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About Princeton: Decked out for the holidays

The statue of John Witherspoon, the University's sixth president, was decked out for the holiday season in Princeton orange and black.

The 10-foot-tall bronze statue, by highly acclaimed Scottish sculptor Alexander Stoddart, was installed at Princeton in the fall of 2001. It is the twin of a piece installed that summer at the University of Paisley in Scotland. The artworks are intended to honor Witherspoon's contributions in this country and in Scotland as a patriot, president and preacher and to commemorate the connections between the two communities through Witherspoon.

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Witherspoon, who lived from 1723 to 1794, was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He became widely known in Scotland as a leader of the left-wing "Popular Party" in the Church of Scotland, in which he was an ordained minister. He was installed as the pastor at Paisley, Scotland, in 1757. He served as president of what was then the College of New Jersey from 1768 until his death.

Witherspoon's administration is considered a major turning point in the life of the College. He bolstered the school's educational program, advocating the need for a broadly educated clergy. He encouraged the teaching of both politics and religion. He supported the national cause of liberty and became a leading member of the Continental Congress.

Largely because of Witherspoon's efforts, Princeton became known as the "seedbed" of the revolution. He was the only clergyman and the only college president to sign the Declaration of Independence. Six months later, the College was the site of a strategic victory when Washington surprised the British in the Battle of Princeton.

The statue resides on the east side of East Pyne, where it faces the University Chapel. Weighing 2,750 pounds, it rests atop a 7-foot-7-inch plinth, for a total height of nearly 18 feet.

Witherspoon
John Witherspoon keeps warm while keeping watch over the Princeton campus.

photo: Denise Applewhite