I am a lover of and enthusiastic supporter of Irish Letters — embracing poetry, history, theater, and prose — at the University. I have been responsible for bringing important Irish Catholic literary figures such as Clair Wills, Fintan O’Toole, and Colm Tóibín to teach at Princeton, as well as continuing to support the work of my friends the poet Paul Muldoon and Lewis Center head Michael Cadden.
Most Princetonians are unaware that both the town and University were named for the English Protestant king, William III of the House of Orange-Nassau, who defeated the former English Catholic king, James II, at the Battle of the Boyne. William thereby displaced Oliver Cromwell as the most hated man in Ireland but was fondly called “King Billy” by supporters, including a few bearing the surname Wilson. Professors Cadden, Wills, and O’Toole, I know, are aware of King Billy’s background. One can almost feel the pain they endure daily to hear and read the name Princeton. Undoubtedly, some students of Irish Catholic descent are inflicted with a similar hurt.
I believe that Scott Fitzgerald ’17 never completed his degree because he was so embarrassed singing “Old Nassau,” and Eugene O’Neill 1910’s actor father, James, is known to have detested the color and fruit orange. I respectfully request that President Eisgruber ask Kathryn Hall ’80, chair of the Board of Trustees, to appoint a committee to examine the possibility of renaming Princeton the College of New Jersey, as it was known between 1746 and 1896. President Eisgruber might also approach the town council about restoring the 18th-century name Stony Brook to the municipality. Nassau Street would become Route Two.