A committee, which called itself the "Princeton Graduate College Pioneers," was organized in 1945 by three graduate alumni:
- Donald L. Stone *14 History and Politics, who was then Professor of Government at Dartmouth
- E. Baldwin Smith *15 Art and Archaeology, then a Professor at Princeton, and
- Lowell Thomas *16 History and Politics, the well-known radio commentator.
Originally, the aim was an organization of graduate alumni, particularly those who had lived in the Graduate College, to foster occasional meetings for purely social purposes. In a little more than four years, this group organized the first of a series of conferences and led to the founding of the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA.)
The first conference was held at the Graduate College on December 30, and 31, 1949, and had as its theme "Is Higher Education Meeting its Responsibilities Today?" The attendance was 177, and Donald L. Stone was elected the first President.
The purely social aim of the original committee has been steadily broadened as the organization has grown. The APGA constitution (1992) explains the purpose of the APGA, "The purpose of the Association is to advance and develop graduate education at Princeton University, and to strengthen intellectual and personal relations among graduate students, graduate alumni, faculty and officers of Princeton University."
The original emphasis of the Pioneers on former Graduate College residents was dropped, even before the APGA was founded, in favor of an alumni organization open to all graduate alumni. For several years only dues paying graduate alumni were carried as members, but in the late 1950s the membership was broadened to include all graduate alumni. This corresponds to Class membership amongst alumni of the Undergraduate College, which is not dependent upon payment of Class dues. Those members who do pay dues annually are called Sustaining or Centennial Members. Life Membership ($1,000) allows graduate alumni to make a one time, lifetime dues payment.
From 1949-1965, the APGA sponsored thirteen conferences on broad topics relevant to graduate education. These were designed to attract graduate alumni attendance, through their programs as well as through the prospect of good fellowship with other alumni, and did so for some years.
In the mid-1960s, while still working to keep a graduate alumni flavor to our programs, the APGA has worked steadily to integrate more of our programming with the wide array of scholarly and social events offered by Princeton to all graduate alumni. Since then the annual Alumni Day gathering on a Saturday about the time of Washington's and Madison's birthdays, and special programming at Reunions in late May/early June have served as major events for graduate alumni, and ways to connect them positively with the larger Princeton alumni community.
To recognize the distinction of alumni of the Graduate School and parallel the undergraduate alumni presence at Alumni Day, the APGA established the James Madison Medal. Awarded first at Alumni Day in 1973, the Madison Medal recognizes an alumnus of the Graduate School who has had a distinguished career, advanced graduate education, and/or public service.
Alumni of the Graduate School first marched in the P-rade at Reunions 1975. The following year, the APGA organized its inaugural Reunions program and continued offering an annual symposia and social activities.
During the '60s an APGA Bulletin was also inserted into University magazine, which all alumni received. In time, news of graduate alumni began to appear in the "Class Notes" section of the PAW. In the early '90s, the APGA provided a cover for various department newsletters in an attempt to communicate more regularly with graduate alumni. All Sustaining, Centennial and Life Members of the APGA receive all fourteen issues of the PAW through their dues payment.
In 1963 Princeton's Board of Trustees created the position of Graduate School Alumni Trustee, to serve a four-year term. In 1964, Dr. William O. Baker, *39 (Chemistry) was elected to fill the position. In the late ‘90s, policies changed to permit graduate alumni to be nominated as candidates for regional and at large alumni trustees as well.
While the APGA continues to increase its offering to alumni, it has also increased its support to current graduate students. The original conferences for alumni spawned annual symposia to help students. Early topics focused on aspects of scholarly publishing, and more recently on learning about non-academic careers. Graduate alumni have participated in the Alumni Careers Network since the early ‘80s. Towards the end of the decade, the APGA initiated its summer travel and research grant program. It also established an award to recognize outstanding assistants in instruction.
The Princeton Graduate School marked its 100th Anniversary on December 13, 2000. Throughout the 2000-2001 time period, a number of events were held in celebration of this momentous occasion. The Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA) is proud to have played an integral role during the Centennial.