Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Princeton University. Office of the Provost.
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Office of the Provost Records
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
1953-2015, bulk 1967/2015
384 boxes, 1 folder, and 1 websites
Storage Note:

This collection is stored at Mudd Manuscript Library and ReCAP.



The Office of the Provost record group contains the records created and compiled by the Princeton University Office of the Provost since its establishment in 1966. As of 2018, this collection includes the files of the second provost, William G. Bowen GS '58, through the tenth provost, Amy Gutmann, whose tenure ended in 2004. The files consist of correspondence, memoranda, reports, notes, speeches, publications, and other assorted material.

Collection Description & Creator Information


Though the records of the Office of the Provost contain some material that is duplicated in other University record groups (such as those of the Office of the President and the dean of the faculty), there are specific subjects that this collection documents especially well. The provost (rather than the president) has primary responsibility for oversight of the University's affirmative action programs, computing, the University Library, the Art Museum, and the Plasma Physics Lab, which results in extensive documentation of these topics. These records are a rich source of information about the budgeting and fund allocation process, resulting from the provost's role as chair of the Priorities Committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community. The provost is also intensely involved with the academic planning process (the formation and development of academic departments, programs, and research centers) as well as the distribution of funds and space. All these subjects are well-documented in the collection. The collection also contains the archived website of the Office of the Provost covering the period 2015 and later.


The collection was initially grouped into series loosely reflecting the tenures of the various provosts (sometimes more than one are grouped together, reflecting the filing system of the Office of the Provost) or, in the case of series 5, Vice Provost Richard Spies. Series 1 through Series 7 are generally arranged by provost. The material kept by any given provost included documents from his or her predecessors, so there is considerable overlap between series. Folders in the first five series are generally arranged alphabetically (with general folders first), and items in the folders are filed in reverse chronological order unless otherwise noted.

The University Archives began crawling the public website of the Office of the Provost in 2015, and the website constitutes Series 8. Series 9 contains records fromt the Office of Equity and Diversity.

The University Archives received a large group of records in 2016. Material from every previous provost (Bowen through Eisgruber) is represented in this group, and we have arranged the latter series functionally as follows: Academic Departments; Centers and Programs; Administration; Committees and Meetings; Correspondence; External Organizations; and University Community. These functional groupings were influenced by the folders' color-coding system, as well as by a document found among the records (Box 322) listing record groupings used by the Office of the Provost during Amy Gutmann's tenure.

Physically, the folders remain in the order in which they were received by the University Archives. In some cases, boxes that were only partially full were combined. The files reflect the intermingled filing systems of various individuals and their staffs, including provosts, associate provosts and vice provosts.

Again, please expect overlap between series. To give one example, researchers seeking information about academic planning during Neil Rudenstine's tenure as provost should check multiple series--not only those of the provosts preceding and following Rudenstine, but also the functional Academic Departments series, the Administration series, and the Committees and Meetings series (which contains the minutes of the Academic Planning Group).

Collection Creator Biography:

