Bronze tiger statue with fall leaves

Our History

Our History

Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. The University has been led by 20 presidents, spanning colonial times to the 21st century.


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    Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa ’86 returned to campus to receive Alumni Day honors, along with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe, Graduate School class of 2012


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    Supreme Court ruled to restore DACA after hearing lawsuit presented by Princeton, Microsoft and Princeton graduate Maria Perales Sanchez


  • Students walking in a line away from Nassau Hall during Fall

    The first 13 transfer students are offered admission as part of a reinstated transfer program, which aims to especially encourage applications from students with low-income, military or community college backgrounds


  • Toni Morrison and Sir Arthur Lewis

    Nobel Laureates Toni Morrison and Arthur Lewis honored by the naming of Morrison Hall and the Arthur Lewis Auditorium

  • Map of potential projects in campus plan

    Princeton issues a new planning framework, proposing the construction of two additional residential colleges and the Meadows Neighborhood.


  • Christopher L. Eisgruber named 20th president of Princeton

    Christopher L. Eisgruber named 20th president of Princeton


  • Latino dancers

    Program in Latino Studies established

  • Students doing community service

    Bridge Year Program begins with 20 students deferring admission for one year to engage in international service


  • Professor Wallace Best teaching a class

    Center for African American Studies (CAAS) established; trustees approve African American studies concentration, department in 2015

  • exterior of Whitman College

    Four-year residential college system launched with the opening of Whitman College


  • Performance of "Hero" at the Lewis Center

    University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts established (renamed the Lewis Center for the Arts in 2007), with a mandate to enhance the role of the arts in the University and community

  • Students, faculty, and staff gather for the opening reception

    Princeton launches the Office of Disability Services


  • Laverne Cox speaking at the LGBT Center

    Princeton launches the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center


  • Former president Shirley M. Tilghman

    Shirley M. Tilghman named 19th president of Princeton

  • Group of graduates at commencement

    Financial aid policy changes, replacing loans with grants that do not need to be repaid

  • Princeton confers its first honorary degree on a Native American, Kevin Gover '78, a Pawnee/Comanche


  • Logo for Princeton's 250th anniversary

    250th anniversary celebrated


  • Students at the Center for Jewish Life

    Center for Jewish Life established


  • Exterior of residential college

    System of residential colleges established


  • Carl A. Fields center

    Third World Center founded (renamed the Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding in 2002) and Women's Center are founded


  • Students sitting on the lawn with books

    Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC), a deliberative body of faculty, students, staff and alumni, is established

  • Women of the Class of 1970

    Members of the Class of 1970 are the first women to receive undergraduate degrees from Princeton (alumnae shown at 2015 Reunions); women also matriculate as members of the Classes of 1971, ’72 and ’73.


  • A group of female undergraduate students

    Trustees vote to admit women undergraduates


  • Carl A. Fields is the first African American to be appointed as assistant dean of the college

    Carl A. Fields is appointed as assistant dean of the college, becoming the first African American to serve as dean at an Ivy League institution

  • Suzanne Keller, the first tenured female member of the faculty

    Suzanne Keller becomes the first tenured female member of the faculty.


  • Portrait of T’sai-ying Cheng, the first female Ph.D. recipient

    Ph.D. degree awarded to a woman, T'sai-ying Cheng, for the first time


  • Portrait of Charles Davis, Princeton's first African American professor

    Princeton appoints its first African American professor, Charles T. Davis


  • Lab work in the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab

    Forrestal Campus established on U.S. Route 1; "Project Matterhorn" research in nuclear fusion begins there; in 1961 its name is changed to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)


  • exterior of the Firestone LIbrary

    Firestone Library dedicated

  • Helen Baker is the first woman appointed to the faculty by the Board of Trustees

    Helen Baker, associate director of the Industrial Relations Section, is the first woman appointed to the faculty by the Board of Trustees

  • James Ward (1948) and Arthur Wilson (1948) coming out of entrance to Laughlin Hall.

    James Everett Ward and Arthur Jewell Wilson Jr., both admitted to the Navy's V-12 Program in 1945, become Princeton's first African American graduates


  • Student lighting a menorah for Chanukah

    The Student Hebrew Association is founded and holds the first Jewish service on campus, which is attended by Albert Einstein; a year later, the student organization joins the Hillel Foundation


  • Exterior of Holder Hall

    Program of Annual Giving established; undergraduate radio station (then WPRU, now WPRB) founded


  • Portrait of Albert Einstein

    Albert Einstein becomes a life member of the Institute for Advanced Study, with an office on the Princeton University campus


  • Faculty member giving a lecture

    School of Public and International Affairs established


  • Interior of the Princeton University chapel

    Princeton University Chapel dedicated


  • Engineering students working in the lab

    School of Engineering established


  • Members of the Princeton ROTC

    School of Architecture established; Princeton's Army ROTC unit established 


  • Holder Tower

    Graduate College dedicated


  • Carnegie Lake in the fall

    Lake Carnegie created by Andrew Carnegie


  • Portrait of Woodrow Wilson

    President Woodrow Wilson establishes system of preceptorials


  • Princeton Graduate School crest

    Graduate School established


  • Official 1896 medal for Princeton University

    Name officially changed to Princeton University


  • Students taking an exam in Princeton University’s McCosh Hall. circa 1950s

    Honor system established


  • Portrait of Pedro Rioseco, the first known Hispanic graduate from Princeton

    Pedro Rioseco becomes the first known Hispanic graduate from Princeton


  • Early performers of Princeton's Triangle Club

    Triangle Club (originally called the Princeton College Dramatic Association) founded


  • Exhibit in the Princeton Art Museum

    Princeton University Art Museum founded


  • Portrait of Hikoichi Orita, first known Asian graduate from Princeton

    Hikoichi Orita becomes the first known Asian graduate from Princeton

  • Early edition of the Daily Princetonian from 1878

    The Princetonian is published for the first time (still published daily by students during the academic year)


  • Portrait of William Potter Ross, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation

    William Potter Ross graduates from Princeton; he became principal chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1861


  • Princeton University Shield

    James Madison, Class of 1771 and former president of the United States, becomes the first president of the Alumni Association of the College of New Jersey


  • John Chavis becomes the first African American to study at Princeton; he is one of a handful of African Americans to pursue private studies with faculty members during the 18th century


  • Nassau Hall Faculty Room

    Continental Congress meets in Nassau Hall, which served as the United States Capitol from June until November


  • Nassau Hall in the winter

    George Washington drives the British from Nassau Hall


  • Portrait of John Witherspoon

    President John Witherspoon signs the Declaration of Independence


  • Cliosophic society logo

    Cliosophic Debating Society formed


  • Logo for the American Whig debating society

    American Whig Debating Society formed


  • Lithograph of Nassau Hall in 1837

    Nassau Hall completed; College of New Jersey moves from Newark to Princeton


  • FitzRandolph gate

    Nathaniel and Rebeckah FitzRandolph and others deed 10 acres in Princeton to the College


  • Charter for the College of New Jersey

    Present charter granted in New Brunswick, New Jersey


  • Original location of Pennsylvania’s Log College

    College moves to Newark, New Jersey


  • Book and candle on a desk

    College of New Jersey founded in Elizabeth, New Jersey, by the Presbyterian Synod


  • Original map of the city of Princeton

    Town of Princeton settled