John Murrin
Beverly Schaefer


John Murrin
John Murrin
Beverly Schaefer

I enjoyed the interview with professor emeritus John Murrin (A Moment With, July 16) about Princeton’s role in our now-distant revolution.

It makes me think that a brief course, even if it were just a few hours long, on the early history of the school should be mandatory for all freshmen. It would add to their appreciation of the place and might even be inspiring.

For example, I doubt many alumni know that Princeton was the first institution of higher learning in America that was founded free of the domination of a religious denomination. This was the innovation of the school’s founding president, Jonathan Dickinson, who was opposed to the religious conservatism that characterized the three colleges that preceded Princeton — Harvard, Yale, and the College of William and Mary.

By the way, no one attended “Prince-ton” until 1896. From its charter in 1746 until that date, “Princeton” was the College of New Jersey.

And, as much as the school seems to feel the need to obscure this, Prince-ton’s roots are in Elizabeth, N.J. The school’s real birthplace (Nassau Hall was not functional until 1756) stands in downtown Elizabeth looking very much like it did 262 years ago, sadly unmarked and uncelebrated, a singular case of historical amnesia.


Ken McCarthy ’81