Woodrow Wilson

Princeton in the Nation's Service


We have this man to thank for the Ivy League, and for insistence on academic standards for which Princeton University is known today. Some say he was driven and cold, others that he was charming and self-confident. He made his initial marks as a polictical scientist, historian, and writer; today he is better remembered for his political career.

A house tour could be given of all the places this man lived in Princeton, which include two residences on Library Place. His first name was Thomas, but he dropped it in his early adult years.

Born in Virginia, he came north to attend the southernmost of northern universities, Princeton, and served as managing editor of The Daily Princetonian while here. He returned again, as a professor, and was considered one of the most popular on campus. It was during this time that he coined the phrase "Princeton in the Nation's Service, " in a speech at the sesquicentennial celebration.

Son of a Presbyterian minister, he was the first of the University's presidents to not be a clergyman himself. He appointed the first Jewish and Roman Catholic professors to the University, which had started out and remained in his time a strongly Presbyterian college.

It was his mission to elevate the intellectual life on campus; to do so he increased the faculty in one year by 50 percent, but in other areas he was less successful. He tried to close the eating clubs on Prospect Street and met resistance from alumni he could not overcome.

His opposition to the location of the Graduate College was overrun by a dean who could muster the dollars needed to put it where it is today. After the Graduate College controversy, it has been speculated that he was near being asked to resign.

He did resign, but went from university president to an even higher office - Governor of New Jersey. He resigned that position, too, to become a president of the United States. Princeton has a street dedicated to his name. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated a University building and school in his honor. The building is sometimes known as "God's bicycle rack."


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