Skip to content

1965: Robertson Hall

Night view from northeast (photo circa 1965)

Night view from northeast (photo circa 1965)

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library

Curator's Note

As of June 2020, the Trustees have changed the name of the WWS to The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. The text below dates from 1978.

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs is a memorial to the University's thirteenth president and the nation's twenty-eighth. Designed to prepare students for careers in public service in keeping with the tradition described in Woodrow Wilson's oration "Princeton in the Nation's Service," the school was founded in 1930 as a cooperative enterprise of the History, Politics, and Economics Departments at the undergraduate level. In 1948 the trustees named the school for Wilson and established a graduate program, which was considerably expanded after 1961, when the University received a generous gift for this purpose.

The prime movers in the founding of the school were Charter Trustees William Church Osborn 1883 and Albert G. Milbank 1896, who obtained financing for its early years and who were key members of its original advisory board. Their contributions to the school's origin and development were later recognized by the creation of a memorial professorship in public affairs for Osborn and one in international law for Milbank.

Initially the school was administered by a faculty committee, of which politics professor Harold W. Dodds, later University president, was chairman. A leading authority on municipal government, Dodds guided the school's first faculty research project, a survey of state expenditures in New Jersey, undertaken at the request of the governor.

The school's first director was Dewitt Clinton Poole, previously counselor of the United States Embassy in Berlin. Called to Princeton to help establish the school, he served as director from 1933 until 1939. Poole was chiefly responsible for the early development of a conference course in which undergraduates were trained to apply the analytical methods of their academic studies to the world's practical problems -- a contribution which, President Dodds said, made the School at that time "the most significant experiment in the teaching of the social studies . . . in any American university."

The school's early years saw the beginnings of two research programs. The State and Local Government Section, which was created in 1935, continued active under John F. Sly's direction until 1961. In 1936, the Office of Population Research was founded through the influence of Frederick Osborn '10 (son of William Church Osborn), who was a trustee of the Milbank Memorial Fund, which provided much of the original financing; under the direction of Frank Notestein, later of Ansley J. Coale, and more recently of Charles F. Westoff, it has been internationally famous.

Succeeding Poole as director was Dana Gardner Munro, who had come to Princeton as a professor of history in 1932 after serving as chief of the State Department's Division of Latin American Affairs and as minister to Haiti. His nineteen-year tenure, from 1939 to 1958, brought significant advances in the school's development. In 1939, the School became a separate department for purposes of undergraduate concentration, allowing upperclassmen to do their independent work and take their final examination in the fields of public or international affairs rather than in one of the social science departments, as formerly. Under Munro, the conference course continued to be the most distinctive feature of the program, which was further enriched by senior seminars (and in later years by policy task forces, smaller versions of the conference).

Up to 1948 the director of the school was also director of the undergraduate program. Since then, those in charge of the undergraduate program have included William W. Lockwood, Harold Chase, William D. Carmichael, Jameson W. Doig, and Robert van de Velde.


The Munro years also saw the beginning of a graduate program, the strengthening of the faculty, and the creation of the school's first real home. These developments followed the trustees' naming of the school for Woodrow Wilson, thus providing what President Dodds called "a natural and fitting memorial." Wilson, he said, "expressed in one sentence . . . the central truth to which instruction in this School is dedicated: 'We are not put into this world to sit still and know; we are put here to act.'"

Donald H. Wallace, who had been a key economic adviser in the Office of Price Administration during World War II, was called to Princeton in 1947 as first director of the graduate program and was later appointed first incumbent of the William Church Osborn professorship. Wallace's pioneering effort to develop a new approach to professional training in public affairs was cut short by his death in 1953. He was succeeded by Stephen K. Bailey and subsequently by Harold Stein, and followed as Osborn Professor by Bailey in 1954 and by Ansley J. Coale, head of the Office of Population Research, in 1964.

The school's work in the international field was strengthened in 1951 when Frederick S. Dunn (Princeton '14) and six of his associates at the Yale Institute of International Studies, of which he had been director, were called to Princeton. Dunn was appointed first Milbank Professor and first director of the School's Center of International Studies, founded with the help of the Milbank Memorial Fund. He was later succeeded in this post by economist Klaus Knorr, and subsequently by historian Cyril E. Black.