The provost of Princeton University is the general deputy to the president charged with overseeing, coordinating, and planning academic programs and producing the yearly budget with the assistance of the treasurer's office and the guidance of the Priorities Committee. The provost is also responsible for primary oversight of the library, the plasma physics lab, affirmative action programs, and (at one time) computing. With the rapid expansion of the faculty and student body in the late 1960s and the rising administrative burdens caused by campus unrest, physical expansion, budget difficulties, and fund-raising challenges, President Robert F. Goheen '40 and the University administration decided to create the position of provost to begin in 1966. The provost would serve in the University administration as second-in-command to the president and take on some of the duties of the president, the dean of the faculty, and the treasurer. Goheen had longtime dean of the faculty J. Douglas Brown GS '28, who could only serve one year before retirement, and economics professor William G. Bowen GS '58, in mind as the first two occupants of the position. Brown served as the first provost for the 1966-1967 year, and Bowen was appointed at Brown's retirement. Bowen had already distinguished himself as a professor in the economics department, winning the confidence and enthusiasm of his students and his colleagues in the faculty. In 1962, he completed a study of Princeton's complex relationship with the federal government, highlighting his skill at representing complex problems clearly to other members of the University community. As provost, Bowen was widely credited with promoting coeducation and restoring financial order. He established the character and direction of the office in a response to a 1968 memorandum from President Goheen asking for his view of the functions of the provost. Bowen wrote, "As I now see our situation, the Provost should have four principal functions," which he listed as follows: 1. To serve as the general deputy of the president -- i.e., to assume on an ad hoc basis any responsibilities which the president chooses to delegate to him. 2. To act for the President in matters relating to the general supervision of the University in the absence or disability of the President. 3. To be responsible under the President for the allocation of University funds and for the coordination of activities and programs. 4. To be responsible, under the President, for academic planning. At Goheen's retirement in 1972, Bowen became president and appointed Sheldon Hackney, a professor of history, the third provost. The provost acquired the key role of chair of the Priorities Committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) in 1974. Hackney also experienced student unrest and challenging budget problems during his tenure. His skillful handling of student activists and his common-sense, cooperative approach to administrative oversight led Tulane University to offer him its presidency in 1975. He became president of the University of Pennsylvania in 1981 and chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1993. Albert Rees, a former professor of economics at Princeton who directed U.S. President Gerald Ford's Council on Wage and Price Stability in 1974 and 1975, followed Hackney. Rees used his extensive experience in finance and his prior service on the Priorities Committee to tighten the University's budget while making the Priorities Committee more transparent. He left the University in 1977 (later becoming president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) and was replaced by Dean of the College Neil Rudenstine '56. Rudenstine was recruited from his position as a professor of English at Harvard to become dean of students at Princeton after he received national press for confronting student protesters at Harvard. His administrative talent was quickly recognized and he was appointed dean of the college when Bowen became president. In his decade as provost, 1977 to 1988, he was praised as thoughtful, deliberate, and consultative. Correspondence and memoranda indicate that he was well-liked and trusted by faculty and perceived as a close complement to President Bowen. He mastered the budgetary process early on (sociology professor Marvin Bressler once called him a "closet economist") and oversaw the creation of the "table of needs" for the Capital Campaign in the early 1980s. After the campaign, Rudenstine was most responsible for guiding the allocation of new funds, the creation of new academic programs and projects, and the planning of numerous buildings and renovations. The provost's intimate knowledge of allocation procedures and largely administrative facilities such as the library gradually caused the provost to become more involved with administrative services and computing, especially as these relate to academic departments and research facilities. Rudenstine also closely monitored the work of the Committee on Undergraduate Residential Life (CURL), which established the college residential system for Princeton undergraduates in 1981. Rudenstine served with Bowen until their mutual retirement from Princeton in early 1988. He joined Bowen as vice president of the Mellon Foundation until he was selected to be the 26th president of Harvard University in 1991. Philosopher and longtime Princeton professor and administrator Paul Benacerraf '52 served as provost from 1988 to 1991 under President Harold T. Shapiro GS '64. Serving an administration more hands-off than its predecessor, Benacerraf provided an informal administration liaison to the faculty. In 1991, he returned to teaching philosophy. Hugo Sonnenschein, a former professor of economics and member of the Priorities Committee at Princeton and then a dean at the University of Pennsylvania, returned to Princeton to become the University's seventh provost in 1991. At his selection, President Shapiro said that "he will shortly become one of the most distinguished, influential people in higher education." He was appointed president of the University of Chicago two years later. Sonnenschein was replaced in 1993 by another economist on the faculty, Stephen Goldfeld, who died of cancer just weeks after stepping down in 1995. Jeremiah Ostriker, a longtime professor of astrophysics and respected member of the faculty, was chosen as the University's ninth provost in 1995 and served until August 31, 2001, three months into the tenure of Shirley Tilghman, Princeton's first female president. Amy Gutmann, a professor of political philosophy and a former dean of the faculty, became the University's first female provost on September 1, 2001. Gutmann stepped down to become president of the University of Pennsylvania in 2004 and was replaced by Woodrow Wilson School professor and constitutional scholar Christopher Eisgruber '83. Eisgruber served as Provost until he became the university's 20th President in 2013. David Lee, a professor of economics and public affairs, served as Provost from 2013-2017. Lee also served as director of the Industrial Relations Section, an academic unit that promotes research and training in labor economics, from 2009 to 2013. Deborah Prentice became Provost in 2017. Prentice, Princeton's Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, was named dean of the faculty in 2014 after serving for 12 years as the chair of the Department of Psychology. Prentice is the third person to serve as provost after serving previously as dean of the faculty. While the Office of the Provost Records contain limited material from Eisgruber's tenure, the complete files of Christopher Eisgruber, David Lee and Deborah Prentice have not yet been transferred to the University Archives. (For more information on the early development of the position of provost, see box 154, folder 5, Benacerraf, Sonnenschein, and Goldfeld--Administration--Provost.) Princeton University Provosts J. Douglas Brown, 1966-1967 William G. Bowen, 1967-1972 F. Sheldon Hackney, 1972-1975 Albert Rees, 1975-1977 Neil L. Rudenstine, 1977-1988 Paul Benacerraf, 1988-1991 Hugo F. Sonnenschein, 1991-1993 Stephen Goldfeld, 1993-1995 Jeremiah P. Ostriker, 1995-2001 Amy Gutmann, 2001-2004 Christopher Eisgruber, 2004-2013 David Lee, 2013-2017 Deborah Prentice, 2017-

