Whitman College dedicated, September 26-27

September 28th, 2007 / Advancement

The University marked the opening of Whitman College with a public lecture by design architect Demetri Porphyrios Wednesday, September 26, followed by a dedication ceremony for the campus community Thursday, September 27. An open house is planned for Wednesday, October 10, for members of the campus community interested in touring Whitman College.

Constructed to complement the Collegiate Gothic style of dormitories on the west end of campus, Whitman is the University's sixth residential college, but the first to be built as a single project. Its completion launches Princeton's four-year residential college system.

"Whitman College embraces through its design a commitment to the seamless integration of residential, academic and social life," Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman said. "It is a remarkable place to live and learn, distinctive not only for its towers and stonework, but also for the educational experiences it will offer generations of Princeton students."

In the 25-year-old system of two-year residential colleges, juniors left behind the close-knit academic and recreational life offered in the colleges to move to upperclass housing. Juniors and seniors now have the opportunity to maintain close ties to their colleges throughout all four years of their Princeton careers.

Porphyrios, founder and principal of the London-based firm Porphyrios Associates, designed Whitman to ensure that its form would enhance its function. He shared his insights and design philosophy about the project in a lecture titled "Tradition and Modernity: The Making of Whitman College."

"I believe that the inspiration for a project derives always from the context—social, cultural, architectural and constructional," Porphyrios said. "Architecture always deals with the interpretation of the site and of precedent works."

Porphyrios believes that, while Collegiate Gothic was introduced in America in the 20th century, "it is not meant to remind us of that century," he said, "but of the educational values and aspirations of collegiate academic life."

Architecture Dean Stan Allen plans to introduce the lecture by Porphyrios, who is a 1980 Princeton alumnus with a doctoral degree from the architecture school.

"People have been following the project from the other side of the construction fence with a lot of anticipation," Allen said. "The lecture is an opportunity for Porphyrios to place Whitman College in the context of his larger thinking and practice. What was significant about the selection of Porphyrios in the first place was his reputation for working not only with the image of Collegiate Gothic, but with the actual built reality of a Collegiate Gothic building today."

On September 27, Porphyrios joined Tilghman at 4:30 p.m. in delivering remarks to members of the campus community at a tent ceremony in the South Courtyard of Whitman College. Meg Whitman, president and chief executive officer of eBay, and University Trustee Peter Wendell, class of 1972, also spoke about the project.

The college is named for Whitman, a graduate of the class of 1977, and her family. The family donated $30 million toward the project.

"Princeton inspired me to think in ways that have guided me throughout my life," Whitman said. "I'm pleased that my gift will have a lasting impact on Princeton students for generations to come."

Some of the individual dorms of Whitman College—Fisher Hall, Lauritzen Hall and Murley-Pivirotto Family Tower—are named in recognition of gifts made by other families and groups that supported the project. In addition, Hargadon Hall honors former Dean of Admission Fred Hargadon on behalf of a group of trustee donors, and 1981 Hall recognizes donors from the graduating class of 1981. The project cost for Whitman College was $136 million.