Biography and History

Born on February 2, 1878, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Christian Gauss was the son of German immigrants. Gauss attended the University of Michigan and later became an instructor there after graduating with an A.B. in 1898. In 1901, Gauss left Michigan to become Instructor of Modern Languages at Lehigh University. Gauss moved to Princeton in 1905 and became one of Woodrow Wilson's original preceptors. Two years later he was promoted to full professor. In 1912, Gauss became chairman of the Department of Modern Languages, a position he held until 1936. As a professor, Gauss became known for his lectures. He often drafted several versions, honing them to the point where he felt they could be delivered.

In 1925, he was appointed Dean of the College. Gauss, the professor and dean, was often described as being firm but fair. Students described his courses as being both rigorous and rewarding. He often invited students to his family's home to discuss intellectual or personal matters they may have been dealing with or simply to listen to sports on the radio. In 1929, Gauss was named first incumbent of a chair in modern languages endowed by his friends in the Class of 1900. Gauss was committed to Princeton University throughout his career, even beyond his professional responsibilities. He edited the Princeton Alumni Weekly, served as trustee and vice president of Princeton University Press, was chairman of the University Council on Athletics, and helped found and served as first chairman of the Creative Arts Council. He eventually retired from Princeton University in 1946 but remained active in alumni affairs until his death in 1951.

Gauss became one of the foremost voices on liberal education while at Princeton. He published articles and essays on the subject throughout his career. He also wrote extensively on literature, penning numerous critical essays and reviews, and he authored several books, including Life in College and A Primer For Tomorrow. Gauss also edited several works, such as The Teaching of Religion in American Higher Education, a collection of essays by prominent commentators on higher education.

Source: From the finding aid for C0310

  • Phi Beta Kappa Records. 1896-1969 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC034

    The Princeton University Phi Beta Kappa Records consist of correspondence, reports, minutes, and other materials relating to the administration, membership, and finances of this organization.

  • Office of the Dean of the College Records. 1919-2015 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC149

    The Office of the Dean of the College is charged with overseeing undergraduate admission, curriculum, and academic development. The records document the work of the Dean of the College and the office staff, as well as faculty, students, alumni, and trustees whose work and interests have fallen under the domain of the Office of the Dean of the College. This record group contains annual reports, meeting minutes, departmental records, and correspondence.

  • Christian Gauss Papers. 1863-1952 (inclusive), 1900-1951 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0310

    Christian Gauss was one of Woodrow Wilson's original preceptors, the first Class of 1900 Professor of Modern Languages, and the third Dean of the College. The Christian Gauss papers include personal and professional writings, correspondence, photographs, memorabilia, and assorted ephemera and printed matter, as well as numerous documents related to the Gauss family.