Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Princeton University. Office of the Dean of the College
Office of the Dean of the College Records
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
233 boxes, 26 items, and 1 websites
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-233


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.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

20,340 emails

The Princeton University Office of the Dean of the College Records consists of the files of the dean and the office staff. Materials in the record group include correspondence, clippings, minutes, press releases, syllabi, student files, committee records, reports, proposals, statistics, and printed material. The records document the office's involvement with other administrative offices on campus, students, trustees, and entities outside of the University.

There is a significant amount of overlap among the series. Series 9 (General Files) in particular contains information that is nearly the same as or that complements material in the other series. Overall, the records of the Office of the Dean of the College are particularly useful for research into the role and responsibilities of the Dean of the College; the structures and policies governing undergraduate life; cooperation between the Office of the Dean of the College and other administrative offices, including the Office of the President; historic changes and events that have affected Princeton University (for example World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and changes in the undergraduate body, especially the admittance of minorities and women); events and programs on campus; faculty, teaching, and academic departments; and Princeton's relationships with academic and cultural institutions and businesses, federal and state governments, and alumni and trustees.

Please see series descriptions in contents list for additional information about individual series.

Collection Creator Biography:

Princeton University. Office of the Dean of the College

The Dean of the College is Princeton University's third-oldest deanship. President Woodrow Wilson established the office in the spring of 1909 to oversee disciplinary and extra-curricular concerns. Today, the Dean of the College has administrative oversight of admission to the undergraduate college, the curriculum of the College, and the services and agencies designed to promote the academic development of undergraduates. The Dean of the College is also charged with the application and enforcement of the rules and standards relating to undergraduate scholarship, standing, and attendance in the University.

Over the years, deans of the college have presided over committees including the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing, the University Committee on Discipline, the Probation Board, the Committee on Non-Athletic Activities, the Faculty Committee on Athletic Eligibility, and the Program for Servicemen. The Dean of the College is ex-officio chair of the Faculty Committees on the Course of Study, Examinations and Standing, Continuing Education, and Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid. The dean is an ex-officio member of the Council of the Princeton University Community, the Faculty Committees on Discipline, Public Lectures, Schedule, and Undergraduate Life, and sits with the Faculty Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements. Often, the Dean of the College is called upon to speak to alumni and student groups and at events outside of the University.

Edward G. Elliott, a professor of politics, served as the first Dean of the College, from 1909 until 1912. Howard McClenahan, who held the office until 1925, succeeded Elliott and was heavily involved in preparing the campus for World War I. McClenahan spent a significant portion of his tenure embroiled in a dispute after he declared several athletes ineligible. A group of alumni charged that the faculty was biased against athletes, and some called for McClenahan's resignation from the Intercollegiate Athletics board. In the face of calls for his resignation as dean, McClenahan maintained that Princeton must put academics first.

Christian Gauss, who had been one of Woodrow Wilson's original preceptors, served as Dean of the College from 1925 to 1946. Much admired for his sense of justice and fairness, Gauss became an almost legendary figure whom Howard Medina '09 called "perhaps the best-known and best-liked college dean in America." Gauss faced immense changes on campus after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, from the implementation of the Selective Service Act to an increase in withdrawals to students' requests for permission to marry. Gauss temporarily left office in 1943 to plan a post-war curriculum that, at President Dodds' urging, focused on maintaining Princeton's standards as a liberal arts school after many students switched to math and sciences during wartime. In addition to his efforts to meet the challenges wrought by World War II, Gauss, a great fan of athletics, garnered much favor during his tenure through his efforts to keep football at Princeton and his advocacy for the repeal of Prohibition.

Dean Francis Godolphin, a World War II veteran, took office in the postwar years (1946-1955). During a time of resurgence in campus activities and extreme overcrowding, the University administration was faced with the problem of providing housing for married veterans and their families. Godolphin in particular contended with, among other workload increases, a surge in correspondence with local draft boards and work with Selective Service issues. Godolphin also saw scholarship funds and employment opportunities under pressure and an increase in recommendations to graduate and professional schools. Amid the bustle of post-war adjustments, the Office of the Dean of Students was created to take on extra-curricular and social functions previously overseen by the Office of the Dean of the College. The Dean of the College still dealt with issues of discipline, and Godolphin came to the defense of the University Discipline Committee following a Daily Princetonian editorial that criticized suspensions as a form of punishment. Godolphin also defended University regulations when students protested a rule that barred women from dorms after 7 p.m., restrictions against cars on campus, and state liquor laws.

