Graduate School, The,

Graduate School, The, was established in 1901, but its antecedents reach back almost to Princeton's beginnings. In colonial times some graduates returned to prepare for the ministry with the College's president. James Madison 1771, who remained at Princeton for six months after his graduation to read under President Witherspoon's guidance, was possibly the first Princetonian to pursue non-theological postgraduate study. He is sometimes called Princeton's first graduate student. Later the number of postgraduate students increased -- there were twenty-three in residence in 182~3 -- but their work was informal and they were not candidates for degrees.

President James McCosh began to lay the groundwork for the later development of the Graduate School shortly after his inauguration in 1868. Under his leadership in the 1870s, new professorships and graduate fellowships were created and systematized programs of study leading to master's and doctor's degrees on examination were adopted. When he retired in 1888, seventy-eight graduate students were enrolled in programs in art and archaeology, astronomy, biology, classics, geology, mathematics, philosophy, and physics.

Although McCosh began the transformation of the College into a university, the change was not formalized until the Sesquicentennial in 1896, when the trustees changed the name of the College of New Jersey to Princeton University. McCosh's successor, President Patton, did little to further a graduate program, and during his administration efforts toward this end were led chiefly by Andrew Fleming West 1874, Giger Professor of Latin. As early as the Sesquicentennial, West began to advocate not only higher priority for graduate studies but also a college to house graduate students. (In the 1890s ``graduate college'' and ``graduate school'' were often used interchangeably, but, as the terms evolved in the following decade, the Graduate College became a place to live, the Graduate School a division of the University's educational program.)

On December 13, 1900, the trustees voted to establish a Graduate School and appointed West as the first dean. After a term's leave of absence, he took up his duties in the fall of 1901, and the Graduate School of Princeton University became a reality.

West worked diligently to achieve two primary goals. He insisted upon a high quality of graduate work in which the student could relate his specialty to more general learning in ``the household of knowledge'' (to use West's phrase). He also sought the creation of the proper setting -- a Graduate College -- to help produce such rounded scholars.

When Woodrow Wilson became president in 1902, he shared some of West's general concerns but not his overwhelming enthusiasm for the Graduate College. Within a few years Wilson turned his efforts toward the preceptorial system and the quad plan, while West (who declined the presidency of M.I.T. in order to complete the Graduate College) devoted most of his considerable energy to seeing the College built.

The experimental ``Graduate House'' at Merwick seemed a hopeful sign of what the Graduate College could become. But financial support was not found until Mrs. Josephine Thomson Swann, who died in 1906, left the University $275,000 for the construction of a graduate college. In April 1908, after two years of debate about the site, the trustees voted to build the College near Prospect.

Wilson wanted the graduate students and undergraduates to live in close proximity, believing that strong mutual intellectual stimulation would result. West wanted the graduate students isolated from the distractions of undergraduate life, and he worked against the Prospect site. in May 1909, William Cooper Procter 1883, one of West's alumni friends, offered Princeton $500,000 for the Graduate College, provided an equal amount was raised from other sources and some site, other than Prospect, selected that would be satisfactory to him.

For a year there was bitter controversy involving the entire university, a controversy over the site and the character of the Graduate College, but one which had its origin in an ongoing rivalry between two strong-willed personalities, President Wilson and Dean West.

Procter favored locating the Graduate College near the golf links, and in October 1909 a majority of the trustees voted to accept his offer and his choice of site, much to Wilson's disappointment. Thereafter, new proposals and counterproposals developed -- at one point Wilson proposed two graduate colleges, one on the main campus (to satisfy what he contended were Mrs. Swann's wishes), and one near the golf course. In February 1910, noting the unfavorable reception it was receiving from the president and his associates, Procter withdrew his offer.

In May 1910, when West was on the verge of resigning as dean, Isaac Chauncey Wyman 1848 died, leaving an estate estimated at over two million dollars (but, it later developed, worth only $794,000), for the Graduate College, to be built as West desired. Procter renewed his offer, and the trustees accepted it. Wilson, turning toward state and national politics, resigned the presidency of Princeton in October 1910. Construction of the Graduate College at the edge of the golf course began in May 1911, and it was formally dedicated on October 22, 1913.

During the twenty-seven years that Dean West administered its affairs, the Graduate School grew steadily. In addition to the fields covered in McCosh's day, graduate programs were now offered also in chemistry, economics, English, German, history, Oriental studies, politics, psychology, and Romance languages, leading to A.M. and Ph.D. degrees and, after 1919, in architecture, leading to the M.F.A. (later to the degree of Master of Architecture or Master of Architecture and Urban Planning).

A further gift from William Cooper Procter in 1927 provided an addition to the Graduate College, called North Court.

