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16. Goheen, Robert Francis, Class of 1940 and *1948

Goheen, Robert Francis, Class of 1940 and *48

Goheen, Robert Francis, Class of 1940 and *48

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University. William F. Draper, American, 1912–2003, Oil on canvas, ca. 1962 111.8 x 86.4 cm (44 x 34 in.) Princeton University, commissioned by the Trustees

Goheen, Robert Francis (1919-2008), sixteenth president of Princeton, was born August 15, 1919, at Vengurla, Bombay Presidency, India, where his father, Dr. Robert H. H. Goheen, was a Presbyterian medical missionary. The son remained in India, except for furloughs that brought the family to temporary residences in Wooster, Ohio and Princeton, until he was fifteen, when he enrolled in the Lawrenceville School. After two years at Lawrenceville, he was graduated with honors.

For him Princeton was the logical choice of college. His grandfather, Joseph M. Goheen (also a Presbyterian missionary in India), had graduated with the Class of 1872. An uncle on his mother's side of the family, Rhea M. Ewing, was a member of the Class of 1924. An older brother, Richard R. P. Goheen, graduated in 1936. In the fall of that year, Bob, as he was commonly known to the very end of his presidency by a large part of the faculty and staff, began his own career at Princeton with the Class of 1940.

As a freshman Goheen won his numerals in both soccer and baseball. Thereafter he played on the varsity soccer team through three years in which two league championships were won. After his graduation, while enrolled as a first-year graduate student, he coached a freshman soccer team that lost only to Pennsylvania and defeated a theretofore unbeaten Yale team. His eating club was Quadrangle, of which he served as president. He was a member of the Inter-Club Committee, the Intramural Athletic Association, Whig-Clio, the Undergraduate Council, and Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated with Highest Honors in the Humanities Program, and in 1940 shared with James H. Worth the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest general distinction conferred upon an undergraduate.

In November 1941, after completing a year of graduate study with the Department of Classics, Goheen entered the army. During the preceding June, he had been married to Margaret M. Skelly of Wilmington, Delaware.

Upon graduating from Officer Training School, he was commissioned in May 1942 as a second lieutenant in the Infantry and assigned to the Military Intelligence Service in the War Department. In March 1943 he was reassigned to the First Cavalry Division, with which he served in the Pacific until the summer of 1945, receiving decorations that included the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star with two clusters. During his last year of service, he was Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 for the Division and held the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

After the war Goheen returned to Princeton to continue his graduate studies. In the fall of 1945 he became one of the three men to whom the first Woodrow Wilson Fellowships were awarded, under a program initiated at Princeton for the encouragement of young men to find a career in teaching and scholarship. He received the M.A. degree in 1947, and in 1948, after a year as a Procter Fellow, was awarded his Ph.D.

Goheen was immediately appointed as an Instructor in the Department of Classics, and in 1950 was promoted to an assistant professorship. His major scholarly work, The Imagery of Sophocles' Antigone, was published by Princeton University Press in 1951. He was the Arthur H. Scribner Bicentennial Preceptor from September 1951 to June 1954, and in 1952-1953, during his Bicentennial Preceptorial leave, a Senior Fellow in Classics at the American Academy in Rome.

After returning from his year of study abroad in 1953, Goheen became director of the National Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Program, a position to which he devoted half of his time through the following three years. The program had been greatly expanded since the initial appointment of three returning war veterans as fellows in 1945, having acquired the sponsorship of the American Association of Universities and won substantial funding by foundations. By the academic year 1954-55, the men and women who had held, or then held, the fellowships numbered 478; twelve regional committees served, with the aid of special representatives on individual faculties, to select the fellows from the many who were nominated for the honor. Between meeting classes in Princeton, Goheen spent much of his time on the road and in the process became well known among educators across the country.

He was elected to the presidency of Princeton by unanimous vote of the trustees on December 7, 1956, and at the same time was promoted from the rank of assistant professor to full professor. When he assumed office at the age of thirty-seven on July 1, 1957, he became the third youngest president in the history of the University (Aaron Burr, Sr., 1748-1757, had been thirty-two; Samuel Davies, 1759-1761, thirty-five).

In his 1967 annual report, President Goheen summarized the first ten years of his administration as a period of "growth and change . . . in almost every part of the university." The description is no less applicable to the entire span of fifteen years in which he served as president.

Although he repeatedly disclaimed any ambition to be known as a "building president," more was added to the physical plant during his administration than under any of his predecessors. Some twenty-five new buildings were constructed on the main campus, still others at the Graduate College and Forrestal. All told, if measured in terms of square footage under roof, the physical plant increased by 80 percent. In addition, many of the older buildings were renovated to provide more useful space for instructional departments.