The latter half of the 1950s saw continued high enrollment and overcrowding everywhere on campus, but Dean Jeremiah Finch (1955-1961) used his time as dean to become more involved in classroom activities than his predecessors. He played a significant role in the development of the undergraduate program of study and focused on undergraduate advisors' evolving roles. Finch's efforts led to an expanded curricular focus on Russia and Asia, and the development of engineering science programs. He initiated reading periods, advanced placement, and early concentration, and increased the emphasis on independent work for upperclassmen. Finch also developed the Princeton Scholars program, a highly selective program in which a number of freshmen were offered exemption from all formal course requirements in their first year. During Finch's tenure students' interest in religious and political activities grew, as did the number of complaints from alumni, trustees and some outside of the University regarding the liberal nature of upper class club regulations. In response the dean ordered a cut in entertainment privileges, which caused controversy that evolved into an unprecedented demonstration against the administration.

J. Merrill Knapp (1961-1966) served as Dean of the College at a time of national concern over the college attrition rate, which Knapp addressed in several articles in national publications. He strengthened interdepartmental programs and created new opportunities in regional studies. He also made it possible for students to take one class per year on a pass/fail option. Knapp further developed the University Scholar Program and started the Experimental Research Scholar Program in the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School. He also formed the Cooperative Undergraduate Program for Critical Language and revised the Sociology Department curriculum.

Dean of the College Edward Sullivan (1966-1972) played a major role in initiating coeducation at Princeton. Sullivan sought to increase both variety and flexibility in the life of the undergraduate and encourage self-education and discovery. He introduced the course reduction system, which reduced course loads for freshmen, sophomores, and seniors. This move went against a national trend at the time toward heavier course loads and increased specialization. Early in his tenure he revamped the School of Architecture curriculum and the Latin American Affairs Program. During a time of political unrest on campus following the United States' invasion of Cambodia, Dean Sullivan quelled parental fears about the University shutting its doors after 4,000 students, faculty, and staff endorsed an anti-war strike. In part to allow for political involvement, students were allowed to postpone completion of academic work at the end of the spring term.

From the early 1970s deans of the college have focused heavily on matters of teaching and curriculum. Neil Rudenstine (1972-1977) moved into the position after serving as dean of students and contending with the 1972 anti-war strike, and focused his interest on the interrelationship of social and intellectual pursuits of undergraduates. Rudenstine served as a member of the Commission on the Future of the College, a major study of the college which had been commissioned by President Robert Goheen in 1970 to review undergraduate education at Princeton.

Under Dean Joan Girgus (1977-1987) the use of computers and technology in the classroom rose, and curriculum became more interdisciplinary in nature. Among her other duties, Girgus served as Princeton's representative to the Ivy Policy Committee. As a member of the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing, Dean Nancy Weiss Malkiel (1987-present) has devoted much of her work to studying grading patterns at Princeton, with an eye to grade inflation. She has also worked to encourage students to broaden their intellectual pursuits and explore the offerings of Princeton's smaller academic departments. During Malkiel's tenure as dean, the Office of the Dean of the College has developed new core requirements, expanded the Freshman Seminar Program, and diversified the curriculum. Malkiel's administration has also focused on improving the teaching of science to non-majors and writing instruction for all undergraduates.

Deans of the College, Department, Tenure as Dean

Edward G. Elliott, politics, 1909-1912

Howard McClenahan, physics, 1912-1925

Christian Gauss, modern languages, 1925-1946

Francis R. B. Godolphin, classics, 1946-1955

Jeremiah S. Finch, English, 1955-1961

J. Merrill Knapp, music, 1961-1966

Edward D. Sullivan, French, 1966-1972

Neil L. Rudenstine, English, 1972-1977

Joan S. Girgus, psychology, 1977-1987

Nancy Weiss Malkiel, history, 1987-2011

Valerie A. Smith, English, 2011-2015

Collection History


This collection has been transferred from the Office of the Dean of the College to the University Archives in periodic installments.


