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Andrew Fleming West
Class of 1874

Photograph circa 1889

Photograph circa 1889

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series, AC059 Box FAC103.

Andrew Fleming West (1853-1943), first dean of the Graduate School, was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania on May 17, 1853. He entered Princeton in 1870, but soon withdrew because of poor health and for two years attended Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where his father was a professor in the Danville Theological Seminary. He returned to Princeton in 1872, graduating in the Class of 1874. After college, he taught high school Latin in Cincinnati for six years and, following a period of study in Europe, served for two years as principal of the Morris Academy in Morristown, New Jersey.

In 1883 he was called to Princeton by President McCosh to fill the newly founded Giger chair in Latin. Early in his career he published a book about the teacher of Charlemagne, Alcuin and the Rise of Christian Schools, and a Latin grammar he hoped would lead secondary school students "without too many scratches" through what Alcuin had called "the thorny thickets of grammatical density." He was president of the American Philological Association, a trustee of the American Academy in Rome, one of the founders of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome, and the principal founder of the American Classical League, which he organized in an effort to stem the decline of interest in the classics -- in his view, "the gold standard of education."

The organizing and fund-raising talents West used in his efforts on behalf of the classics also found dramatic expression in the University's highly successful sesquicentennial celebration in 1896. As secretary of the committee in charge of the celebration, he organized a splendid three-day affair, including a distinguished program of public lectures by visiting scholars from abroad that set a pattern for other, later university celebrations, and a spectacular torchlight procession of 2,000 gaily costumed alumni that stimulated the development of the most colorful event of the annual Commencement season -- the alumni parade.

West also helped to obtain President Cleveland's participation in the celebration, and after his second term as president, Cleveland moved to Princeton, naming the house and grounds that West found for him "Westland." On his election as a University trustee, Cleveland became chairman of the trustees' committee on the graduate school and West's strong supporter.

As secretary of the committee that sought gifts in connection with the sesquicentennial celebration, West played a significant role in the raising of funds for endowment and for a library and three dormitories ("Here's to Andy three million West," the seniors sang, "At gathering money he is the best"); he was also largely responsible for introducing collegiate gothic architecture at Princeton, communicating his enthusiasm for the gothic of Oxford and Cambridge to M. Taylor Pyne and other donors and -- through Pyne's influence as chairman of the grounds and buildings committee -- to other members of the board of trustees.

With his appointment in December 1900 as first dean of the graduate school, West devoted his energy and talents to the development of the school and particularly to the creation of a residential graduate college. He wanted Princeton to lead the way in providing adequate residences for American graduate students. In the spring of 1903, after visiting Oxford, Cambridge, and other universities in Britain and on the continent, he outlined his proposal for a residential college in a handsomely illustrated book, which he proceeded to use, with great effectiveness, in raising funds for this project. One of the first results of his effort was a $275,000 bequest left in the spring of 1906 by Mrs. Josephine Thomson Swann, of Princeton, for a graduate college in memory of her first husband, United States Senator Robert S. Thomson, of the Class of 1817.

The Swann bequest brought to light a disagreement between West and President Wilson regarding the location of the graduate college that marked the onset of the great controversy between these two strong and stubborn sons of Presbyterian ministers. From the beginning, Wilson had wanted the graduate college "at the heart" of the University as "a means of vitalizing the whole intellectual life" of the place. West appeared to be in agreement at first: in his book, he spoke of the influence the proposed graduate college would have on "every undergraduate who passes it in his daily walks." However, as his plans developed, he settled on a location geographically separate from the main campus, where, as he put it, the graduate college would be free from the distractions of undergraduate life, and thus able to develop "its own true life."

West's position was greatly strengthened in the fall of 1906 when he received an invitation to the presidency of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. What his loss would mean to Princeton was widely discussed in the nation's press as well as in the Princetonian and the Alumni Weekly. After the adoption of a trustees' resolution (drafted by Wilson) declaring that the board would consider his loss "quite irreparable" because it had "particularly counted upon him to put into operation the Graduate College which he conceived and for which it has planned," West finally declined the invitation, and the New York Sun headlined its announcement "WEST WON'T GO."

