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Date: April 2, 1997
Princeton to Honor Famed Alumnus Jimmy Stewart '32 With Tribute and Theater Dedication
Princeton, N.J. -- On May 30, Princeton University will honor one of its most famous alumni--James Maitland Stewart '32, better known as Jimmy Stewart--with a retrospective of his work, a special tribute and the dedication of a film theater in his name.
Princeton is honoring Stewart for both his extraordinary achievements on the world stage and his many and varied contributions to the University. The celebration of Stewart as an American legend and a legendary Princetonian comes on the occasion of the 65th reunion of the Class of 1932 and at the grand finale of the University's commemoration of its 250th Anniversary.
"We are delighted to have the opportunity to honor Jimmy Stewart for all that he has accomplished in so many different arenas," said Princeton University President Harold T. Shapiro, "and to celebrate his love for this place." The James M. Stewart '32 Theater will provide the University with a comfortable, modern setting for showing films to students, faculty and the Princeton community. The University's tribute to Stewart, titled, "Mr. Stewart Goes to Hollywood," will be delivered by award-winning biographer and noted film historian A. Scott Berg, a member of Princeton's Class of 1971.
In attending Princeton, Jimmy Stewart followed in the footsteps of his father Alexander, a devoted member of the Class of 1898. It was as a cast member in Princeton's famed Triangle Club musicals that Stewart began honing his acting and comedic skills. After graduation in 1932, he headed to New York--where he shared an apartment with another aspiring actor by the name of Henry Fonda--and shortly thereafter, to Hollywood.
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Stewart went on to make some 80 films, including such classics as "The Philadelphia Story," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "It's a Wonderful Life," and "Rear Window." He earned a unique place in film history and in the hearts of moviegoers around the world as the quintessential American hero. As the American Film Institute noted in 1980, on awarding Stewart its prestigious Life Achievement Award: "Jimmy Stewart's idealism, his determination, his vulnerability and, above all, his basic decency shine through every role he plays."
In his personal life, Stewart exhibited many of these same admirable qualities, and his enduring marriage to Gloria Hatrick McLean, who died in 1994, was itself a Hollywood love story. With his wife and children, he returned often to Princeton to attend his class reunions and other special events. In 1947, the University presented Stewart with an honorary degree, and he served as a University trustee from 1959 to 1963. In 1990, Princeton awarded him its highest alumni honor, the Woodrow Wilson Award for outstanding public service.
The Stewart celebration in May will launch Princeton's historic reunions weekend. This annual event brings more than 10,000 Princetonians and their families to campus to meet old friends, participate in alumni-faculty forums and march--in costumes and bearing orange-and-black class banners--in the famed procession of classes known as the P-rade. (Members of the Class of 1932 is easy to spot in their distinctive orange cowboy hats and class jackets.) The festivities will begin at 2:30 p.m. May 30 in Alexander Hall's Richardson Auditorium, where Berg, a former Triangle Club writer and star, will lead the University's tribute to Stewart.
At 4 p.m. President Shapiro will preside over the dedication of the James M. Stewart '32 Theater. The theater is located at 185 Nassau St., headquarters of Princeton's creative and visual arts programs. Starting on Thursday, May 29, and continuing through Friday morning, a retrospective of Stewart's films will also be shown in the theater. Members of the Princeton community and the public are welcome to join the Stewart family and his classmates at the retrospective, the tribute and the dedication ceremony.