer, White, and Prentiss, using hydraulic jacks to push the building along twelve steel tracks. The actual moving took only twelve hours but two months were needed to prepare for it and another three months to secure the building to its new foundation.
When Robertson Hall was completed in 1965, Wilson Hall was re-assigned to one of WWSPIA’s chief allies, the Department of Politics, and to the Center of International Studies. Its name was changed to Corwin Hall, in honor of Edward S. Corwin, the first chairman of the Department of Politics and the long-time holder of the McCormick Professorship of Jurisprudence, the professorship originally held by Woodrow Wilson.
This 8mm film, a gift from Lawrence L. Rauch *49, is part of the Princeton University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1980). Adapted from the post by John DeLooper in Mudd Manuscript Library’s Blog with excerpts from Alexander Leitch A Princeton Companion (Princeton University Press, 1978).
During the $53 Million Campaign (1959-1962) a 13 x 10 foot scale model of the Princeton campus toured 19 major cities and displayed at meetings of the regional leaders of the fund drive. To keep Princeton alumni further informed about progress and developments on campus, the Alumni Council sponsored two “Princeton Newsreels” in 1960 and 1961. The two 30-minute films are interesting to watch, not only because they feature new facilities, achievements in sports and science, and notable events (from Hurricane Donna in 1960 to the donation of $35 million for the Woodrow Wilson School in 1961), but because they also document the University’s first attempts to reach out to its donor base through the medium of film. Contrasting the two films, one cannot help but note that the second film is much smoother in its presentation than the first.
The first newsreel opens with an introduction by the 41 year-old president Robert F. Goheen ’40, and a freshmen lecture about the honor system by Walker Stevenson ’35, president of the National Alumni Association (1:30). The scale model of the campus, mentioned above, is featured at 6:41, when administrative vice-president Edgar M. Gemmell ’34 explains the expansions planned for the next three years. The footage following captures the Hibben and Magie faculty apartments under construction (6:41) as well as the five new dormitories of the New Quad (Class of 1937, Class of 1938, Class of 1939, Dodge-Osborn, and Gauss Halls), the first buildings to be finished since the start of the $53 Million Campaign (7:27).
After last week’s film about living and learning at Princeton in 1962, it is interesting to watch “A Walk in the Springtime,” created only twelve years later. The film features the legendary Frederic C. Fox, ’39, whose love and knowledge of Princeton’s history and lore made him the first and only Keeper of Princetoniana in 1976. Helped by his classmate Sandy Maxwell ’39 and Arthur (Buz) Schmidt ’74 (“He looks like a radical but he is only just the son of a classmate” 0:18) Fox reaches out to the many alumni who were uncomfortable with the rapidly changing face of campus.
As with other colleges, the civil rights movement and American involvement in Vietnam had sparked political activism at Princeton, including student demand to be part of campus governance. In addition, the traditionally all-male primarily white, Protestant, private-school educated student body had diversified. Of particular concern for conservative alumni was the introduction of coeducation in 1969. In the film Fox, Maxwell, and Schmidt, take viewers on a tour, with the aim to show that although some things have changed much is still the same.
The film opens with Freddie Fox in front of Nassau Hall’s two bronze tigers, pointing out that one is male and the other female (1:25). After a brief visit to Firestone Library, Fox, Maxwell, and Schmidt sing Princeton songs at the piano in Prospect (8:38). The last part of the film, shot from the top floor of Fine Hall (11:56), contains extensive shots of the old and new buildings on campus.
Outtakes are shown below. Frederic C. Fox died in 1981 at age 63.
These Umatic UC-30 videos are part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (items no. 0516 and 0528).