- Series 14: John Grier Hibben Records
Series 14: John Grier Hibben Records
19 boxes (2 partial)
This collection is stored at Mudd Manuscript Library.
Requests will be delivered to Princeton University Archives, MUDD Reading Room
Collection Creator: Princeton University. Office of the
Extent: 19 boxes (2 partial)
Materials generated by the office of the president are closed for 40 years from
the date of their creation. Some records relating to personnel or students are
closed for longer periods of time.
Born in Peoria, Illinois April 19, 1861, John Grier Hibben was the son of the
Rev. Samuel Hibben, a Union chaplain in the Civil War who died when he was
one, and Elizabeth Grier Hibben. Hibben graduated from the College of New
Jersey in 1882. As a student, he was a junior orator, editor of the Bric-a- Brac, winner of the mathematical prize,
sophomore honor prize, and the Class of 1861 prize. He was also
valedictorian, class president, and received the J.S.K. fellowship in
mathematics. Having completed a one-year post-graduate course at the
University of Berlin, he attended the Princeton Theological Seminary from
1883 to 1886. During this time he temporarily took the place of Henry B.
Fine, Class of 1880, as instructor in mathematics at the College of New
Jersey, and he briefly taught French and German at the Lawrenceville School.
Hibben was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1887 and married Jenny
Davidson of Elizabeth, New Jersey the same year. They had one daughter.
A pastor in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania for four years, he had to end his
ministerial career due to a throat ailment, returning to his alma mater to
study philosophy. In 1891 he accepted an appointment as instructor in logic
and received his Ph.D. in 1893. Promoted to assistant professor of
philosophy, he became a full professor in 1907. He was named Stuart
Professor of Logic and, on January 11, 1912, was elected president. Between
1896 and 1910 Hibben wrote five books about philosophy. His first was Inductive Logic, followed by The Problems of Philosophy and Introduction to the Logic of Hegel. Logic Deductive and Inductive became a widely
used textbook in American colleges, and Philosophy of
the Enlightenment was his most esteemed work. He went on to write
A Defense of Prejudice and Other Essays in
1911 and The Higher Patriotism in 1915.
Hibben's relationship with his predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, had deteriorated
after Hibben sided with Wilson's opponents during the graduate college
controversy. The dispute had divided the University, and the search for a
successor to Wilson lasted 15 months. Once elected, Hibben immediately
addressed the issue, uniting the two factions. He announced that he
represented "no group or set of men, no party, no faction, no past
allegiance or affiliation — but one united Princeton." He consciously sought
the help of faculty who had sided with Wilson and encouraged them to
continue the former president's work. Hibben was frequently described as a
calm, patient, and temperate man, and these qualities undoubtedly helped him
to unify the University. His task was eased when the trustees decreased Dean
Andrew Fleming West's autonomy by subjecting the Graduate School to the
president's authority. During the First World War, Hibben offered University
resources to the federal government, including access to buildings and
laboratories for army, navy, and aviation training schools and research
programs. Only 60 undergraduates were not in service by the fall of
Hibben enhanced the curriculum by extending the preceptorial program to the
sophomore class and, in 1923, by initiating the four course or upper-class
plan of study, which gave students freedom to do independent reading in a
particular subject instead of taking a fifth course. The reading was
followed by a senior thesis and a comprehensive examination, an innovation
that soon became a hallmark of a Princeton education. Other changes in the
curriculum were achieved through the reorganization of academic departments.
Hibben separated Psychology and Philosophy and divided the Department of
History, Politics, and Economics into three separate units. In 1922 he
limited enrollment and established a system of selective admission. In the
same year, the Department of Oriental Languages and Literatures was founded,
and three schools were added during his presidency: Architecture in 1919,
Engineering in 1921, and Public and International Affairs in 1930. In order
to help freshmen adjust to campus life, Hibben created a pool of faculty
advisors. He also established the Council on Undergraduate Life in 1930,
allowing undergraduates to discuss problems and concerns.
During his tenure, the budget grew and enrollment increased by almost a
thousand students. The faculty grew by 73 percent and received salary
increases, pensions, insurance, and a minimum pay scale owing largely to
Hibben's effectiveness in increasing endowments. Between January 1912 and
June 1932, endowments increased from approximately five million to 24
million dollars. The number of buildings on campus doubled, including ten
dormitories, which encouraged students to remain in Princeton on weekends.
Other construction projects resulted in five new undergraduate dining halls,
the north court quadrangle at the graduate college, six new classroom and
research buildings, Palmer Stadium, Baker Rink, McCosh Infirmary, McCarter
Theatre, and the University Chapel with its nave named in Hibben's honor.
Yet another feature of this explosive growth, which reflected a general
economic expansion, was the doubling of books in the Library.
Hibben belonged to more than 60 educational, international, and patriotic
societies, and many honors were bestowed on him, including admission to the
French Legion of Honor in 1919. He served on the advisory board for the
American Defense Society and the National Security League, and he was a
member of the Naval League of the United States, the United States Junior
Naval Reserve, and the executive committee of the League to Enforce Peace. A
promoter of world peace, he was decorated by a number of foreign governments
and received honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, the
University of Pittsburgh, Yale, Columbia, Rutgers, Lafayette, Brown,
Harvard, the University of Toronto, McGill, and Princeton. One year before
his death, alumni established the Hibben Loan Fund of $1,000 per year to aid
deserving undergraduates. In June 1932 Hibben resigned after 20 fruitful
years as president of Princeton University. Sadly, he died in an automobile
accident the following year, an accident that also fatally injured his
The Hibben records are divided into five subseries. Four are based on the
form of the material, namely, Subject Files, Correspondence, Addresses and
Publications, and General Materials, and one consists of a box of documents
relating to the interim administration of Edward D. Duffield, who served as
Princeton University's acting president from 1932 to 1933. A biographical
sketch of Duffield accompanies the description of this subseries.
Series 14: John Grier Hibben Records; 1806-1986; Office of the President Records : Jonathan Dickinson
to Harold W. Dodds Subgroup, Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.