West suffered a setback in the spring of 1908, when the trustees voted to locate the Thomson graduate college between Prospect and Seventy-nine Hall. A year later, however, West's continuing efforts were rewarded by a letter he received from Procter and Gamble Company President William Cooper Procter 1883, whose wife had been a student of West's at the Hughes high school in Cincinnati. Procter offered the University $500,000 for the graduate college, provided the trustees raised an equal amount from other sources and selected some site other than the Prospect one.

The stalemate that followed the Procter offer ended abruptly in May of 1910 with the death in Salem, Massachusetts, of Isaac C. Wyman 1848, a wealthy bachelor West had visited a number of years before, and sought to persuade to leave his money to Princeton for a graduate college to be built near where his father had fought in the Revolutionary battle of Princeton. From Salem, where he had gone for the funeral and probate of the will, West telegraphed President Wilson and Trustee M. Taylor Pyne (by then chairman of the graduate school committee) that Wyman had left his residuary estate (estimated originally at upwards of $2 million but eventually realized at a little less than $800,000) for the purposes of the Graduate College and had named West as one of two executors and trustees. "I laid a spray of Ivy from Nassau Hall on Mr. Wyman's casket," West reported in a letter to Pyne describing the funeral, "and I planted an Ivy root from Nassau Hall at his grave."

President Wilson having acknowledged defeat in the matter of location, the Board, on his recommendation, unanimously authorized acceptance of the Procter gift; it also voted to extend its thanks to West for his "great services to the University" in obtaining the Wyman bequest.

Built on the north edge of the University's golf links, half a mile from the main campus, its chief supporters remembered by Thomson College, Procter Hall, Wyman House, Pyne Tower, and Cleveland Tower, the graduate college was dedicated on October 22, 1913, with speeches by, among others, Dean West and ex-President Taft.

Although his main ambition was now fulfilled, West continued to exercise his money-raising talent. When Henry Clay Frick, on being shown Procter Hall, observed that it "looked too damn much like a church -- all it needs is an organ," West quickly persuaded him to give one. Nor was he discomfited by Edward W. Bok's comment that Princeton needed a memorial to Woodrow Wilson; he promptly exacted from Bok endowment for a Woodrow Wilson professorship.

A large man (the undergraduate Faculty Song described him as "63 inches around the vest") with an impressive voice, West was an unforgettable personage. A wit and a satirist, he delighted in epigrams and limericks. He also took special pleasure in writing the honorary degree citations, and was always ready to respond to a request for an elegant inscription for a new building. He enjoyed dining out, fine food, good conversation, a good cigar, a good detective story, and a good joke.

West retired in 1928 after forty-five years as Giger professor of Latin and twenty-seven as dean of the graduate school. Classicist Edward Capps, who had been called from the University of Chicago by Wilson and had been one of his strongest partisans, wrote to West: "You are entitled to reflect, as few of us are, that you have seen most of your dreams come true. The Graduate School and the Graduate College are your sole creations, and they are splendid." At the same time, the university conferred on West an honorary doctor of letters, and the Daily Princetonian issued a 32-page special edition to recount his achievements. A few months earlier, R. Tait McKenzie's bronze statue of him, given by William Cooper Procter, had been erected in the main quadrangle of the Graduate College and a small house was completed next to Wyman House for his use the rest of his life.

In his retirement years, he recommended Princeton as "a good place to grow old in" to members of the Nassau Club, when they gave him a dinner on his eighty-first birthday, learned with satisfaction of the endowment by the Carnegie Corporation and anonymous donors of The Andrew Fleming West chair in classics, and, with the help of President Dodds, who went to see him at his request, planned his funeral. After "some bantering back and forth and a considerable amount of laughter," they outlined a full service and left copies at the office and home of the president and the dean of the graduate school -- West "had never been prone to leave things at loose ends," Mr. Dodds later recalled, "and his funeral was to be no exception."

He died on December 27, 1943, and the funeral service -- as planned -- was held in the University Chapel three days later.

A faculty memorial minute lauded West's "vision, wisdom, and tenacity of purpose," his "keen understanding of human nature," his "powers of persuasion," and his "genius for strong and enduring friendships."

Statue of West at the Graduate College

Source: John D. Davies as quoted in Leitch p. 501 ff