Web Exclusives: Rally 'Round the Cannon -- Princeton history
by Gregg Lange '70

Bud Wynne '39 *40

Bud Wynne '39 *40 at Reunions in 2005.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

March 19, 2008:

Following a tough act
Bud Wynne ’39 *40 was a champion of all things Princeton

By Gregg Lange ’70

Quickly now, who was on the second team that climbed Mount Everest? Who was the second black man to play modern major-league baseball [here’s a cheroot for you if you know it was Larry Doby, who received an honorary doctorate from Princeton in 1997, 50 years later]? John Adams was essential in creating the United States, but not in running it; his mixed success as second president got him voted out at the first opportunity.

Anybody who thinks that succeeding Fred Fox ’39 was easier than succeeding George Washington never met Freddy Fox. Even among that tiny subset of people who define their own place in the firmament (think Ralph Nader ’55 or Edmund Wilson ’16), Fox’s ebullience and deep compassion could more than hold its own. Princeton not only created a special position for him, it invented a word, hence our (OK, sometimes a bit excessive) fixation with Princetoniana. He was the irreplaceable Keeper of Princetoniana, the first and last, and when he died in 1981 the University actually changed the way it looked at its history; it had to.

Fortunately, efforts to extend his achievements were already afoot. For one, the Mudd Manuscript Library had been opened, and there was now a tangible home for the University’s archives and historical goodies, instead of some steerage compartment in Firestone. But beyond corporeal being, Princetoniana needed new spirit, including the overwhelming joy Fox had brought to the task. That’s where his classmate, Bud Wynne ’39 *40, enters the story; welcome, Larry Doby.

Hugh de Neufville Wynne came from Montclair (N.J.) High School – as did legendary Princeton volunteer Harold Helm ’20 – and Choate, where Wynne hung with a lad from Boston by the name of John F. Kennedy. Old Joe Kennedy wanted Jack to go to Harvard, so he and his three close friends, including Wynne, went to Princeton instead in 1935. While Kennedy got sick freshman year and left, Wynne fell under the spell of geology and stayed around, even for a postgrad year. He got to see Kennedy in the White House cabinet room once – two months before his assassination.

Following decorated service in World War II and retired from a globe-encircling career with Exxon in 1976, Wynne already had his fingers into Annual Giving and other 1939 class affairs when Fox sucked him into the Princetoniana whirl. By 1982, Wynne led a small band of hearties including David Thompson ’39 and Robert Winters ’35 in creating the Princetoniana Room in Firestone, with a prominent oil portrait of the late Fox and his ubiquitous bicycle (now in Frist Campus Center) presiding over it with a smile. They also formed the Princetoniana Committee and got it anointed a standing committee of the Alumni Council. They began tracking information and relics of Princeton history as varied as student notebooks and statuary, patiently soliciting and culling historic donations of Princetoniana from across the globe, with Wynne’s big grin and nose for quality orange and black junk in the fore.

Over the years, as the Princetoniana committee expanded and incorporated younger, if less energetic, disciples, it found and brought back the statues of the Tiger and the Princeton Student now displayed in the lobby of Jadwin Gym. The Tiger is a duplicate of the Palmer Square tiger of Charles Knight, and was retrieved from the estate of the daughter of Edgar Palmer 1903 after her death. The unearthing of the Student, an idealized image of Earl Dodge 1879 (as in Murray-Dodge) and commissioned by his brother, showed off the committee’s monomaniacal tendencies; it had been banished to sculptor Daniel Chester French’s Massachusetts estate in the 1960s, then forgotten by the University until the group tracked it down. The gilded lions donated by the Class of 1879 for Nassau Hall, later replaced by its tigers, were discovered in storage, refurbished, and placed on Goheen Walk. A series of historical booklets on the University was begun, the first focusing on its gargoyles.

A masterful miniature metal copy of FitzRandolph Gate was spotted in the trash by a sharp janitor who had heard of Wynne’s fixation with Princeton memorabilia. Wynne restored the piece – which came originally from the defunct Gateway Club – himself, and donated it to the Archives, where it sits proudly on the PAW card catalog in the entrance lobby of Mudd Library today. He began an orderly catalog of all the undergrad class beer-jacket designs, and succeeded in gathering many of the metal stencils used to print them.

In his spare time (?!) Wynne became president of the Class of 1939 for his last 23 years. He worked on the committee to restore the great carillon of the Graduate College to its current pristine condition. He was that rarest of volunteer alumni, recipient of both the Harold Helm Award for groundbreaking work on Annual Giving and the Alumni Council Award for Service to Princeton, which noted “when Bud accepts a job, he does it thoroughly.” They must have taken a look at the tigers and ’39 treasures in his basement.

Wynne died last year on the Fourth of July; I’ll miss him and I’ll miss the basement, too. It may be that, in a place as full of crazed loyalists as Princeton, someone was bound to pick up the mantle of Freddy Fox and champion the intricate oddities of Princeton’s history, but Bud Wynne was the one who did it, and inveigled many others to do it as well. Having every reason to think it a thankless task, he grabbed it anyway and pursued it with a flourish, and fortunately in the end he did receive Princeton’s thanks for his job most well done. Just like the great Larry Doby.

Let’s have a locomotive for ’39. P

Lange '70Gregg Lange ’70 is a member of the Princetoniana Committee and the Alumni Council Committee on Reunions, an Alumni Schools Committee volunteer, and a trustee of WPRB radio.