From its opening in September 1907 through the start of classes this year, McCosh Hall has played a significant role in Princeton’s academic life, hosting courses, seminars, precepts, and public events, including talks by Nobel laureates, diplomats, authors, and at least one supermodel.
Designed by Raleigh Gildersleeve, the hall was built as a memorial to James McCosh, Princeton’s president for 20 years in the period after the Civil War. At the time, it was the largest building on campus. McCosh Hall originally held 44 rooms but was extended in the early 1920s, after a fire destroyed nearby Dickinson Hall. Today, McCosh is best known for its large lecture halls, though it also houses faculty in the English department and the Program in American Studies.
In recognition of McCosh’s centenary, PAW has gathered quotes and comments offered to Princeton audiences in the stately hall by notable figures.
“There can be nothing more disruptive of our success in every great area of foreign policy than the impression ... that we are prepared to sacrifice the traditional values of our civilization to our fears rather than defend those values with our faith.”
George F. Kennan ’25, speaking about foreign policy and the McCarthy era, March 1954
“The object of all science, whether natural science or psychology, is to coordinate our experiences and to bring them into a logical system.”
Albert Einstein, in his lectures on relativity, May 1921 (translated from German)
“I say to you that in spite of the fact that I have all the reasons in the world to give up on humanity, I won’t. ... Despair is never an option.”
Elie Wiesel, delivering the Walter E. Edge Lecture, September 2005
“It was like entering a dark mansion. You fumble around in a completely dark room for a couple of years. You bump into the furniture looking for the light switch. When you find it, you move to the next room.”
Mathematics professor Andrew Wiles, on solving Fermat’s Final Theorem, May 1995
“We began to prove about 20 years ago that women can do what men can do. Now it must be demonstrated that men can do what women can do.”
Gloria Steinem, in a speech about feminism and activism, December 1997
“I have yet to find a state constitution that begins, ‘We the some of the people ... .’”
Thurgood Marshall, delivering the Stafford Little Lectures, February 1964
“There is everlasting repetition in human beings. Everything inside of everyone is endlessly different yet endlessly the same ... . The history of everyone is the history of anyone.”
Gertrude Stein, on “The making of the making of Americans,” November 1934