In Response to: Wilson College turns 50

I hope the organizers of the 50th anniversary celebration of Wilson College will at least give a nod to the actual birthdate of Wilson Lodge, which would be spring 1957. That was when around half a dozen intrepid sophomores, after a couple of years of especially horrendous bickers, announced to the University that they would refuse to bicker and that they believed the University owed it to them to provide an alternative “facility” for their dining and socializing. In support of this mini-movement, a couple of them did original research in the library of the effort by President Woodrow Wilson [1879] to alter or eliminate the club system. The University, much to our surprise, responded well; and by the fall, the old Madison dining hall of Commons was renovated and made into a comfortable two-room facility with, I recall, excellent meals. The name Wilson Lodge clearly began to be used then. Lacking faculty “masters,” as Wilson had hoped for, members were permitted and encouraged to invite their favorite faculty members to join us for dinner and informal conversation from time to time; I can recall Richard Blackmur and John Wheeler (Einstein’s associate) and some other eminences making some memorable evenings.

The rest, as they say, is history. Though I have not visited Princeton over the years, I have followed with great delight the accounts in PAW of the development of the college system. And when a Princeton alumnus asks me what my club was, I am proud to answer: “Wilson Lodge.”

So congratulations to Wilson College! And don’t forget the little band that likes to imagine that we got it all started.

Editor’s note: A condensed version of this letter was published in the Jan. 19, 2011, issue of PAW.