From the PAW Archives

On Alumni Day a century ago — Feb. 21 1920 — President John Grier Hibben 1882 expressed to alumni both great thankfulness and relief: After a period of “dire need,” the University’s endowment fund had reached more than $5.5 million, reducing the financial anxiety of the war years. But while the day delivered the hope of prosperity in the era to come, it also included a solemn remembrance of peers who lost their lives in war.

The Memorial Atrium, then known as the War Memorial Room, was dedicated in Nassau Hall at the end of the day. Speaking before alumni, faculty, and family members of those lost in service, President Hibben emphasized the gravity of the sacrifices that the honored dead had made. “Their alma mater can never forget her heroic sons who through their death have brought her a new glory,” he said. “Their work is finished, ours is hardly begun. The vision of the new world, that better order of things for which they died, is yet unrealized.”  

Read more in PAW’s full coverage of Alumni Day 1920, below.

A rendering of the Memorial Hall, 1919
PAW, June 18, 1919

Alumni Day, Feb. 21, 1920

(From the Feb. 25, 1920, issue of PAW)

The observance of Alumni Day on the 21st was signalized by the announcement that the Endowment Fund had reached $5,510,000 — an increase of almost half a million dollars for the preceding week. The tables we are printing in this issue show total subscriptions of $5,358,741.36 up to February 20th, but additional reports received during the exercises of Alumni Day brought the Fund past the five-and-a half-million mark. The encouraging progress of the Fund, together with the Frick bequest, led President Hibben to say, in the course of his address at the alumni luncheon, that it was the first time during his administration that he had spoken to a body of Princeton men without a feeling of anxiety with regard to Princeton’s immediate future.


Read more Rally ’Round the Cannon: The Virtues of the Rear-View Mirror

The very full and interesting programme for Alumni Day brought back an unusually large number of graduates, and all the meetings were well attended, The programme began with the graduation exercises of the members of the Classes of 1918 and 1919 who had returned from service in the World War and completed their academic courses. Eighty-four of these war veterans had qualified for graduation, and it was singularly appropriate that they should have received their degrees on the day on which the anniversary of the birth of Washington was celebrated, and in the Hall of the Continental Congress (now the Faculty Room) in Nassau Hall — the very room in which the hero of the Revolution received the thanks of the Congress for his leadership in the establishment of American independence. The hall was crowded with faculty, alumni and guests. After the academic procession, headed by the trustees, had entered, the exercises consisted of President Hibben’s address to the war veterans, which we publish in this issue; the conferring of the degrees by the President, a brief valedictory by Captain Edward Dickinson McDougal, Jr., ’18, A.E.F., of the Graduating Class, prayer by President Hibben, and the singing of “Old Nassau” by the assemblage. These unique graduation ceremonies symbolized the pride Princeton takes in the splendid record of her sons in the World War.


Then followed immediately the alumni meeting in the same historic surroundings. Chairman Ambrose G. Todd ’84 of the Graduate Council presided and called on Chairman Henry B. Thompson ’77 and several of the Regional Chairmen for reports on the progress of the Endowment Campaign. In the course of his report Chairman Thompson said:

“We began this campaign five months ago here in Princeton and I think that we have every reason to congratulate ourselves on the results to date. Up to last night we had received $5,358,741.36 from 2,822 of our alumni, which means an average subscription of $1,898. This is evidence of a most splendid spirit of loyalty and sacrifice on the part of those who have contributed. We have every reason to feel that our work can be carried through to a successful conclusion when we realize that we have still 8,ooo of our alumni who have not yet responded to the call. The theory of our campaign is a subscription from every alumnus, and to prove that this is possible I will quote a telegram received from the district of Delaware: ‘Every Princeton man in Delaware has subscribed, graduate or non-graduate.’ If our chairmen can live up in degree to this standard, the success of our campaign is assured.”


Reports were also made by Chairman M. Taylor Pyne ’77 of the New York District, Malcolm Lloyd, Jr., ’94 for Philadelphia, Chairman Robert Garrett ’97 for Maryland, O. de G. Vanderbilt ’06 for Cincinnati, Colonel James Barnes ’91 for Texas, Chairman J. Lionberger Davis ’00 for St. Louis, Vice-Chairman John Stuart ’00 for Chicago, Lawrence C. Woods ’91 for Pittsburgh, and Chairman John O.H. Pitney ’81 for New Jersey. Parker D. Handy ’79, Treasurer of the Endowment Fund, reported that so far he had received $2,000,000 in cash and securities.


On the basis of the day’s reports from the regional representatives, Chairman Thompson made a rapid revision of the week’s contributions and announced that the Endowment Fund had reached a total of $5,510,000. The Chairman also announced that the had received a subscription of $25,0000 from Alfred T. Baker ’85 as a memorial to his son, Captain Hobart A. H. Baker ’14. The town of Princeton, he said, had subscribed $66,000, of which $22,000 had come from members of the University faculty. Also, the Chairman reported that 100 per cent of the graduate students of the University had subscribed to the Fund.


At the alumni luncheon in Madison Hall there was but one speech, that by President Hibben, in which he spoke particularly of the gratifying progress of the University, and expressed his deep appreciation of the generosity of the alumni in coming to the relief of Princeton in her time of dire need. Following the luncheon the alumni had the pleasure of seeing Princeton defeat Yale in basketball.