In the late 1940s, a committee headed by Charter Trustee Dean Mathey '12, began raising funds to endow the school's development as a memorial to Wilson and to provide a building to suit its special needs. Woodrow Wilson Hall, at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Washington Road, was dedicated in 1952, replacing the temporary quarters the School had previously occupied in Dickinson and Whig Halls and in the former Arbor Inn eating club.

That same year, John D. Rockefeller III '29, then a charter trustee, instituted a program of annual awards for outstanding public service, to be administered by the School. Originally restricted to federal career officials, the program was broadened in 1976 to honor individuals from both within and outside government for outstanding contributions to the public welfare at all levels -- local, state, and national.


A new era began in 1961 with a $35 million gift designed to develop within the School, in President Goheen's words, "professional education for the public service at a level of excellence comparable to the country's outstanding schools of law and medicine." The donors, Charles S. Robertson '26 and his wife Marie, insisted on anonymity, and for a dozen years the origin of the gift -- the largest in Princeton's history -- was a well-kept secret. But the University was embarrassed by continuing speculation about the source of the funds, and in 1973, Robertson reluctantly agreed to let the facts be known.

The Robertson benefaction permitted a marked increase in enrollment of graduate students, enlargement of the faculty, and the creation of new facilities. A new building, designed by Minoru Yamasaki, was erected on the site of the old one, which was moved to its present location and renamed Corwin Hall. The new building was dedicated in May 1966 with addresses by President Goheen, Governor Richard J. Hughes, and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

At the dedication, President Goheen described the contributions trustees and faculty members had made to the school's early development and then paid particular tribute to three men, who had "directed the School so ably in this great new phase of its development": Gardner Patterson, director from 1958 to 1963, Lester V. Chandler, acting director for the year 1963-64, and Marver H. Bernstein, the school's first dean from 1964 to 1969. Patterson became deputy director-general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Bernstein, president of Brandeis University.

Bernstein had been the first director of the graduate program after the Robertson gift. He was succeeded in that post by William G. Bowen, later president of the University, and Richard A. Lester, later dean of the faculty. Subsequent directors have been Richard H. Ullman, Michael N. Danielson, Jameson W. Doig, David F. Bradford, and Charles H. Berry.

Since 1961 the faculty of the school has been augmented by appointments from outside Princeton as well as from the University's social science departments. Those called to Princeton included Sir W. Arthur Lewis, authority on the economy of developing nations, who was appointed first incumbent of the School's newly created James Madison Professorship of Political Economy; and Richard Falk, an authority on the international legal order and comparative world order systems, who was named second incumbent of the Milbank Professorship of International Law and Practice.

Two of the new faculty members came to Princeton as deans. John P. Lewis, who had previously served as a member of the President's Council on Economic Advisers and as minister-director of the AID mission to India, was dean of the school from 1969 to 1974. He was succeeded by Donald E. Stokes, an authority on American and British voting habits, who had won high honors in the school on his graduation from Princeton in 1951 and, after taking his Ph.D. in politics at Yale, had gone on to become dean of the graduate school at the University of Michigan.

As the faculty expanded, new specialized research resources were added, including a program, founded in 1967, under the direction of W. Arthur Lewis and later of John P. Lewis, on the economic development of less developed nations. A research program on criminal justice, under the direction of Jameson W. Doig, was begun in 1973 with funds from the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation. To facilitate student and faculty involvement in public affairs within the state, a new Center for New Jersey Affairs, under the direction of Michael N. Danielson, was established with a federal grant in 1975.

The school in 1966 initiated a small Ph.D. program for selected graduates of its master's program, with substantial experience in public affairs, who plan to pursue public service careers in which a Ph.D. is desirable.

The school's work in mid-career education, begun on a small scale in 1948 to help prepare men and women for positions of greater responsibility in their professions, was considerably expanded in the early 1960s by the development of two new, one-year, non-degree programs. One program, begun in 1962, has brought to the school annually a select group of some twenty officials of federal, state, and local governments. Another, started in 1961 with support from the Albert Parvin Foundation, has brought each year six to eight talented men and women from developing countries as distant and diverse as Chile, India, Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Sudan. In 1975, a third program was established with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; it has brought to the school annually eight journalists for training in the application of modern economic analysis to questions of public policy.

