PRINCETON ’55: A CLASS IN SERVICE
When Princeton accepted more than 800 men to its Class of 1955, seven decades ago, its members became the largest cohort the University had ever admitted at one time. As we approach our 65th Reunion, it seems appropriate to leave a written record of the ways this Class has served Princeton “in the Nation’s Service” - as President Woodrow Wilson urged - while also serving the University itself.
Our purpose here is not to list the many accomplishments of individual classmates, but rather to give a sense of the how the Class as a whole has responded to Wilson’s ambition for the University, and how its members have given back to an institution that has given them so much. While some individuals will be named, others whose work may be equally notable will regrettably be omitted. The Class itself has already given Annual Awards to more than 40 men, acknowledging their outstanding work; their names can be found on our Class website.
There’s no doubt, of course, that Princetonians have served the Nation since James Madison’s time in traditional roles: from the White House, as legislators, Supreme Court justices, Cabinet members, and in the armed forces. But barely a quarter-century ago, scores of our classmates came together to create a new and unique organization that is not strictly governmental but has worked in the Nation’s interest to mitigate problems that government has not managed to solve. What’s more, it has widened the horizons of hundreds of Princeton students and graduates and drawn loud cheers from many onlookers at the University’s annual P-rades.
Princeton Project 55
By far our big Class’s biggest Idea was birthed in April 1989, at a mini-reunion in Washington, D.C. Ralph Nader got it started with a suggestion that many of our classmates, nearing retirement from lucrative and satisfying careers, should use the talents they had developed in those careers to become involved in public service. By using their experience to address some problems besetting the Nation, they might follow Wilson’s call to its service.
Immediately after Ralph spoke, Charlie Bray followed with an urgent appeal and started a sign-up sheet that quickly gathered many signatures. By June, Princeton Project 55 was formally articulated. Looking “uncomfortably at an endangered world,” its founders agreed, “the successes we have achieved have not been matched by the enhancement of the common good. Material wellbeing for ourselves has not led to the healthy society we seek. We … are at a juncture where many of us have the resources, time, and energy to focus more clearly on the public agenda.” Recognizing that many Princeton students shared their concerns, PP55’s founders encouraged them to serve for a year after graduation at low pay in inner-city nonprofit agencies. Once their entrance into public service was established, many chose to continue on that path.
And who were the Project’s founders? Besides Charlie and Ralph, here’s an alphabetical list: classmates Win Adkins, Harry Berkowitz, Tom Boyatt, Steve Boyd, Don Brigham, Bill Burks, John Fish, Austin George, George Hackl, Jack Henn, Charlie Mapes, Scott McVay, Pete Milano, Lee Neuwirth, Howard Reilly, Chet Safian, Bill Shafer, Warner Slack, Terry Sutphen, John Tucker, Kenly Webster, Alan Willemsen, Rogers Woolston, and Paul Wythes; and wives Sara Deitch, Ann Douglas, Wini Freund, Barbara Griffin, Ann Hackl, Dodie Mapes, Hella McVay, Winnie Park, Mary Shafer, Ann Spaeth, and Anne Stahel. In the course of time, many others have become involved, too many to list.
After some initial skepticism in the University administration, President Harold Shapiro gave his strong approval, and Princeton Project 55, separate from the University but parallel, with an office in town, was underway. Shapiro has since said, “Project 55 is one of the great Princeton success stories.” More than one senior official has referred to our Class as “one of the great classes of the century,” and PP55 is why.
About 10 percent of each year’s graduating class applies for Project 55 Fellowships. Last year 43 were awarded. A total of 1,859 fellowships and internships have been awarded since the founding and 60 of those fellows have stayed in not-for-profit work. That big idea of 1989 is alive and well, and there is reason to believe it will continue after all of us are gone.
What’s more, other universities have established similar programs to channel students into public service. Other Princeton classes have been inspired to create variations on the theme. PP55 itself, realizing that its board members would all eventually be replaced by alumni from other classes, changed its name to Princeton AlumniCorps.
The Nation’s Service
Some of our classmates have served the Nation in careers whose broad effects border on the unique. Without Ralph Nader’s effort, auto safety might have languished indefinitely; his work has saved countless lives. Oral Miller’s years with the Small Business Administration and the American Council for the Blind promoted congressional actions that potentially benefit vast numbers of Americans with disabilities. John Tucker’s successful argument before the Supreme Court was the beginning of the end for “patronage firing” of public employees when one party defeats another in an election.