West held that excellence could best be attained with a small number of well-qualified graduate students, and enrollment under him never exceeded 200 -- the limit set by the trustees in 1922. In his last report, in 1928, he spoke with pride of the achievements of the School's graduates. At that time, he pointed out, former members of his ``society of scholars'' made up one-fourth of the Princeton faculty and were eagerly sought for academic posts elsewhere; and many others had gained notable positions in the professions, diplomacy, research, and philanthropy.

In the next quarter-century, under West's successors, physicist Augustus Trowbridge (1928 to 1933) and mathematician Luther P. Eisenhart (1933 to 1945), applications for admission rose, particularly in the sciences, stimulated by the creation of the University's Foundation for Scientific Research, and by the outstanding record Princeton Ph.D.'s had made in winning National Research Council fellowships in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. In the Trowbridge years, the trustees raised the enrollment limit to 250, and as demand increased under Dean Eisenhart, almost all of the programs leading to terminal A.M. degrees were eliminated in order to make room for more Ph.D. candidates.

Since then, except in Near Eastern Studies, the A.M. degree has been offered only as an incidental degree, available after completion of a portion of the Ph.D. requirements. (The M.F.A. degree has continued to be offered in art and archaeology and in music, as have appropriate professional degrees at the master's level in architecture, engineering, public affairs, and urban planning.)

Dean Hugh Stott Taylor's administration, from 1945 to 1958, was one of great growth. With the return of veterans after World War II, the trustees removed the limitation on enrollment, which mounted steadily, eventually reaching 660. The large number of married veterans needing accommodations led to the opening of the Butler Tract Project, the Graduate School's first housing for married students. Existing student aid resources were increased by G.I. benefits; by corporate, government, and foundation gifts and grants; and by the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Program, which originated in Princeton. Fifth year programs in engineering, which had been in effect since 1922, but outside Dean West's fold, were incorporated into the Graduate School for the first time, and new doctoral programs were adopted in aeronautical, chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering as well as in architecture, music, religion, and sociology.

Expansion continued in the 1960s under physicist Donald Ross Hamilton, dean from 1958 to 1965, and under biologist Colin S. Pittendrigh, who took over when Hamilton resigned because of ill health. A magnificent gift of $35 million for the Woodrow Wilson School permitted the appointment of additional faculty and a marked increase in the number of graduate students preparing for careers in public and international affairs. In other areas, new Ph.D. programs were begun in anthropology, astrophysics, biochemical sciences, comparative literature, East Asian studies, and statistics, as well as in such interdisciplinary programs as the history and philosophy of science.

Applications for admission increased sharply, and after the successful launching of Sputnik, federal funding for graduate fellowships increased substantially, particularly in science and engineering. Similar aid for students in the humanities and social sciences was provided in a number of ways, notably by the Ford Foundation's liberal financing of the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Program and by federal fellowships provided by the National Defense Education Act. Under a policy of controlled expansion, enrollment under Dean Hamilton reached 1,150. It continued to grow under Dean Pittendrigh, reaching 1,440 before he resigned in 1969 to accept appointment as professor of biology at Stanford.

Increased housing needs were filled, for single students by the construction in 1963 of the Procter and Compton Quadrangles, just west of the original Graduate College, and for a growing number of married students, by the erection in 1966 of the Lawrence Apartments.

The rapid growth of the 1960s, which approached an enrollment of 1,500 by 1969, was followed by a period of consolidation in the early 1970s, made necessary by financial strains on the university and a decline in fellowship support for graduate students available from outside sources. Under physicist Aaron Lemonick, who served as dean of the Graduate School from 1969 until his appointment as dean of the faculty in 1973, and Alvin B. Kernan, Professor of English, who served from 1973 to 1977, enrollment leveled off at about 1,400.

As national demand for well-qualified women and racial minority Ph.D.'s continued to rise, two University decisions in the late 1960s significantly increased their number at Princeton.

The first woman student had been admitted in 1961 under rules that limited admission to those women for whom the Princeton Graduate School offered a practically unique opportunity. This criterion was used until 1968, when admission without regard to sex became the University's policy. Thereafter, the number of women increased steadily, and by 1976 enrollment of women graduate students reached 367.

In the late 1960s a conscious effort was begun to increase the number of blacks and other minority groups enrolled in the graduate school. Less than a decade later, in 1976, there were thirty-eight blacks and 185 members of other minority groups.

In 1977 Nina G. Garsoian, formerly of Columbia University, accepted appointment as professor of Byzantine and Armenian Studies and ninth dean of the Graduate School, the first woman to occupy that position.

In national ratings of graduate programs Princeton has always done very well. Of the twenty-six Princeton departments mentioned in a 1969 American Council of Education study, twenty were ranked among the country's top ten departments in effectiveness of doctoral programs, twelve were among the top three, and two were first. These findings reflect the advantages of the close association of small groups of students with distinguished departmental faculties -- from the beginning one of the great strengths of the Princeton Graduate School.

Minor Myers, Jr.


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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