Princeton’s memorial service for President Wilson was held on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 24, in Alexander Hall, and was largely attended by members of the university community and residents of the town. Governor Silzer, President ex-officio of the Board of Trustees, presided, and the service opened with the singing of Veni Creator Spiritus by the University Choir. Memorial addresses were made by President Hibben, the Rev. Dr. Melancthon W. Jacobus ’77 of the Board of Trustees, and Dr. Robert Bridges ’79. Resolutions on the death of President Wilson which had been adopted by the University Faculty were read by Dean Fine, the Choir sang an anthem, Dr. Theodore W. Hunt ’65 offered prayer, the audience joined in singing “America,” and the service closed with the benediction by President Hibben. The memorial address by President Hibben was as follows:

This service in memory of Woodrow Wilson we propose to devote particularly to the period of his life which was passed in Princeton. His public services to the state, to the nation and to the world will be commemorated on many other occasions; but here it is fitting that the University, pausing in her busy activities, should bear record of her debt of obligation to her distinguished son.

Our thoughts today instinctively revert to a past which to many of you may seem very remote but to those of us who are older not so far away. It is a past intimately associated with the name and personality of Woodrow Wilson, in his undergraduate days, later as Professor of Jurisprudence, and President of the University. I wish to express myself personally, as well as on behalf of the University, our grateful appreciation of his contributions of enduring value to the life of the place, to which he generously gave of his thought and energies as scholar, teacher, and administrator.

In the year 1890 Woodrow Wilson became a member of our Faculty. The Faculty of those old days was composed of two groups; the one, the older members, had been our instructors in our undergraduate years; the other, the younger members, had been for the most part closely associated in the common life of the Princeton Campus. There was a scholarly community of interests, of purposes and ambitions. Knowledge beckoned to us in the way; “understanding put forth her voice, and wisdom was heard crying at the gates and at the coming in at the doors.” When Woodrow Wilson joined this group of his former comrades and friends he brought with him the spirit of a compelling passion for the things of the mind. With fervor and enthusiasm he set himself to his academic task. The potential power latent in the undergraduate body appealed forcibly tohis imagination and he determined to devote all of his powers to quicken in their mind the love of learning and a sense of responsibility for the full realization of their possibilities. In his contact with the students of the University he showed superior skill as a teacher. The teaching function was never regarded by him as drudgery but rather as an adventure, constantly challenging his best endeavor. Given his power of lucid exposition, his wide range of intellectual interests, his knowledge of the beauty and the power of the English tongue, of which he was complete master, add to this the charm of his brilliant personality, and we have the component elements of the ideal teacher. Many generations of college undergraduates came under his spell, and freely gave him the respect and affection which he naturally provoked.

In the councils of the Faculty he early took a prominent part, championing the progressive movements of those days, ever looking forward to the Princeton that was to be rather than to the Princeton that was. In his intercourse with his colleagues, particularly with the members of the Faculty younger than himself, his sympathetic interest, his helpful suggestions concerning their work, and his rare gift of imparting to others a belief in themselves, proved a quickening influence still gratefully remembered.

In addition to the exacting demands of the classroom, which he never slighted nor shirked, and his labors as a member of many committees of the Faculty, he gave hours each day of unremitting toil to the pursuit of his own scholarly studies and writing. His industry was unflagging. He allowed nothing to interfere with the accomplishment of the work he each day set for himself, - neither weariness, nor indisposition, nor anxieties, nor the many temptations which come to every man to slacken his pace in the hot pursuit of what may seem to the tired spirit unattainable things.

At that time his reputation as an author was established not only in this country but abroad. His literary achievements were notable, he was in great demand as a lecturer on literary subjects and on public affairs. I have often thought that this period was possibly the happiest of his life. He had found his footing and there was in his mind a sense of security regarding the fruition of his scholarly ambitions, and there was also, I doubt not, a prophetic intimation within the depths of his being of the larger future of activity looming big before him. It was a time, moreover, in which he enjoyed a freedom from the heavy responsibilities and cares which were to come to him in his later years.

His record as a teacher, the distinguished place which he had won in the world of letters, his position as natural leader in the deliberations of the Faculty, and his intimate knowledge of administrative details, gained through his laborious activities on university committees, made him the natural choice of the Board of Trustees for the presidency of the University upon the resignation of Doctor Patton in the year 1902.

In his inaugural address President Wilson spoke upon a theme which had been in his mind for years, “Princeton for the Nation’s Service.” His conception of the great objective of education was the training of the youth of our land for useful citizenship, and this was to be his fundamental educational policy as President. I would quote the following characteristic paragraph from this address:

“I have studied the history of America; I have seen her grow great in the paths of liberty and of progress by following after great ideals. Every concrete thing that she has done has seemed to rise out of some abstract principle, some vision of the mind. Her greatest victories have been the victories of peace and of humanity. And in days quiet and troubled alike Princeton has stood for the nation’s service, to produce men and patriots. Her national tradition began with John Witherspoon, the master, and James Madison, the pupil, and has not been broken until this day. I do not know what the friends of this sound and tested foundation may have in store to build upon it; but whatever they add shall be added in that spirit, and with that conception of duty. There is no better way to build up learning and increase power. A new age is before us, in which, it would seem, we must lead the world. No doubt we shall set it an example unprecedented not only in the magnitude and telling perfection of our industries and arts but also in the splendid scale and studied detail of our university establishments: the spirit of the age will lift us to every great enterprise. But the ancient spirit of sound learning will also rule us; we shall demonstrate in our lecture rooms again and again, with increasing volume of proof, the old principles that have made us free and great ; reading men shall read here the chastened thoughts that have kept us young and shall make us pure; the school of learning shall be the school of memory and of ideal hope: and the men who spring from our loins shall take their lineage from the founders of the republic.”

