Biography and History

John Maclean, Jr. was a professor, vice president, and president of Princeton University. Born on March 3, 1800, Maclean was the son of the College's first chemistry professor, John Maclean, Sr. Entering the College of New Jersey as a sophomore, he graduated in 1816 as the youngest in his class. He taught for a few months in Lawrenceville, New Jersey before earning a divinity degree from the Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1818 he was appointed as a tutor of Greek at the College of New Jersey, beginning a long, varied, and devoted career at his alma mater. Four years later he was elected to fill the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy, though he would later return to teaching languages and literature. Maclean also served as the College’s librarian from 1824 until 1849. Maclean was named vice president at the age of twenty-nine.

In 1854 Maclean assumed the presidency of the College of New Jersey. The following year Nassau Hall caught fire, forcing him to tighten the budget and raise funds from friends and alumni for the building’s restoration. He contributed part of his own salary as well, and Nassau Hall was completely restored in 1860. During the Civil War Maclean and his faculty supported the Union cause, yet demonstrated understanding towards the plight of Southern students. In 1868 he resigned after half a century of service to the College of New Jersey. During his presidency he added 10 new professors to the faculty, and 895 students (an average of 64 per year) graduated.

Maclean was also involved in a plethora of associations and charities. These included religious, educational, prison reform, literary, and temperance societies. Maclean was ordained to the gospel ministry by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1828. He was also a principal founder and first secretary of the College of New Jersey Alumni Association. During his retirement he wrote a two-volume history of the College of New Jersey from the granting of its charter to the resignation of his predecessor. He died on August 9, 1886.

Source: From the finding aid for AC339