It was the spring of 1970, and the campus was still in an uproar about the United States’ recent incursion into Cambodian territory during the Vietnam War. Only a few months earlier, I had received a low (i.e., bad) number in the “draft lottery,” and had just made the difficult decision to enroll in Army ROTC. At the time, there was much talk about kicking Army ROTC off Princeton’s campus.
It was in this context that I happened to pass President Goheen as he was crossing Cannon Green, and I decided to engage him in what the State Department would describe as a “frank and candid discussion.” After getting his attention, I succinctly (and recklessly) stated that if he kicked Army ROTC off campus, I would sue both him and the University. A bit taken aback by such temerity on the part of a mere 19-year-old, he asked my name. When I told him, he responded, “Oh, you’re Rollo Frye [’43]'s son — that explains it!”— and nonchalantly walked on.
I was completely nonplussed, and never did figure out whether he was complimenting or dissing either me or my father. I later came to appreciate how perfect his response really was — leaving his potential adversary standing open-mouthed and speechless in the middle of Cannon Green.
Browsing Letters 2007-2008