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Princeton history lives through Goheen’s words

From the Feb. 21, 2005, Princeton Weekly Bulletin.

Years from now, those interested in Princeton’s history will be able to learn about the years between 1957 to 1972 from the man who was president of the University at that time.

The University Archives and the Office of the University Secretary have completed a project to record the thoughts and recollections of Robert Goheen, Princeton’s 16th president. Four one-hour videotaped interviews by University archivist Dan Linke are now on file at the Mudd Manuscript Library; written transcripts of the tapes are in the works.

Goheen presided over a period of rapid change and great tension on the campus. During his tenure, Princeton became coeducational, made progress in ethnic and racial diversity and coped with protests against the war in Vietnam. The annual budget quadrupled, and 25 new buildings were constructed on the main campus.

The purpose of the videotape project, according to Linke, is to augment documents already on file in the archives and to provide future researchers with insights that might otherwise be lost to time.

Goheen was just 37 years old when he took office in July 1957. A member of the class of 1940, he had returned to the University after serving in World War II and completed a doctoral degree in classics in 1948. He immediately joined the faculty; when he was named president, he also was promoted from assistant professor to professor.

Interviewed at his home in Princeton over the past several months, Goheen discussed topics ranging from academics to governance to student life during his presidency. “He has a masterly recollection of his tenure at Princeton’s helm and recalls the best and worst of those times with a remarkable reflection and grace,” Linke said.

“Bob Goheen comes across as a man of clear thinking, great affections and long-lasting friendships — and not a lot of self-importance,” said Kathy Taylor, director for special projects in the Office of the Alumni Association, who collaborated on the project.

Linke and Taylor hope that this project will be followed by opportunities to capture on tape the recollections of other key figures in Princeton’s history, including its other former presidents.

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