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For immediate release: Nov. 8, 2000

Princeton University Library Exhibition Marks Graduate School Centennial

Princeton, N.J. -- The yearlong observance of the centennial of Princeton University's Graduate School continues with a new exhibition at the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library. Entitled "A Community of Scholars: Graduate Education at Princeton," the exhibition opens on Sunday, Nov. 19 and runs until April 8, 2001. It chronicles the evolution of graduate studies at Princeton University from a time when master's degrees were awarded for good citizenship to the diverse and competitive academic programs of today.

James Axtell, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Humanities at the College of William and Mary, will inaugurate the exhibition with a public lecture, entitled "Reading and Writing the History of a Graduate School," at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19 in the Betts Auditorium at Princeton University's School of Architecture. Professor Axtell, whose interests include the history of American higher education, was commissioned to help update the authoritative history of the Graduate School, "The Princeton Graduate School: A History." An alumnus of Yale and Cambridge, he is also an expert on the ethnohistory of colonial North America and has published scores of books and articles, including "The Pleasures of Academe: A Celebration and Defense of Higher Education."

The exhibition includes more than 100 photographs, documents, and artifacts, drawn primarily from the University Archives. Together, they present a vivid portrait of graduate life at Princeton, in both its intellectual and social aspects, as well as a cross-section of graduate students who have left an indelible mark on the world at large. The University's graduate alumni include no fewer than 12 Nobel laureates, the first president of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, five presidents of Princeton University, and such notables as Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Thornton Wilder, astronomer Henry Norris Russell, and syndicated columnist George Will.

Brief biographies of distinguished alumni are accompanied wherever possible by their student photographs and items that symbolize their interests: an autographed baseball from Ted Williams in the case of George Will; a piece of an Iraqi SCUD missile in the case of Norman Augustine, father of the Pentagon's Patriot missile program; and a first edition of The Bridge of San Luis Rey in the case of Thornton Wilder.

The exhibition also provides important insights into the genesis of the Graduate College, dedicated in 1913, and the struggle between Woodrow Wilson, Princeton’s President, who wanted to build it in a central location, and Andrew Fleming West, the first dean of the Graduate School, who insisted on a secluded spot, far from the hubbub of undergraduate life. Wilson ultimately lost this battle, but went on to serve as governor of New Jersey and president of the United States.

Visitors will have an opportunity to study the layout of the Graduate College, in all its Gothic glory, and to examine photographs of its distinctive features, including the "Great West Window," with its beautiful stained glass; the 67-bell carillon in Cleveland Memorial Tower; and the whimsical carvings that adorn the beams high above Procter Hall, representing University trustees from the 1900s.

The exhibition also explores the changing traditions of the Graduate School, where students at the Graduate College were once expected to appear at dinner in academic gowns, as well as the changing face of its students. In 1961, a woman was admitted for the first time as a regular student, and, in 1979, the Black Graduate Caucus was established, reflecting the growing diversity of the student body.

Other items of interest in the exhibition include the diploma of James Madison, Princeton University’s first graduate student and fourth president of the United States; the wages of the Graduate College’s "servants" in the first years of the twentieth century; letters from students during World War I, recounting their overseas experiences; and a photograph of Albert Einstein arriving in the United States in 1933.

"’A Community of Scholars’ bears witness to the importance of graduate education at Princeton University and its role in human advancement in a wide range of disciplines, despite the challenges inherent in an exhibition of this kind," said lead curator Dan Linke, "In the same way that nuclear physicists define and detect sub-atomic particles through inference and indirect observation, we hope that this exhibit will allow an understanding of graduate education, even though much of what is accomplished there remains within the confines of the mind, and the remainder as words on paper."

"A Community of Scholars" is located in Firestone Library's main exhibition gallery and is open to the public without charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, noon to 5 p.m. on weekends, and until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. For additional information concerning the exhibition, please contact the Library at (609) 258-6345.