Last spring, after seeing our cover photo of the bronze memorial star outside the dorm room once occupied by fallen World War II hero Alexander Bonnyman Jr. ’32, a reader asked about the history of the stars. We oblige:
The tradition of placing stars on the window ledges of alumni who died in service was begun by the Society of the Claw, created in 1912 by the Class of 1894. Members pledged to attend reunions for at least five years; to mark that commitment, each man received a tiger claw mounted in silver as a watch charm.
In 1919, Claw member L. Irving Reichner 1894 proposed the stars to honor 132 alumni lost in World War I. Led by George Wintringer 1894, group members raised the $400 needed.
The facilities department has placed stars to remember alumni who died in later wars. Stars outside rooms in Upper Pyne and Reunion Hall, both razed in the 1960s, were moved to West College. When renovation eliminated rooms in some dorms, project manager Steve Virostko searched through floor plans to identify other windows in the buildings that would be appropriate for the stars.
In May 1941, when an alumnus voiced his disapproval of campus sentiment against U.S. intervention in World War II, asking rhetorically whether the stars had been removed, the Prince responded in an editorial. The stars “are more than ever a part of the Princeton campus,” it said, for they call on all to approach the question of war “from all angles, to weigh tolerantly every available bit of information, to consider all conflicting opinions, and to take into account every conceivable consequence which a decision, either way, might entail.”
— Marilyn H. Marks *86