Fields memoir chronicles career of pioneering administrator

Feb. 9, 2006 3:42 p.m.
Carl A. Fields Center

Below left: The Fields Center -- named in honor of Carl Fields, Princeton's first high-level black administrator -- was established to provide a social, cultural and political environment that reflects the needs and concerns of students of color at the University.

Photos: John Jameson

In his recently published memoir, Carl Fields describes the difficulty of trying to decide whether or not to accept a job at Princeton. It was 1964 and Fields, an African American, had to weigh carefully the prospect of working at a university that had just 12 black undergraduates and four black graduate students.

While it was no easy decision to come to Princeton, once here, Fields quickly made an impact and became the first high-level black administrator at an Ivy League school. Reflecting his many contributions to the University, the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding was named in his honor.

Titled "Black in Two Worlds," the first half of Fields' memoir recounts his seven years at Princeton, and the second half describes his work at the fledgling University of Zambia in Africa.

The book was published posthumously -- Fields died in 1998 -- by Princeton-based Red Hummingbird Press. Excerpts from the manuscript previously have appeared in the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Fields started his Princeton career as assistant director of student aid and, in 1968, was promoted to assistant dean of the college. In his memoir, he relays how determined he was upon his arrival to not be pigeonholed as an adviser only to black students. Once he became known as an adviser to all students, he worked tirelessly to introduce policies and practices aimed at increasing the enrollment and retention of African-American and other minority students.

Carl A. Fields Center

Among his many accomplishments, Fields pioneered a Family Sponsor Plan with the local African-American community to provide support for incoming black students; he helped students form the first black student group on campus, which soon was followed by other ethnic organizations; and he was a driving force behind the founding of the Third World Center, which in 2002 was renamed the Fields Center.

In a foreword to the book, President Emeritus Robert Goheen, who was at the helm of the University during Fields' tenure, writes that by the time Fields left Princeton in 1971 for Zambia, the University had "come a long way toward being an institution in which young men and women of whatever race or persuasion could move about freely and with confidence, intermingling or not as they chose, being regarded and regarding each other as equals."

Book launch, Black History Month events set

Black in Two Worlds

In honor of its namesake and to celebrate Black History Month, the Fields Center is hosting a book launch of "Black in Two Worlds" at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18.

Participating will be members of the University community and the Fields family. The Association of Black Princeton Alumni, the Princeton Human Services Commission, Red Hummingbird Press and the Fields Center are presenting the event.

The Fields Center also will be hosting a variety of events in honor of Black History Month. A schedule of events is available online.