Periodic transfers of general records from the Office of the Dean of the College are expected indefinitely.


Appraisal has been conducted in accordance with Mudd Library guidelines. Of the 93,536 emails that were transferred with accession AR.2015.039 (Subseries 23A), 20,340 emails were selected for permanent retention based on a structered query for specific keywords and email addresses.

Processing Information

Series 1-16 were processed by Susan Hamson and Rosalba D. Varallo with the assistance of Shannon DeVore '07, Lindsey Huddle '07, Natasha Marshall '05, Pardon Makumbe '07, Elona Toska '05, and Victor Wakefield '07. Finding aid written by Christie Lutz in October 2006.

Series 17-20 were processed and finding aid was updated by Christie Peterson with the assistance of Ameena Schelling '12 in November 2010.

Series 23 was processed and finding aid was updated by Jarrett M. Drake in May 2015.

Floppy Disks in Series 21 was processed and finding aid was updated by Elena Colon-Marrero in June 2015.

Materials in Box 161 were treated for mold by the Preservation Department.

Subseries 21C was processed and finding aid updated by Annalise Berdini in August 2018.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Materials older than 30 years that do not pertain to student academic performance or faculty personnel matters are open. Student academic records in Series 15: Students and Series 19: Fulbright Applications – Winners are restricted for 75 years from the date of the creation of the record or the lifetime of the student.

Restrictions beyond 30 years are noted in the relevant series or folder descriptions.

Series 17: Undergraduate Announcements in Electronic Format is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. For instances beyond Fair Use, if copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of materials from the Princeton University Archives.

For instances beyond Fair Use where the copyright is not held by the University, while permission from the Library is not required, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Series 21 contains floppy disks and Series 23 contains records created and used on Windows 7 and Mac OS X desktop computers. Researchers are responsible for meeting the technical requirements needed to access these materials, including any and all hardware and software.

Credit this material:

Office of the Dean of the College Records; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-233

Find More

Related Materials

The records of various University administrative offices, academic departments, organizations, and committees relate to, and sometimes overlap with, this collection. Of particular interest may be the Office of the President Records, the Office of the Provost Records, the Office of the Secretary Records, and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty Records.

Also of interest are The Commission on the Future of the College, Chairman's Records, which document the work of the commission, also known as the Bressler Commission, which was charged with reviewing the state of undergraduate education at Princeton. A finding aid to this collection, which is held at the Mudd Library, is available at .

Annual reports to the president, which are held at the Mudd Library, include reports from the Dean of the College. Some of these reports are duplicated in this collection.

Other Finding Aids

Full text searching of the Dean of the College archived websites is available through the Archive-It interface.

Notebooks of Katherine Rohrer, Associate Dean of the Faculty from 1993 to 2001, can be found in AC195, Office of the Provost Records, Subseries 11H, as Rohrer also kept notebooks in her role as Vice Provost for Academic Programs, 2001 to 2015.


In the composition of this finding aid's history section, the following works were consulted: Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978. Article entitled "Dean of the College." Annual reports to the president from the Dean of the College. Root, Robert K. The Princeton Campus in World War II . Princeton, NJ, 1978. Selden, William K. Club Life at Princeton: An Historical Account of the Eating Clubs at Princeton University . Princeton, NJ: Princeton Prospect Foundation, 1994.

Subject Terms:
Coeducation--New Jersey--Princeton.
College administrators.
Discipline, College.
Educators -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- Correspondence.
Educators -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- Reports.
Scholarships -- New Jersey.
Scholarships -- United States.
United States -- Army.
United States -- Navy.
Universities and Colleges -- Administration -- New Jersey -- Princeton.
World War, 1939-1945.
Genre Terms:
Born digital.
Web sites.
Princeton University
Elliott, Edward G.
Finch, Jeremiah Stanton (1910-2005)
Gauss, Christian, 1878-1951
Girgus, Joan S., 1942-
Godolphin, Francis R. B. (Francis Richard Borroum), 1903-
Knapp, J. Merrill
Malkiel, Nancy Weiss
McClenahan, Howard, 1872-1935
Rudenstine, Neil L.
Sullivan, Edward D. (Edward Daniel), 1913-1995