Fred Hargadon, Princeton’s dean of admission from 1988 to 2003, died Jan. 15. PAW invited alumni to share their memories of “Dean Fred.” The sampling below includes letters and comments from the print issue as well as additional memories posted online. Add your own comments below.
My first week at Princeton, I introduced myself to Dean Fred and he knew exactly who I was. I was astonished, but that’s simply the way Fred was. It seemed he remembered almost everyone.
More than that, though, Dean Fred paid compassionate attention to life’s details like no one else. Many of those details, of course, included the particulars of students he admitted. And he thoughtfully acted on those details. He kept in touch with students after graduation, sending along encouragement, a witticism, or advice exactly when it was needed. He once trekked to New York City for my very first book signing. He loomed large that night, both literally (indeed, he was very tall) and figuratively (he was a celebrity to many in the crowd). In fact, Dean Fred was the most popular person in the room when he was among Princetonians. Much of it had to do with his irrepressible charm and wit. But perhaps some also wanted a glimpse, however brief, of the promise Fred saw in them.
“Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be deans of admission,” he joked during his 2003 Baccalaureate address. I was in the audience that day and felt very grateful that Fred had grown up to become exactly that — a dean of admission, who contributed so much to the fabric of Princeton. He was a remarkable writer, thinker, adviser, and friend. He never forgot so many of us. And so many of us will never forget him.
Jennifer Kogler Lyman ’03
Fred Hargadon did more than anyone else to change the image of Princeton as an old-boys network. I had the privilege of working with Fred as chair of the national schools committee and appreciated his efforts to admit more women, more minorities, more tuba players, and have a diverse student body. One of my favorite recollections was of his telling me how one West Virginia applicant replied to the question, “What’s your favorite saying?” She wrote, “A Smith & Wesson beats four aces.” Of course, she was admitted. Equally impressive was how Fred stayed in touch with students once they were admitted. He was so much more than a gatekeeper. He was a friend and counselor. Princeton will miss him.
S. Douglas Weil ’58
San Francisco, Calif.
I was deeply saddened to hear of Dean Fred’s death. I will always remember him fondly, as he was a special person. He was also, as many know, a strong supporter of women’s athletics at Princeton, and as an ice hockey player, I felt this support firsthand. He was often in the stands at our sparsely attended games, cheering for us on a cold winter Sunday. I will never forget when, my senior year, he sent my co-captain, Ellie (Griffith) Darnell ’93, and me a valentine that read “Be my valentine — Beat Dartmouth!” Unfortunately, we didn’t beat Dartmouth that year, but we were so touched by his sentiments.
Suzy Dwyer ’93
In September 2001, I was honored to sing a song called “When He Says No” to Dean Fred during Triangle’s Frosh Week show, sLaughterhouse ’05. You can tell from the crowd’s reaction just how much of a rock star he was to us, even as his good nature and sense of humor are also abundantly evident. (He’s in the first half, and then comes back at the end of this clip: youtube.com/watch?v=kLqHUR-z2bk.)
Triangle’s Facebook page said: “Triangle takes a moment to recognize former Dean of Admission Fred Hargadon, who was once game enough to take the stage with the Princeton Triangle Club, as seen here. Though, of course, perhaps his greatest contribution to Triangle was the famous ‘Yes!’ opening to every admission letter, which prompted the Triangle classic of the same name.”
Liz Greenberg ’02
New York, N.Y.
A sad day at Princeton to learn about Fred’s passing, but truly a great man who led life with grace, a sense of humor, infectious energy, and tremendous empathy. He made an indelible mark on Princeton.
Ed Zschau ’86
Menlo Park, Calif.
I had desperately wanted to go to Princeton ever since I was 9 years old, so when I was on campus freshman year, I sought out Dean Hargadon to thank him for changing my life. When I introduced myself, he knew exactly who I was, my home state, and what I did in high school, responding immediately, “Oh, you’re the actress from Texas!” That moment shows how Dean Hargadon truly “knew” each freshman entering every year.
At the end of my freshman year, I wrote Dean Hargadon a thank-you note for accepting me into Princeton. He took the time to write me back with the most personalized note: On my application to Princeton, I had written that my favorite book was by Wislawa Szymborska. In his note, Dean Hargadon mentioned this and included a copy of the speech Ms. Szymborska had given when she had received her Nobel Prize. He thought I might like to read it. I was overwhelmed by the time and care he had shown me, as I know he did with all students.
Ashley Frankson ’03
The following letters were posted online with the March 19, 2014, issue.
April 2, 1994, was the day. This letter is framed for a reason. As others have commented, it’s as if we felt we weren't worthy of a place like Princeton and that he took a “chance on us.” But Dean Fred saw something in each of us that he knew would help contribute to daily life at Princeton and beyond. Dean Fred took a chance on me. It was the singular most transformational moment of my life to date. Thank you, Dean Fred.
My first memory of Fred Hargadon is writing to respectfully decline his offer of admission – to Stanford. I confessed that the hardest thing about that decision was knowing that I would have to tell him. I knew him only from correspondence that was no doubt identical to that of every other admitted student. And yet, he made it seem that he knew me personally.
Years later, when I read in PAW that he would move to Princeton, I was so thrilled that I sat right down and wrote him a letter of welcome. I was interviewing prospective students in Michigan at that time, and I knew that he would make a difference in our ability to enroll our admitted candidates. True to form, he sent a lengthy personal letter of thanks in reply.
As a final chapter in this story, I was having coffee with a colleague at UC Davis when he noted my Princeton key ring. He said that he knew the place well because his parents lived there. At that point my eyes grew wide and I gasped, “Oh Andy, I had no idea that you are that Hargadon! Your dad is a star!”
I wish I had met Dean Hargadon. He is one of the leaders of Princeton, alongside so many others, who have carried the standard for the best of U.S. higher education.
I applied early, was deferred, wait-listed, and then finally admitted. I will never forget the day I received my YES letter. Dean Fred forever changed my life that day. He will be sincerely missed.
Too many fond memories to pick one. I’m forever thankful Fred was there to impact my life, too. Amazing what this great and humble man brought to Princeton.
No one memory to share. Just amazed that he always knew my name whenever I ran into him.
Thanks for the "YES"! ... and for the lifelong friendships from Old Nassau!
Dean Fred was instrumental in building and admitting some fantastic Princeton classes. It’s because of him that I know many of my best friends and have a lifetime’s supply of cherished memories that I can revisit every year at Reunions, and for some of us he was the ultimate matchmaker, as I can trace my upcoming marriage back to two instances of “YES!”. We in the Class of 2007 were his final admitted class, and he liked to tell us we were the best, or at least the best-looking. While I don’t know where I fit into the latter part of that description, I’d like to thank him for taking a chance on me and saying “YES!” to my application. (I’m sure there is a “YES!” sign prominently displayed at the Pearly Gates right now.) Fittingly, his last full day with us was Dean’s Date.
I hope he knew what a life-changer he was, in a truly personal and genuine way. Thanks for taking a chance on me, Dean Fred.