For over three decades, the Fred Fox Class of 1939 Fund has been providing students with grants for academic research and other educationally enriching pursuits. Part of the fund’s mission is to nurture ties between Princeton graduates and undergraduates. Like Fred Fox himself, the members of the Class of 1978 who administer the fund want young Princetonians to know that there are alumni who care about them not for their grade-point averages, but rather for their academic interests and lifelong dreams.

Fred Fox Class of 1939

In the early days of space travel, Frederic Fox sent a Tiger pennant to the moon with astronaut Pete Conrad ’53 as a way, he said, of putting Princeton 239,000 miles ahead of Harvard and Yale.  That was Frederic Ewing Fox, Class of 1939—merry prankster and head cheerleader for Old Nassau.  He was many other things as well: ordained minister, special assistant to President Eisenhower, Princeton’s recording secretary, official keeper of university memorabilia, and above all, celebrated friend and mentor to generations of Tigers.  For years during Freshman Week, Fred introduced incoming students to the colorful legends and songs of their alma mater, instilling in them not just a love for Princeton but also an abiding fondness for the man himself.

Fred was eminently approachable. He used to pedal a bicycle around campus, stopping to chat with all and sundry.  It was his congeniality that helped get him elected secretary of the Class of 1939 and drew students to 1 Nassau Hall, the office he occupied as Keeper of Princetoniana or, as he called it, “vice president of intangibles.” Occasionally undergraduates would ask Fred for support with projects that fell outside established funding channels.  Having obtained a green light from his fellow ’39ers, he would respond to these requests by tapping the class coffers.  After his death in 1981, Fred’s classmates decided to honor the memory of their beloved friend by setting up a fund in his name.

The first disbursement from the Fred Fox Fund went to a single student: Y. Ping Sun ’85. Recently arrived from China with little math and less English, Sun used her grant to get tutoring in these two subjects and after graduating went on to a prestigious law career.  Today the fund—administered by members of the Class of 1978, with support from the Office of Religious Life—fields some eighty applications annually for projects ranging from internships to thesis research and individually designed courses that lie outside the university curriculum.  

In Firestone Library’s reading room hangs a portrait of Fred Fox with his trademark mischievous smile, an orange and black cap perched jauntily on his head.  The painting captures the essence of the man—or part of it.  As President William Bowen G’58 reminded those assembled at Fred’s memorial service, the Keeper of Princetoniana had “a much more subtle sense of tradition than all the orange and black trappings” might suggest.  “He believed … deeply in the core values of Princeton” and insisted “on the human scale of the place, … resisting bureaucratic tendencies.”  Fred’s lasting legacy was to charge each of us “to carry forward his vision of Princeton as a place of learning and of the spirit, a human place, where each person is in the care of all.”  These words capture the true Fred Fox, the man of substance who established bonds between the generations,  and in whose name the Class of 1978 will continue to nurture ties with young Princetonians as they pursue their academic dreams and strive to broaden their horizons.