Ralph Ritchie ’34’s Nassau Herald photo.
Ralph Ritchie ’34’s Nassau Herald photo.

Tucked in Class Notes, on page 16 in the Sept. 22, 1939, issue of PAW, was the initial entry in what would become an unparalleled record of constancy and class loyalty: Ralph Ritchie’s first column for the Class of 1934.

Today’s issue includes his last. Ritchie, 97, is stepping down as class secretary because his eyesight is failing.  

In seven decades, Ritchie took time off only for five years in the 1940s — while he was serving in the Army. His first column reported that the beer consumed at ’34’s fifth reunion was an all-time Reunions high. Returning from his five-year absence, in the issue of Jan. 18, 1946, he got right back to business, vowing “immediately to re-establish our 1939–40 network of special news correspondents in key cities, for the intention of collecting all the news for all the class.” Indeed, Ritchie worked hard to make sure that the column included everyone, not just class activists and notables.  

“He enjoyed his work tremendously, and took great pains to make sure that it was interesting and informative,” says Ritchie’s daughter Elizabeth, known as Lisby. Only rarely did he mention his own family. He was a stickler for proper grammar — he had been an English teacher early in his career — and occasionally let us know that he disagreed with PAW’s editing. But there was no questioning his long service to his class and to Princeton. When he retired in 1977 from a 21-year career at Prince-ton, mainly in Annual Giving, friends contributed $60,000 in his honor. The endowed fund is called Princeton University Ralph Ritchie — PURR.

“The class willing, I would like to continue in the [secretary’s] post for life,” Ritchie wrote in his 50th-reunion book. He did continue, for another quarter-century. Now, Lisby will take his place. He has set a high bar.

Marilyn H. Marks *86