The most conspicuous of Woodrow Wilson’s contributions to the university during his presidency were the reorganization of the college discipline, the revision of the curriculum, the inauguration of the preceptorial method of instruction, and the strengthening of the personnel of the Faculty. There was a new insistence that our students should respect and in their studies and conduct endeavor to conform to the intellectual and moral standards of the University. The administration of discipline was placed in the hands of Dean Fine and was consistently and rigorously maintained. In the year 1904 there was established, with the cooperation of President Wilson, the so-called Senior Society, from which there developed later the Senior Council, and this marked the beginnings of student self-government in the University.

During the first year of his presidency Mr. Wilson took up with the Faculty Committee on the Course of Study the difficult task of the thorough revision of the curriculum. The course of study was simplified; studies were arranged in natural sequence, which afforded a progressive development from freshman to senior year. And a system of elections was devised, by means of which opportunities for particular concentration of effort in junior and senior years were given to the students, at the same time granting them that liberty of choice in their electives which avoided too narrow specialization. The teaching staff at this time was reinforced by the addition of a number of eminent scholars, called to Princeton not only from universities in our own country but from abroad.

It is with the inauguration of the preceptorial method of instruction, however, that Woodrow Wilson’s name will be particularly associated, - a method designed to afford opportunity for intimate contact between the undergraduate and his preceptor in conferences of small groups of five to seven men, and thus to stimulate the desire and habit of independent reading and research and the exercise of a discriminating judgment.

This undertaking was a bold adventure on the part of Princeton. In the inauguration of this new policy Mr. Wilson showed the courage and persistence which throughout his life so conspicuously characterized his nature. There were added to the Faculty at one time some fifty new members to take part in this preceptorial work. The new plan and policies attracted the attention of the educational world and all looked upon the new experiment with interests many possibly with doubtful misgivings; but the experimental stage was soon passed and its marked success demonstrated its value for the University and secured for it a permanent place in our method of instruction. At the close of the first five years of this system President Wilson, in his report to the Board of Trustees, described its essential features as follows:

“It is outside the fields of drill, formal training, and occasional explanation that the preceptorial system has its proper application and its most noticeable and admirable results. In the reading subjects, and after the elements of a great subject have been mastered, it serves to bring out by its intimate and informal processes all the most natural and fruitful methods of study; serves as a means of teaching men how to read and think for themselves, how to approach great subjects, not like boys, but like men; throws lads as they grow more thoughtful into close association with men who are older and more mature and whose studies have touched them with an enthusiasm for the subjects they are teaching; makes for independence, maturity, and intellectual development. This is what we have desired and what we are accomplishing. This is the preceptorial work proper, to which other, earlier processes are fundamental and preparatory.”

It is interesting to note that these words of Mr. Wilson’s most adequately represent the great objective which we have set before us in the new course of study inaugurated this year. This present effort of ours is the logical development and complement of the preceptorial system; and its successful operation we trust will tend to strengthen and reinforce the preceptorial method of instruction. The Princeton of the past we have not left behind us but we are taking it with us into the present and into the future. The labors of Woodrow Wilson as Professor and as president are not to be regarded as complete achievements, relegated wholly to the past; they still live in the spirit of our endeavor and will continue to live in the Princeton tradition which must always command our loyal support and enthusiasm.

I feel that I cannot more fittingly close this address than by recalling to your thought the vision which Woodrow Wilson had of the ideal university. For him it was a dream constantly before his mind, and yet a dream which he believed might one day come true, and that Princeton might prove to be its bright realization. It is a dream for us today as well, a vision to inform our purposes, to direct our energies and quicken our spirits. However strenuous our effort, it is true that without vision we must perish.

In his notable address at the Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1896, marking the transition for the old College of New Jersey to the new Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson reviewed our early history and the careers of the men who in that day made Princeton great, dwelling upon the rich heritage of the past, and then turning his face to the future, and this was his dream:

“I have had sight of the perfect place of learning in my thought; a free place, and a various, where no man could be and not know with how great a destiny knowledge had come into the world, - itself a little world; but not perplexed; living with a singleness of aim not known without the home of sagacious men, hard-headed and with a will to know, debaters of the world’s questions every day and used to the rough ways of democracy; and yet a place removed, - calm Science seated there, recluse, ascetic, like a nun, not knowing that the world passes, not caring, if the ruth but come in answer to her prayer; and Literature, walking within her open doors, in quiet chambers, with men of olden times, stories walls about her, and calm voices infinitely sweet; here ’magic casements, opening on the foam of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn;’ to which you may withdraw and use your youth for pleasure; there windows open straight upon the street, where many stand and talk, intent upon the world of men and business. A place where ideals are kept in heart, in an air they can breathe; but no fool’s paradise. A place wherein to learn the truth about the past and hold debate about the affairs of the present, with knowledge and without passion; like the world in having all men’s life at heart, a place for men and all that concerns them but unlike the world in its self possession, its thorough way of talk, its care to know more than the moment brings to light; slow to take excitement; its air pure and wholesome with a breath of faith; every eye within it bright in the clear day and quick to look toward heaven for the confirmation of its hope. Who shall show us the way to this place?”

This was originally published in the February 27, 1924 issue of PAW.