"My Scotch-Irish temper got the better of me, and I told him that Princeton did not follow in the footsteps of any university, but beat her own trail as she saw fit, and that if he didn’t like the way we did things, he could withdraw his son, and send him to the rival school. That is the way I feel about it, and that is the policy of Princeton." - President Woodrow Wilson ’79

President Wilson ’79 was the guest of honor at the thirty-second annual dinner and reunion of the Princeton Alumni Association of the District of Columbia and Southern States, held at the New Willard Hotel in Washington on March 27th. Over sixty alumni and guests were present and it was a very successful reunion. The President’s address was received with great enthusiasm and the Washington papers gave it a good deal of space and favorable comment.

Professor Henry E. Davis, LL. D., ’76 was the toastmaster. Mr. Frazier D. Head responded for Yale, the Hon. J. K. Richards for Harvard, and there were speeches by Professor G. L. Raymond, Blair Lee ’80, Herman M. Suter ’99, Gilbert W. Kelly ’01 and others. The other guests included Professor John Grier Hibben ’82, Arthur A. Brownlee ’89, Messrs. W. J. Dwyer and William C. Fox f Yale; Maj, Joseph M. Heller, Mr. J. S. Flannery, Mr. William Hitz, Mr. Rudolph Kauffmann, Mr. H. C. McLean and Mr. George W. Rea.

The old and new songs were sung with rollicking spirit, and Wallace D. McLean ’96, the Secretary, had prepared some more verses for the presidential parody on “Mr. Dooley.” Here are a couple of them:

You can not find his equal as a teacher of he law,

In all his batch of writings you can never find a flaw;

Queer things have lately happened at Old Princeton, so it’s said,

And the latest news that reached us is “the lion’s lost his head”

O’er Woodrow Wilson, Woodrow Wilson,

He’s one of us, a son of Nassau Hall;

‘Tis Woodrow Wilson, Woodrow Wilson,

‘Tis Wilson – Wilson – Wilson – that is all.

We recently have learned that 46 men have dropped,

To keep the college running, ‘xaminations must be stopped.

If at the college services the roll they go to call,

The only one who answers will be Wilson, that is all.

‘Tis Woodrow Wilson, etc.

Then they had the faculty song, and, as one of the newspapers put it, “when the hour was getting late Bum Brownlee jumped into the oratorical ring, threw off his coat and all restraint, and sketched Princeton oratory on the plains of Kansas with side-splitting effect.”

In introducing the President, Mr. Davis referred to him as “the right man in the right place.” And he was welcomed with several locomotives, all the alumni rising to give them.

The President’s toast was The Relation of the University to Life. After a felicitous introduction he said:

            “Why do university men become apologetic when discussing the educational methods in vogue in their own particular alma mater? It is regrettable that in our country today we have so many who are decrying the methods of this institution or that institution, and who declare that this system should be modernized, or that system eliminated altogether. My answer to such people is, ‘Keep your sons away from those institutions, if you don’t like them, and stop trying to graft your own ideas upon the powers that rule other institutions.’ A man came to me recently complaining that Princeton was behind in certain lines of education, and cited a rival institution of learning, where things were up to date, according to his own idea. He said to me: ‘Why don’t you do as that university does?’ My Scotch-Irish temper got the better of me, and I told him that Princeton did not follow in the footsteps of any university, but beat her own trail as she saw fit, and that if he didn’t like the way we did things, he could withdraw his son, and send him to the rival school. That is the way I feel about it, and that is the policy of Princeton.

There is a little college down in Kentucky which in sixty years has graduated more men who have acquired prominence and fame than has Princeton in her 150 years. But we must not allow ourselves to be fooled by this practical test. The best college is the one where the faculties are generalized. The man who aspired to a restricted, technical task, is not the man for a university. In formulating your policy for life you should find out what you want, form your ideal, and then stick to it. Characters should not be changed, as a general rule, but appreciated. Find out what you have, and cultivate along the best lines conducive to its greatest success. There is today a false sort of rivalry among the universities – the rivalry of imitation. There is a tendency to keep within the beaten path. But Princeton is noticeable because of her individuality, because she stands for something different, and when you reflect that she has 150 years behind her you may rely on it that her course is a safe and solid one.

One of the greatest evils we have to deal with in this democratic country is similarity. We are under the oppression of opinion, and he is a leader of men who can display the courage of his convictions. There is too much ‘do as the other fellow does,’ and we must inaugurate a fight against this tendency to level men’s views. That is why I say that the university is not for everybody, but for the few who are seeking to cultivate their minds through that particular channel.

‘What is the principal object of a liberal education? It is to liberate men from the dull round of one idea, to broaden their minds and their ability to conceive. The university is a little world of thought and action where we fit men for the larger world. People sometimes say that when a man gets through college he is ready to tackle the world. That is wrong. He has already tackled the world, on a small scale, when he has complete his course at college. The university is a world in miniature, and the large the university the easier may this idea be realized.”

Dr. Wilson said that it is not to be desired that all universities should be upon the same model or have the same objects, but that he believed particularly in the residential college, - “the college where the students rub shoulder to shoulder, both in school time and play time. You cannot go to college on a street car, and know what college means. When the students are residents, it is possible for the professor not only to lecture to them, but to give them something to talk about between times. Education, after all, is chiefly the interchange of ideas, and the best way to cultivate the mind is by subsequent discussion. This is almost impossible when the university course is secondary to some major occupation. The student and professor must be comrades. That is our plan at Princeton today, and we are not going to stop until we have worked it out.

As to the length of the course, four year is far too short to make a scholar, and even forty years may be spent in learning new things every day. The best a university can do at all events is to instill the proper spirit in its graduates, that it may develop in later life.” In conclusion the President spoke of various kinds of minds, - the travelled mind, the political mind, the observant mind, the discriminating mind, the catholic mind and the reasonable mind. “We want men today who can read,” he said, “men who know how to read, and who, through reading, possess a travelled mind. No one who has not gone that grand tour of the world, either actually or through the pages of good books, can conceive the possibilities of business. We need the men also who not only perceive what they see, but the significance of what they see; who have an observant eye, the eye to really see what you observe. Those are the successful men.

“Then there is the discriminating mind, which sees the bearing of things and how one proposition stands as compared to another, whether they be physical, social, or mental phenomena. The university teacher has discovered the kind of reading that will produce such minds as these, and that will produce in the mind of the graduate the valued faculty of reasonableness. The man is bound to be a successful man who knows he doesn’t know everything; who is hospitable to suggestions, and who is ready to change his mind when shown to be wrong. This age is practical. It is the concert of power that carries the world forward.”

The annual election of officers resulted as follows: Gen. James M. Johnston ’70 and Wallace D. McLean ’96 were reelected President and Secretary, respectively; Vice Presidents: Judge A. B. Hagner ’45, H. B. Munn ’47, A. P. Morse ’62, Dr. Wallace Neff ’74, F. D. McKenney ’84 and Henry E. Davis ’76. The Executive Committee: A. B. Kelley ’70, chairman; Dr. E. A. Balloch ’77, J. L. Norris Jr., ’99, Henry V. Tulloch ’98 and W. J. Pilling ’97.

This was originally published in the December 20, 1902 issue of PAW.