Professor Emeritus Joseph Illick Remembers Former Princeton President William G. Bowen

Friday, April 21, 2017
PRINCETON ALUMNI WEEKLY -- In 1955, as I started my senior year at Princeton, William G. Bowen of Denison University began his graduate work in economics at the University, a chore he finished in record time on his way to becoming a professor — at 31, among the youngest in Princeton history — and soon afterward provost (in 1967) and president (1972 – 1988). When he retired, the Princeton I knew as an undergraduate had been transformed: It was a coeducational institution, considerably larger; had added residential colleges; and featured an exceptional new academic dimension in the life sciences. During this transformative process, Princeton had weathered the unusual turbulence of the civil-rights era and Vietnam War protests. I was only slightly aware of developments in Princeton, having moved from my familiar East Coast setting (an M.A. and Ph.D. at Penn, plus a year’s teaching at Lafayette) to California: San Francisco State, where I began teaching in 1963, and the nearby University of California, Berkeley, where I was also briefly in the classroom. Bowen’s lengthy obituary in The New York Times alerted me to how little I probably knew of my alma mater and its leader. Fortunately, the former president left an extensive bibliography that provides an invaluable guide to how he governed Princeton and, more importantly, what he perceived to be major issues in higher education in the United States.