Historical Timeline

Initially an institution for white males, Princeton has evolved into a university that strives to be a welcoming environment for people of all abilities, genders, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. The timeline below shows Princeton's advances and setbacks in opening the student and employee ranks to women and minorities.

The preamble to Princeton's charter claimed to welcome religious diversity, but in practice the campus was homogeneous. Princeton's early leaders included both slaveholders and abolitionists, and the University only occasionally admitted a student of minority status. The status quo held for more than two centuries.

In the 1950s and 1960s, as institutions across the United States began to welcome women and minorities, Princeton began to change. Under the leadership of Princeton President Robert F. Goheen (1957-1972), the University hired its first black professor, began enrolling women graduate and undergraduate students, and gave tenure for the first time to a female faculty member. Since that time, Princeton has continued to expand access and support for all.

Access to Higher Education: A Princeton Timeline

21st Century

In recent years, Princeton has expanded the diversity of its academic programs, increased access through aid policies, and enhanced its support services to reflect the growing diversity of the campus community.

  • 2011

    Princeton's Program in Women and Gender Studies changes its name to the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies to "reflect the new development and changing focus of scholarship in the field."

  • 2009

    Princeton hires the country's first full-time college Hindu chaplain.

    In the same year, the Program in Latino Studies is established.

  • 2007

    Princeton announces a strategic plan to expand its international initiatives.

    In the same year, the Center for African American Studies (CAAS) opens in Stanhope Hall.

  • 2006

    Princeton launches the Office of Disability Services.

  • 2005

    Princeton launches the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center.

  • 2001

    Princeton confers its first honorary degree on a Native American, Kevin Glover '78, a Pawnee/Comanche.

20th Century

Segregation and discrimination carried over into this century. Change finally began in earnest in the 1960s, leading to the addition of women and ethnic and religious minorities to the student body, the faculty and senior administrative posts.

  • 1998

    Princeton takes its first major steps to transform its financial aid policies, followed in 2001 by the groundbreaking "no-loan" policy.

  • 1994

    The Center for Jewish Life is established.

  • 1979

    Sally Frank '80 files a sex discrimination suit against all-male eating clubs.

  • 1972

    A kosher dining facility is established in Stevenson Hall, the first university-sponsored kosher kitchen in the Ivy League.

  • 1971

    Third World Center (now Carl A. Fields Center) and Women's Center are founded.

  • 1969

    Princeton trustees vote to admit women to the undergraduate student body.

  • 1968

    Carl A. Fields is appointed as assistant dean of the college, becoming the first African American to serve as dean at an Ivy League institution.

    In the same year, Suzanne Keller becomes the first tenured female member of the faculty.

  • 1964

    Princeton awards a Ph.D degree to a woman, T'sai-ying Cheng, for the first time.

    In the same year, Princeton ends compulsory chapel for freshmen.

  • 1958

    Princeton attracts national notoriety due to the "Dirty Bicker," in which Jewish students are denied memberships in eating clubs.

  • 1955

    Princeton appoints its first African American professor, Charles T. Davis.

  • 1951

    Princeton University confers an honorary degree upon Ralph Johnson Bunche, making him the first African American to receive such an honor from the college.

  • 1948

    Helen Baker, associate director of the Industrial Relations Section, is the first woman appointed to the faculty by the Board of Trustees.

    In that same year, James Everett Ward and Arthur Jewell Wilson Jr., both admitted to the Navy's V-12 Program in 1945, become Princeton's first African American graduates.

  • 1947

    The Student Hebrew Association is founded and holds the first Jewish service on campus, which is attended by Albert Einstein. A year later, the student organization joins the Hillel Foundation.

  • 1942

    Student editors of The Daily Princetonian advocate for desegregation at Princeton in a series of op-eds.

  • 1938

    Pioneering mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing receives a Ph.D.; in 2009, the British government would officially apologize for its persecution of Turing, who committed suicide in 1954 after criminal prosecution for homosexuality.

  • 1922

    Princeton changes undergraduate admissions procedures to include greater consideration of subjective non-academic criteria, largely in order to limit admission of Jewish applicants.

  • 1909

    President Woodrow Wilson 1879 protects Princeton's racial homogeneity, writing to an African American applicant that it would be "altogether inadvisable for a colored man to enter."

19th Century

While remaining an institution made up overwhelmingly of white males, Princeton occasionally opened its doors to ethnic minorities.

  • 1892

    The new infirmary is named in honor of Isabella Guthrie McCosh, wife of president James McCosh; she served as Princeton's unofficial director of health services.

  • 1888

    Pedro Pioseco becomes the first known Hispanic graduate from Princeton.

  • 1876

    Hikoichi Orita becomes the first known Asian graduate from Princeton.

  • 1842

    William Potter Ross graduates from Princeton. Ross became principal chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1861.

18th Century

Princeton's early years reflected the United States' conflicted history on race; one early college president owned slaves while the college enrolled several Indian and black students.

  • 1792

    John Chavis becomes the first African American to study at Princeton; he is one of a handful of African Americans to pursue private studies with faculty members during the 18th century.

  • 1779

    The Continental Congress awards funding to educate three Delaware Indians, the first known instance of federal aid to education. One of the three, George Morgan White Eyes 1789, becomes one of the earliest Native American students at Princeton.

  • 1776

    Minister John Witherspoon, who would become president of the College of New Jersey, signs the Declaration of Independence. An inventory of Witherspoon's possessions at the time of his death includes two slaves.

  • 1746

    The College of New Jersey is established. Its nonsectarian charter states that Princeton is to be open to students of every religious denomination.