I may be one of the “fossils” referred to in Meaghan Byrne’s letter in the February issue of PAW. Being accused of defending past racists and chastised for not recognizing the systemic racism at Princeton allows me to be a “living fossil.” Archaeologists studying fossils learn the history of their environment and times. So, let’s have a little history lesson.
At Princeton I participated in a precept (instituted by Wilson). I signed the honor pledge (insisted on by Wilson) more than a hundred times. The core courses and electives in my 4-year chemical engineering program followed the curriculum established by Wilson. He originated the phrase “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.” He fought for a graduate school and proposed a college system; they are here today. He proposed adding electrical engineering and other departments and added courses in music, architectural drawing, and mineralogy. He raised money for Lake Carnegie. He transformed Princeton from a country club for the rich into the finest university in this country where students of all races, creeds, and incomes can attend. A. Scott Berg ’71’s biography, Wilson, should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in Wilson. It tells everything about him: the good, the bad, and the ugly, all in an intimate style.
While no Black students were admitted during Wilson’s tenure, few, if any, were admitted in the administrations of presidents Stewart, Hibben, Duffield, and Dodds. Finally, President Goheen, heeding the civil rights movements of the l960s, admitted Black students before women were admitted in 1969. Hayward Gipson ’67, a Black footballer, helped Princeton win two Ivy League championships.