In the mid seventies, the school's faculty numbered about forty regular members, each of whom, with rare exceptions, held an appointment in another department as well. Thirty other members of social science departments also participated in the graduate program. The school's student body included about 120 undergraduates equally divided among juniors and seniors, approximately 110 graduate students working toward the Master of Public Affairs or the Doctor of Philosophy degree, and about 40 mid-career fellows.

The essential qualities that distinguish the Wilson School from comparable programs at other universities were outlined by Dean Stokes in a 1976 Alumni Weekly interview. Princeton's program, he noted, is one of the few that admits both undergraduates and graduate students -- an arrangement that works to the advantage of both groups, undergraduates profiting by exposure to more mature graduate students and experienced mid-careerists, and the latter finding stimulation in their exposure "to the freshness of the undergraduates, their drive, their mental sharpness."

Another difference he mentioned was that, while most other schools are devoted mainly to the study of either domestic or of foreign affairs, the Wilson School is equally committed to both, and the career interests of students reflect a similar balance. "Those whose interests are international," Dean Stokes said, "need to know more about the way things work in Washington and, indeed, in Trenton, N.J. . . . And many jobs in the domestic field require knowledge of how foreign countries handle similar problems. Much can be learned, for example, about the problems of our own cities by studying urban problems overseas, and this thrust toward comparative study is far more likely to be real in a school with a strong international dimension."

However, the characteristic that he personally found most appealing was the "remarkably modern interdisciplinary nature of the School, built in at the very beginning." He liked, for example, the way economics and political science, each a major discipline, interact with one another and with more technical fields. "So many combinations are possible," he said. "There is so much openness. Where a student has an interest in a technological field, we try to work out a joint-degree program. We have close ties as well both to the School of Architecture and Urban Planning and to the School of Engineering and Applied Science. We expect to strengthen our ties with a number of other departments and programs."

Former Woodrow Wilson School students who have become prominent in public life include: G. Mennen Williams '33, six times governor of Michigan; John B. Oakes '34, New York Times editorial page editor; Francis L. Van Dusen '34, district court judge; J. Harlan Cleveland '38, assistant secretary of state, and later ambassador to NATO; William E. Colby '40, director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Claiborne Pell '40, senator from Rhode Island; George P. Schultz '42, secretary of the treasury; Nicholas de B. Katzenbach '43, undersecretary of state, and later attorney-general; John Doar '44, special counsel of the House~~ Judiciary Committee; Paul Volcker '49, undersecretary of the treasury, and later president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Donald B. Easum MPA '50, assistant secretary of state, and later ambassador to Nigeria; Alexander B. Trowbridge '51, secretary of commerce; Ralph A. Dungan, Jr., MPA '52, ambassador to Chile, and later chancellor, Department of Higher Education of the State of New Jersey; W. Michael Blumenthal MPA '53, chairman of the Bendix Corporation, and later secretary of the treasury; Paul S. Sarbanes '54, senator from Maryland; Ralph Nader '55, consumer advocate.


The most striking feature of Minoru Yamasaki's design is provided by fifty eight elegantly tapered pillars that give a feeling of lightness and grace to the building they surround. These white, quartz-surfaced pillars support the top floor of the building, permitting the use on the first floor of non-bearing walls of travertine marble and allowing a freedom of space within.

The main story, which is twenty-eight feet high, contains a well-lit and comfortable lobby-lounge extending the width of the building, a bowl-shaped auditorium seating 200, a library with two mezzanine levels containing student carrels, and a dining room. On the lower floor, which is below ground level, are conference, seminar, and lecture rooms, and on the upper floor, faculty offices and smaller lounges.

The lobby-lounge contains an abstract sculpture, "The World, 1964," by Harry Bertoia and bronze busts of Woodrow Wilson by Jo Davidson and of Adlai E. Stevenson by Ellen Simon. In the plaza to the north is a reflecting pool and a twenty-foot-high bronze "Fountain of Freedom" by James Fitzgerald.

Source: Leitch p. 518 ff

Robertson Hall in Evolution of the Campus

More information on Robertson Hall

View during construction

View during construction

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library

Aerial view

Aerial view

Other license.

Source: Unknown

View from North

View from North

Other license.

Source: Unknown