History and Mission
Princeton’s first Canadian student arrived in 1839 at what was then called the College of New Jersey. In the early 1950s, the number of Canadians attending Princeton grew, and then accelerated rapidly beginning in the 1970s. The Canadian Princeton Alumni Association was founded in 1945, and the Canadian Princeton Alumni Fund (CPAF) in 1961 under the leadership of Arthur Schmon '17 and his son Robert McCormich Schmon '46. Today there are more than 200 Canadian students enrolled at the university.
Both the current and most recent past presidents are Canadians. Harold T. Shapiro ’64, a native of Montreal and graduate of McGill University, was president from 1988-2001. Shirley M. Tilghman, a graduate of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, is the university’s current president.
In the classroom, interest in Canadian Studies took concrete form in 1976 with the inauguration of a biannual seminar on Canadian history led by Professor Richard D. Challener, an expert on diplomatic history. The seminar became a full-fledged course, History 418, in 1985. Since then, courses have also been taught in the departments of comparative literature, English, sociology, French and Italian, as well as the Woodrow Wilson School.
In April 1991, the Canadian government made a generous grant to inaugurate the Princeton Fund for Canadian Studies, which continues to receive substantial annual support from Canadian alumni. Also in 1991, Princeton established the Committee for Canadian Studies under the aegis of the Council of the Humanities. Canadian Studies has been chaired successively by Professors Richard Challener, Karen McPherson, Dale Miller, Michèle Lamont, Jameson Doig, and Anthony Grafton, and our current chair is Alan Patten. The Committee seeks to represent a broad spectrum of interests — from the social sciences to the performing arts.
Since 1999 the Princeton community has benefited from the presence of Constance and Lawrence G. Pathy ’56 Visiting Professors in Canadian Studies, who spend one or two semesters on campus teaching and participating in the program. Past Pathy Professors include Eva Kushner (University of Toronto); Jonathan Hart (University of Alberta); Mark Sproule-Jones (McMaster University); and Michael Peterman '66 (Trent University).
Canadian Studies also provides grants to students and faculty to support research on Canada-related topics, and, in honor of the program’s founding director, awards to a graduating senior the annual Richard D. Challener Thesis Prize in Canadian Studies.
Complementing these academic initiatives, Canadian Studies sponsors social events, lectures, films, colloquia, and discussions. Distinguished speakers hosted at Princeton by Canadian Studies include Robertson Davies, Carol Shields, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Wayne Johnston, John Ralston Saul, Naomi Klein, Don McKellar, Ruba Nadda, and Jane Urquhart.