Among the more important additions were the Art Museum, the Woolworth Center of Musical Studies, the Architecture Building, the Woodrow Wilson School, the Engineering Quadrangle, Jadwin Gymnasium, the Computer Center, and the complex of Peyton, Fine, and Jadwin Halls constructed for the mathematical and physical sciences in the area immediately adjacent to Palmer Stadium. All of these buildings housed expanded educational programs.

This physical expansion was accompanied by a proportionate increase in the financial resources of the University. The annual budget grew from approximately $20 million to $80 million. Contributions by the general body of alumni through Annual Giving more than doubled, reaching a total of $3.8 million in the last year of Goheen's administration. More than twenty newly endowed chairs were established for members of the faculty.

The faculty grew in size from just under 500 to more than 700, thereby maintaining the enviable student-teacher ratio for which Princeton had become noted. The number of applicants for admission to the college in Goheen's last year was more than two and a half times the number who applied during his first year in office. Undergraduate enrollment increased from nearly 3,000 to almost 4,000. The number of graduate students more than doubled.

President Goheen was deeply committed to Princeton's traditional emphasis on teaching combined with scholarship. "Pursued together," he observed, "they generate an atmosphere of learning that invigorates and gives added point to both." In the growing strength of the Graduate School he saw a strengthening also of undergraduate teaching. A national survey of graduate programs of study sponsored by the American Council on Education in 1969 rated 26 departments of instruction at Princeton and ranked 20 of them among the top ten in the country.

The undergraduate program of study found a new flexibility and variety in its response to what the president described as "an exploding, booming, shifting world of knowledge and ideas." Provision was made for sophomore concentration, a reading period at the end of each term, a reduction in course requirements for underclassmen, a University Scholar Program, and student-initiated seminars. New interdepartmental programs were introduced, among them the History and Philosophy of Science; Science in Human Affairs; Comparative Literature; and East Asian, Latin American, Russian, African, Afro-American, Urban, and Medieval Studies.

No less marked was President Goheen's active interest in the quality of student life. Without challenging the established eating clubs on Prospect Avenue, he assumed leadership in the creation of a number of alternative social facilities.

With new programs of study and alternative social facilities came also a new diversification of the student body. In 1969 for the first time women were enrolled as undergraduate candidates for a degree. As early as 1961, they had been admitted as candidates for degrees in the Graduate School, provided they could demonstrate some educational opportunity that was unique to Princeton, a condition abandoned in 1968. Simultaneously, the number of blacks and students representative of other disadvantaged minorities was greatly increased.

It was not by chance that a selection of President Goheen's addresses and other papers published by Princeton University Press in 1969 carried the title "The Human Nature of a University." He had a sensitive regard for the individuals (and their individuality) who make up a university. He also had a gift for maintaining rapport with them, whether students or members of the faculty and staff. Perhaps it was this quality, as much as any other, that enabled Goheen, in the later years of his administration, to bring Princeton through the most troubled period in the history of American higher education free of enduring scars.

Having more than once expressed the opinion that in a time of rapid change fifteen years was as long as a president should serve, he announced his intention to retire more than a year before he actually retired on June 30, 1972. The Princetonian, in a special issue of May 1971 devoted to the "Goheen Years," hailed him as "a superlative example of what a university president should be." The graduating seniors at the following commencement gave him a spontaneous ovation.

A year later another ovation came from the faculty at its last meeting with Goheen in the chair. A tribute presented in behalf of the faculty by one of its senior members recalled chiefly the recent past, when "momentous decisions had to be made in an atmosphere charged with feelings of shock, outrage, and anger," and credited the president with "the leadership we needed in a period of anxiety and confusion." The tribute concluded: "It was not simply that we trusted your judgment, good as it has proved to be. We trusted you as a man. . . . We admired your dignity and calmness in times of stress, your open-mindedness and fairness in times of controversy, and your endless patience as we groped towards a solution of our problems. And it is because we trusted you and because you deserved our trust that Princeton still flourishes under the grace of God."

The citation for an honorary degree conferred upon Goheen at the commencement of 1972 came unusually close to capturing the essential qualities of the man: "In his eyes the function of the intellect is so lofty that it becomes a form of morality. Patient, always humane and trustworthy, he is personally humble at the very time that he is rockily steadfast (an unsympathetic witness might say stubborn), not because he fails to understand and respect the views of others but because he refuses to compromise his own enduring values. By never seeking popularity, by never worrying about his own image in the eyes of others, he has gained the affection and respect of the entire university and led it to new achievement, new unity."

On his retirement in 1972, Goheen became president of the Council on Foundations. In 1977 he was appointed United States Ambassador to India.

W. Frank Craven, Leitch