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Letters from alumni about the senior thesis

July 8, 2001

Re : PAW June 6, 2001, featuring the senior thesis. Sunday following this year's reunions, I was driving south on Interstate 95 and stopped at a rest area. As I sat at a table, two delightful young gals seated nearby, noticed I was still wearing my Class of ’36 name tag button, and motioned to me. They were in the Class of ’91 and returning from their 10th reunion. In the ensuing conversaton, I asked them to tell me about their senior theses and I reported on mine. Unfortunately, my atrophied ears failed to record their names.

Later, as I was returing my rental car at the Philadelphia airport, Christopher Beiswenger ’93 noted the same button and helped carry some baggage with which I was struggling. Again there was an exchange of senior theses subject matter.

Sharing these encounters, covering a 65-year time span, is an exhilarating memory for this antique Tiger.

John Paul Jones ’36
La Jolla, Calif.

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June 10, 2001

A bit of ancient history to go with the PAW accounts of senior theses. In the original plan of study adopted in the 1920s a "senior thesis" was not mentioned or require. Years later as dean of the college I looked over the fiels of the faculty of that period and found that the emphasis of the new plan for departmental concentration was as a comprehensive examination. It lessened the importance of individual courses and sought to test the students’ group of the entire subject. The number of courses to be taken during the senior year was also reduced from five to four; hence the term "four-course plan." All this is described in then Dean Eisenhart’s little book, The Educational Process (1945).

The new plan did actually include "such independently written papers as the several departments may require" (or words to that effect), and two departments, English and biology, chose to require a long essay or thesis. The idea caught on, and soon every department adopted the thesis as part of its senior program. Since then the testimony of many graduates makes clear that the thesis was a valuable part of their Princeton experience.

Thus, what began as an experiment has developed into an integral part of the undergraduate program.

Jeremiah S. Finch h’31 h’42
Monroe Township, N.J.

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June 6, 2001

Your issue of June 6th was one of the best ever. I am referring to the articles "From Thesis to Reality" and "the Scholarly Effort".

I was particularly impressed that most of the six students/graduates mentioned were concerned with issues dealing with the disadvantaged or ill - people who are too often forgotten and neglected by society.

No doubt the choice of their work was the result of each one's own interest - possibly encouraged by an advisor. In any case, they are all to be commended.

I am certain that there are many other Princeton students who are similarly involved with the disadvantaged but could not be included because of lack of space.

Congratulations to PAW, Princeton University and most of all to the involved students.

Forrest C. Eggleston ’42
Mechanicsburg, Pa.

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