The day’s exercises culminated in the dedication of the War Memorial Room in Nassau Hall. In addition to the alumni, trustees and faculty, members of the families of many of Princeton’s honored dead were present, and the Hall of the Continental Congress and the War Memorial Room were crowded. President Hibben presided and the dedicatory address was delivered by Colonel Franklin D’Olier ’98, Commander of the American Legion. His remarks, and those also of President Hibben, appear on this page. The families of the Princeton men who died in service then assembled in the Memorial Room, where during the day two large American flags had covered the four tablets devoted to the World War. The flags were now removed, revealing the names of Princeton’s honored dead. The audience bowed their heads in a minute of devotional silence, simultaneously with the same tribute the alumni throughout the country were paying to their fallen comrades. President Hibben offered prayer and the impressive ceremony closed with the singing of “Old Nassau.”


Following the memorial service, the alumni and their families and the faculty and their families were received by President and Mrs. Hibben at “Prospect,” and the day’s programme was completed with the dinner in Madison Hall, at which the guests were entertained by the Glee Club and the Triangle Club Orchestra, and the Graduate Council’s comprehensive moving picture of Princeton campus life, which was greatly enjoyed.


Address by Colonel D’Olier at the Dedication of the Princeton War Memorial

Our fallen comrades, whose supreme sacrifice we commemorate here today, in their life and in their death, proved faithful and true to the real Princeton spirit.

While dwelling upon that solemn moment when these, our brothers in arms. answered the last call of our country, let us not forget the daily duty loyally and willingly performed during the weary weeks and long months which went before. Here was the great good they did and the way they died proved their faithfulness day by day in unselfish service to their country while they lived.

We who served with them as soldiers and sailors, but who were not called upon to make the last sacrifice, realize fully what they have done for our country, and nothing we can say can add any glory to what they have done.

How greatly we appreciate their sacrifice will not be shown by what we say today, but rather by what we do tomorrow for this country they died to serve.

It is less than a year since we have been out of the military service of our country, and yet we already realize that unselfish service to our country during peace times is frequently harder than during the excitement and exaltation of war, and so many of us think that because this war is won, our service is no longer needed.

And yet if this great Nation of ours is to be worth while, and progress year by year, we who remain must keep faith with those who have gone before, our Princeton brothers who so gladly gave their all not only in 1917, but also during the Revolution, the Civil War and the Spanish War as well.

These are days of great readjustments in all phases of our Nation's life. There never was a time when there was such need for men of homely virtues, men who think clearly, play fairly, and work hard, and who will dedicate at least a part of their time and thought each day to unselfish service to their country. It is not the man who talks of faults and wrongs who helps progress, but it is rather he who sees them and immediately does his bit quietly to correct them. To the latter goes, as all of us who were in the service know, that great inward satisfaction which comes from unselfish service faithfully performed.

And as we think of these, our fallen Princeton soldiers, it is most appropriate that we now who are civilians once more, should pledge ourselves to give new strength and life to this great Princeton spirit, by each day serving unselfishly our country, according to our abilities and opportunities.

And what more fitting place for such a pledge, at such a moment, than this very hall, Old North, where the Princeton Spirit was born, and which is hallowed with the memories of the Father of our Country, who first fought as a soldier that our country might be free, and then worked as a civilian to give us these very institutions, which we, civilians once more, now dedicate ourselves to protect and develop, by means of the homely virtues of clear thinking, fair play, and an honest day’s work.


President Hibben’s Address at the Dedication of the Memorial Hall

The building in which we gather today, Nassau Hall, is for all Princeton men the cherished symbol of our Princeton life. It embodies for us all that we associate in our thoughts and feelings with the name of Princeton, memories of the past, the ideas which give color and value to life, and those deeper sentiments of our being which can never be adequately expressed in words. And now that we are about to dedicate a room at the very heart of this building to our comrades who died in the World War, the place will become more than ever a shrine, which throughout all time men will approach in a spirit of awe and reverence mingled with a deep sense of gratitude to our noble Princeton dead, who for our sakes and in our stead bravely gave their lives in the hour of their country’s and the world’s need.

In dedicating this Hall today to the memory of those brave men, we name them in our hearts with solemn pride as we recall them one by one through the long Roll of Honor. They are now a part of our great possession, the precious heritage of every Princeton man. Their Alma Mater can never forget her heroic sons who through their death have brought her a new glory. And yet no one of us has a right to exult in that glory who is not willing, in this solemn hour, to dedicate himself anew to the holy cause in defense of which these our brothers were found ready to die. Their work is finished, ours is hardly begun. The vision of the new World, that better order of things for which they died, is yet unrealized. To make that vision a reality is our duty, and we cannot ignore it and keep faith with the dead.

Above the tablets bearing the names of the one hundred and forty-six Princeton men who died in the World War there is this inscription: Memoria Aeterna Retinet Alma Mater Pro Patria Animas Ponentes.

The glory of the past must not fade and grow dim, it must live anew in every present. Therefore let us renew our vows and once again swear allegiance to those ideals which are the glory of Princeton’s past and the promise and hope of her future, and thus hold her sons who have gone “in eternal memory.”