Collection History


The records were transferred to the University Archives from the Office of the Provost in a number of installments beginning in August 1971 . Two groups of records were transferred to the University Archives in 2016 . One group of about 150 boxes, accession number AR.2016.088, had been stored in the basement of Nassau Hall. Another group of 17 boxes, AR.2016.083, came directly from the Provost's Office.


Periodic transfers of records from the Office of the Provost are expected indefinitely.

Archival Appraisal Information:

Appraisal was conducted according to Mudd Manuscript Library policies and procedures. Office invoices and receipts, job search material, grievance files, and personal files not pertaining to the Office of the Provost, have been separated from the records acquired in 2016.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Matthew Reeder, Rosalba Varallo, Christina McMillan '07, and Shannon DeVore '07 from May 2004. Finding aid written by Matthew Reeder in May 2004.

Additions were processed by Christie Peterson with assistance from Ameena Schelling '12 in November 2010-January 2011. Series 8 was added by Lynn Durgin in December 2015. Series 9 was added by Lynn Durgin in January 2016.

Series 10 through Series 16 were added by Phoebe Nobles in March 2018.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Materials older than 30 years that do not pertain to student academic performance or discipline, trustee issues, or faculty personnel matters are open.

Series 8, Office of the Provost Public Website, and Series 9, Office of Equity and Diversity Records, are open for research use.

Some files contain personnel records and/or academic records that are restricted for 75 years from date of creation. Student discipline files are restricted for the lifetime of the student.

Restrictions beyond 30 years are noted in the relevant series or subseries descriptions and at the item level.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. If copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers will not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with non-commercial use of materials from the Mudd Library. For materials where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Special Requirements for Access:

Some materials in the Office of the Provost Records [Boxes 258, 296, 364, 370] have been treated for mold; however, materials may still be fragile and exhibit signs of damage. Researchers should exercise caution when handling these materials.

Other Finding Aids:

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 administrative record groups of the Office of the President (AC117, AC187, AC193, AC264, and AC379); the Annual Reports to the President (AC068); the Office of the Executive Vice President (AC271); the Office of the Dean of the Faculty (AC118); the Office of the Dean of the College (AC149); and the Graduate School Records (AC127).

The Princeton University Historical Audiovisual Collection (AC047) includes seven items that were moved there from the Office of the Provost Records: an audiotape labeled "Provost Bowen w/ students, 5-9-72, WPRB" (WPRB is the campus radio station), was originally found in the Office of the Provost Records, box 22, folder 4 (Bowen--Students--Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA)--Sit-In); and six audiotapes of the Hickel case campus hearings, originally found among the contents of the Office of the Provost Records, box 21, folders 2-10 (Bowen--Students--Hickel Case).

Full text searching of the Office of the Provost archived website is available through the ArchiveIt interface.

Credit this material:

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

Permanent URL:
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