“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement” — Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879
In 1930, Princeton established the School of Public and International Affairs, as it was originally named, in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson's interest in preparing students for leadership in public and international affairs.
The School's initial venture was an interdisciplinary program for undergraduates in Princeton's liberal arts college. In 1948, a graduate professional program was added, and the School was renamed to honor Woodrow Wilson, who served as the 13th president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey and 28th president of the United States.
The phrase “Princeton in the nation's service” was the theme of two speeches Wilson gave at the University, first during its 150th anniversary celebration in 1896 and again at his inauguration as the University’s president in 1902. In the 1990s, the motto was expanded by then-President Harold T. Shapiro to read “Princeton in the nation's service and in the service of all nations,” and in 2016 it was further amended to read "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of humanity." It is a concept that Princeton and the Woodrow Wilson School regard as an educational mission.
In 1961, Charles ’26 and Marie Robertson provided a historic gift to expand and strengthen the graduate school as a place where men and women dedicated to public service could obtain the knowledge and skills needed to qualify them for careers in government service, particularly in the areas of international relations and affairs. The endowment and its proceeds provided the means to build Robertson Hall, greatly expand the number of graduate students in the MPA, MPP and Ph.D. programs, and build a world-class faculty in multiple disciplines.
Today, the School educates a wide range of students from all parts of the globe. It boasts a faculty of respected scholars and practitioners in disciplines that include politics, economics, sociology, psychology, physics, molecular biology and geosciences, who — individually and as members of world-class research centers and programs — influence the international and domestic environment through policy research and teaching.
The School has also grown physically over the years. The central building, Robertson Hall, and adjacent Scudder Plaza were designed by renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki in 1965 and first occupied in 1966. Also housing WWS faculty and centers are Wallace, Bendheim and Corwin halls, with additional faculty scattered in other University buildings.
As the School has grown in size and scope, Woodrow Wilson School graduates now pursue careers in all areas of public service — not only in all levels of government but also in multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations, foundations and policy and research institutes. Each generation that enters strives to meet President Wilson’s call to improve the world and remember that “errand.”
Background information about Woodrow Wilson can be found through an exhibit created at Princeton in 2016: "In the Nation’s Service? Woodrow Wilson Revisited."