Most of us spent some time in one of the uniformed services. Some continued for many years in the reserves. A few had their careers in the military: Jim Reid, Army; John Walker, Bob Cochrane, Malcolm Rees, and Malcolm MacNichol, Navy (followed by the National Security Agency). An unusual number of classmates appear to have become pilots, either with the Navy or the Air Force. Sadly, three died in crashes during their services: Noel Stace, Navy; Frank Jannarone, Air Force; and Dick Drewes, an Army doctor, in a Vietnam helicopter crash.
In the State Department we had three classmates who rose to ambassadorial status: Tom Boyatt, Tony Quainton, and Charlie Bray, who also became the spokesman for the department and later Deputy Director of the Voice of America. Tom Graham served 27 years in various capacities with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and had the rank of ambassador.
Bill Ruckelshaus was a congressman from Indiana and later twice Director of the Environmental Protection Agency. He was Acting Director of the FBI and resigned as Deputy Attorney General in the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, rather than fire the Special Investigator of the Watergate burglary.
We had other civilians who had federal government careers. Don Pulcipher was a linguist at the National Security Agency. Walt Muelken spent 27 years split among the War on Poverty, the Peace Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency. Ed Semans put in 29 years with the Social Security Administration and became its Director of Appeals. Fred Stevenson’s career was in Housing and Urban Development. Jim Douglas was Deputy of the National Marine Fisheries Service. George Kovatch spent his working years in research at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Transportation. John Hastings served the National Institute of Standards and Technology as a physicist.
And while not officially “in the Nation’s Service,” Glenn Paige’s work as a professor of Global Science at the University of Hawaii should surely qualify for Princeton’s recent expansion of its scope from “service to all nations” to “service to humanity.” Glenn devoted his life to promoting what he called “nonkilling and nonviolence”.
So, what has our big Class done for Princeton? Well, quite a lot, starting with our 25th Reunion gift from an insurance policy taken out in our senior year. Ninety-four percent of our classmates contributed; Jim Babcock was our class agent. At maturity the policy was valued at more than $300,000. Slightly more than $200,000 of that went to Annual Giving for a record haul of $1,035,709; AG’s first of more than a million. One hundred thousand dollars endowed scholarships to help seniors defray the costs of their theses. As of June 2019, the Fifty Five Fund for Senior Thesis Research had a market value of $2,209,616, and 1,324 seniors had benefited: 53 in the past year. Their topics and letters of thanks can be viewed on our Class website.
Our Annual Giving total through last year is $19,621,781. Our participation has been as high as 77 percent and almost always above 65 percent - higher than the alumni as a whole.
Four of our classmates have served the University directly as trustees: Tom Boyatt, Peter Lewis, Bill Ruckelshaus, and Paul Wythes. Three classmates became Princeton professors; Fred Almgren in mathematics, Dick Turner in art history, and Bob Hollander in European literature and as director of undergraduate studies - his Dante students return each year at Reunions for a seminar with him.
The University’s administration has had its share of our classmates: listed alphabetically, Don Altmaier, Associate Director of the Alumni Council; Paul Firstenberg, Financial Vice President, Scott McVay, Recording Secretary and Assistant to President Bowen; Roger Moseley, University Physician, and Jim Poage, Director of the Computer Center.
Financial gifts from Class members can fairly be described as beyond generous, both in terms of numbers giving and amounts given. There are names on buildings that must be mentioned. Peter Lewis gave the Science Library, the Genomics Laboratory, and The Lewis Center for Creative and Performing Arts. Neil Wallace and his family funded the Theatre and Dance Studio in that Center and Wallace Hall at the Woodrow Wilson School.
But there are so many other very substantial gifts that to name them all would be beyond the scope of this summary: professorships, scholarships, gifts in support of the library and the art museum, for many programs and departments, athletic teams, physical aspects of the campus, and more. Some classmates choose a single beneficiary and others spread their largesse around. Let’s just say that our big class have given back with great enthusiasm.
The University has awarded two classmates the Woodrow Wilson Prize, the highest honor given to an alumnus: Ralph Nader and Bill Ruckelshaus.
And one more Class program is neither directly in the Nation’s service nor in the University’s: a foundation that serves members of the Class itself and their families. While not unique among Princeton classes, it is unusual. Scott McVay pressed for it, and has been helped by Lee Cobb, Charlie Mapes, Mike Robbins, Jack Wallace, Alan Willemsen, and Rogers Woolston.
So that’s it, or at least a synopsis of it. For any grievous omissions or errors, you can blame Herb Kaufmann or Jim Lynn, who put it together.