Graduate Alumni Records
Held at: Princeton University Library: University Archives [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: University Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The earliest form of organized graduate education at Princeton began when President James Carnahan announced the establishment of a Law School in 1846, which awarded its last degree in 1852. Graduate work in a formal sense emerged at Princeton in the 1870s when President James McCosh added new faculty and graduate fellowships. The introduction of graduate work in the sciences came with the opening of the John C. Green School of Science in 1873, offering both masters and doctoral degrees.
Princeton's Graduate School, established officially by the Trustees in late 1900, began its operations in the fall of 1901. The School's first dean, Andrew Fleming West, sought to improve the quality of education by insisting on high entrance and academic standards and by creating what he believed to be the proper residential setting, a Graduate College, where the students would learn from one another. Merwick, located on Bayard Lane and provided by benefactor Moses Taylor Pyne in 1905, served as the first residence for graduate students. It housed twelve to fifteen students and served as a dining facility and center of recreation.
Upon her death in 1906, Josephine Thomson Swann, the first benefactor of the Graduate School, bequeathed $275,000 to Princeton for the construction of a Graduate College in her late husband's name. This money allowed Dean West and President Woodrow Wilson to formulate plans for the Graduate School, but controversy came with the building of the Graduate College, which would replace Merwick as a residence for students. West proposed that the College be remotely located, away from the distractions of undergraduate life, while Wilson favored a site near Prospect House. William Cooper Procter, Class of 1883, who contributed funds for what would become Procter Hall, strongly campaigned for the site near the golf links. He offered $500,000 toward the Graduate College, but found Wilson's choice for the site unsuitable and made his offer conditional "upon further understanding that some other site be chosen, which shall be satisfactory to me." Wilson refused to accept a gift upon such terms, and held tightly to his belief that West could not succeed in his plan to locate the Graduate College at the golf links, away from the "existing life of the University." Although Wilson had the support of the faculty and a majority of the trustees, Procter still insisted on his conditions.
After weighing the options, Howard Crosby Butler, the first Master-in-Residence of the Graduate College, agreed with West that a Graduate College apart from the undergraduates was wise based on his "practical experience with the group of graduate students at Merwick." Isaac Chauncey Wyman, Class of 1848, who came to side with Dean West and William Cooper Procter, left the bulk of his estate, initially estimated at two million dollars, to the Graduate College, and it was this that ultimately settled the question of its location. In his report to the trustees, Wilson finally accepted West's plan for the location and acceded to Procter's conditions. Once the site controversy was settled, architect Ralph Adams Cram, the "high priest" of American Collegiate Gothic, designed the College as a complex consisting of a quadrangle, the Pyne Memorial Tower for the residence of the Master of the College, and the great hall, Procter Hall, which became known for its stained glass windows, carved timber ceiling, and pipe organ. A "collegiate" lifestyle developed at the Graduate College, with recreation, lectures, and meals together in Procter Hall. The Graduate College provided graduate students with a communal life outside of the classrooms and laboratories.
World War I radically changed the character of the nascent Graduate School as students left for war service, and the Graduate College was leased to the military for training naval officers. Until 1922, the Graduate School had limited its enrollment to 200 degree candidates. Several departments, such as history, English, and chemistry, felt increased pressure to admit students beyond the 1922 quotas. By 1932, under Dean Augustus Trowbridge (1928-1933), enrollment was raised to 250, but it was not until the administration of Dean Hugh Stott Taylor (1945-1958), that the upper limit was finally removed. With increased research funds in math and sciences came assistantships for students. By World War II, Dean Luther Eisenhart (1933-1945), who had come on board during the Depression, had given the Graduate School a new sense of mission and increased claim to excellence. He changed doctoral regulations, redefined master's degrees, and created scholarships.
As World War II wound down and enrollment began strongly increasing again, the Graduate School faced a housing crisis, especially for married students. Married veterans and their families moved into what were at one time army barracks, the Butler Apartments, on Harrison Street. The shape of graduate education in the postwar years became a major interest, and Dean Taylor oversaw the postwar expansion of the Graduate School. He added new doctoral programs and brought alumni more fully into the University family through the creation of the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni. The establishment of the Forrestal Campus in 1951, which included the Plasma Physics Laboratory and a particle accelerator, helped cement Princeton's reputation as a world-class institution in the study of physics
Under Dean Donald Hamilton (1958-1965), the enrollment of the Graduate School continued to increase steadily. The fellowship budget grew, as did the number of interdisciplinary programs. Princeton admitted its first woman graduate student as a special case in 1961, and in 1968 the Graduate School's doors were officially opened to women. Throughout the 1960s, the recruitment of minorities, especially African Americans, grew. Toward the end of the 1960s, with the global political climate changing, Princeton, like other graduate schools, felt increasing pressure to admit more students from other nations.
After weathering Vietnam War protests in the 1970s, the Graduate School faced further problems with funding, particularly in the humanities. Budget cuts served to reshape the Graduate School's demography, financing, programs, and morale through to the early 1990s. Steady growth throughout the latter part of the decade, however, can be attributed to doctoral students remaining enrolled in extended programs in order to conduct sophisticated research, acquire foreign languages and study in foreign countries, among other things. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Graduate School saw more specialties in academic departments and the establishment of focused research institutes and centers, as well as a strong exchange program with peer institutions.
The records consist of the academic files of former graduate students of Princeton University. The information contained in each file varies greatly but can include grades cards, Graduate School applications, a photograph of the student, letters of recommendation, as well as biographical information, lists of achievements, news clippings, and obituaries. A limited number of files have been digitized to facilitate access and are available in the Digitized Files Series.
Graduate Alumni Records are transferred to the University Archives on an annual basis.
Graduate Alumni Records, 1839-1899.
Graduate Alumni Records, 1900-1929.
Graduate Alumni Records, 1930-1959.
Graduate Alumni Records, 1960-1989.
Graduate Alumni Records, 1990-2008.
The Digitized Files Series contains select Graduate Alumni Files that were digitized to facilitate access. They are available in PDF format. Researchers are responsible for meeting the technical requirements needed to access these materials, including any and all hardware and software.
This collection was updated by Lynn Durgin in 2015.
No materials are separated in the processing of Graduate Alumni Records.
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Materials in this collection are subject to the terms of the University Archives Access Policy. Student Academic Files are restricted during the lifetime of the student.
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