Robert F. Goheen

15 Aug 1919
31 Mar 2008
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Robert Francis Goheen (August 15, 1919 – March 31, 2008) was an American academic, president of Princeton University and United States Ambassador to India

Robert Francis Goheen was born on August 15, 1919 to Anne (Ewing) and Dr Robert H. H. Goheen in Vengurla, India, where both his parents were serving as Presbyterian medical missionaries.His early education through the tenth grade was at Kodaikanal International School in Tamil Nadu, South India.After moving to the United States in 1934, he completed his secondary school education at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey in 1936. He then attended Princeton University, where he won the Pyne Honor Prize and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1940. He was also an avid soccer player.

An intelligence officer in the United States Army during World War II, Goheen reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He returned to graduate school at Princeton after the war, earning an M.A. (1947) and PhD (1948) in classics. Goheen was one of the first four students to receive a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, established at Princeton to encourage war veterans to pursue a career in teaching.

In 1942, Goheen married Margaret Skelly. They had four daughters (Anne, Trudi, Megan, and Elizabeth) and two sons (Stephen and Charley), who gave them 18 grandchildren, including the American novelist Megan Crane.

Goheen taught classics at Princeton as an assistant professor from 1950 until 1957, when he was appointed the university’s 16th president. At 37, he was the youngest man to assume that position since the 18th century. Faced with the social and political challenges of the 1960s, Goheen encouraged student involvement in decision-making processes and initiated active recruitment of minorities, as well as overseeing the admission of women in 1969.

“Dr. Goheen would eventually build or acquire 38 buildings, increasing the university’s indoor square footage by 80 percent. He quadrupled the budget, doubled alumni giving and increased the number of faculty members by 40 percent.”

“The university changed fundamentally under Dr. Goheen’s leadership, going from an establishment cradle to a diversified and complex research university. He attacked the exclusivity of the eating clubs, even opening one to be run by the university. He hired Princeton’s first black administrator and first black full professor and aggressively recruited promising minority students.

After his retirement from Princeton in 1972, he was named president of the Council on Foundations in New York. On January 1, 1977, he became president of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, but that April he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to become United States Ambassador to India. He served in the country of his birth from 1977 to 1980.

He returned to Princeton University in 1981, serving on the faculty of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He was involved with many activities related to Asia, including a Study Mission to the Philippines in January 1986 sponsored by the Asia Society.

He died in Princeton, New Jersey on March 31, 2008

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