In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a graduate pioneers new territory in aviation, a sitting American president visits the campus, and more.
May 4, 1970—On the same day as the Ohio National Guard shoots and kills four students at Kent State University during an anti-war protest, over 4,000 Princeton students, faculty, and administrators gather at Jadwin Gym and discuss how they will register their disapproval of the Nixon administration’s invasion of Cambodia. They vote to suspend final exams (audio and photos available here). In the aftermath of the “Princeton Strike,” the academic calendar will be revised to allow for a two-week break from classes in November to allow students to campaign during election years. This will later live on at 21st-century Princeton as a week-long fall break.
May 6, 1963—More than 1,500 undergraduates riot in Princeton for no apparent reason, causing extensive damage to the town and campus. Twelve students are arrested in connection with crimes committed during the riot, and a fine will be imposed on the student body at large to pay for repairs. More than 40 years later, Princeton President Robert Goheen will recall the riot disdainfully.
May 8, 1919—Jim Breese, Princeton University Class of 1909, begins the world’s first transatlantic flight as the Reserve Pilot Engineer aboard the seaplane NC-4. The trip will take 23 days, during which Breese will earn the distinction of being the first person ever to shave on a plane. The Autostrop Company, manufacturer of his razor, will later buy it back from him for a reported $500 (about $12,000 in today’s currency).
May 10, 1991—Sitting United States President George H. W. Bush is on campus to dedicate the University’s Social Science Complex and receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. While accepting the degree (video here), Bush, a 1948 Yale graduate, talks about his first visit to Princeton during his senior year. “I was not treated quite so hospitably. It was out at the baseball diamond … Crowded along the first base line—it was very hostile, the way things were in Princeton—were a bunch of hyperventilating, celebrating alumni. And I remember standing there at first base and a gigantic tiger—I think his name was Neil Zundel—came to the plate. He lofted an easy fly toward Yale’s first baseman (me) and as I reached for the ball, the guy just sheer bowled me over to the cheers of the Princeton alumni. I was hurt. My pride was hurt. But P.S.: Yale won the ball game.”
For last week’s installment in this series, click here.
Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.