Letter from an alumnus about Another Princeton Journey
The article by Jesus Lemus reminded me of several similarities to my Princeton experience. My mother came through Ellis Island in 1923 with a suitcase and no money. She became a domestic for a rich family in NYC. My Dad came from Nova Scotia and became a yardman and later a Princeton janitor, even though he could read and write. Many of my clothes and sports equipment came from students living at ’79 Hall and the lost and found that Dad ran. I entered Princeton University in 1950 straight out of high school by passing an extra year at Lawrenceville.
My Dad let me know that I should get a job, as there would be no money from home. A Princeton senior, my DeMolay counselor, advised me not to go pre-med as there was no hope for me to attend any medical school. My roommate and I shared a small room, 434 Brown Hall. After signing up for pre-med I went out for football and, fortunately, got cut. My Dad brought a Lee tennis racquet home from the lost and found when I was in eighth grade. Without any tennis lessons, I became the number one player at Princeton High School, following in the steps of Johnnie McPhee ’53. I took my Lee racquet over to try out for the tennis team. The coach said he had no need for another player, so I concentrated on my studies. I was put in an advanced French class with many prep school students and a professor who lectured in French. My adviser, Dr. William Jacobs, told me the beginning course was full and to do the best I could. I took the only D of my life. The D later haunted me despite my explanation.
I was exhausted by December 1950. I was on the edge about Korea and working two jobs. I was selling programs during the hurricane at the Dartmouth football game and contracted staph pneumonia. I was lying in McCosh Infirmary, two beds down from Homer Smith . Penicillin was available, but Dr. York would not give me any until my Scottish Aunt Sally came in from New York City, where she was a governess, and read him the riot act. I was better within 48 hours instead of dead. On my discharge day, I told Dr. York that should I ever become a doctor I would do a better job than he had.
I took French classes every year and got excellent grades. Bicker time arrived and I knew only one upperclassman, my roommate David Demerest. He got Campus Club to bicker me, and I barely got their last slot.
I got accepted at Tufts, Yale, Buffalo, Albany, Northwestern, Columbia and Penn medical schools. Dr. Lamb interviewed me for Columbia and rescinded the admit as I did not meet their “profile,” i.e., no money. Penn reneged after some old goat did not like my D in my first-semester French class. I indicated on my Northwestern form that I was fully funded, but they did not interview me because they love Ivy League students.
I was probably suicidal my first semester. My association with the Princeton Evangelical Society and Judge Paul Pressler ’52 got me through. My Dad was making time and a half guarding a gate on my graduation day and did not see Dr. Harold Dodds hand me my B.A. His replacement arrived late. He later sent me a letter that if I took five more years to become a urologist, he no longer had a son. I again became a member of the family after I made a lot of money and bought him many things, i.e., an air conditioner, color TV, washer and dryer, etc.
I ran out of money at Northwestern Medical School my last semester and Dean Young got me enough money from hisresearch fund to allow me to get my M.D. After Cook County internship, a year of urology at Hopkins and four years of urological surgery at Tulane, I became a board-certified urologist. My practice lasted 36 years in Tulsa, Okla.
The point of the above is to encourage the university to transfer food credits to an eating club such that a poor boy can feel bonded to the system.
I hope Jesus completes his M.D.
PHILIP D. DIGGDON ’54, M.D.Tulsa, Okla.
Go back to our online Letter Box Table of Contents