August 21, 2013

Princeton Adult School Marks 75th Birthday

Princeton Adult School is celebrating its 75th birthday with a year-long festival beginning in September and featuring an array of special activities throughout the community.

There will be conversations with renowned individuals linked to Princeton, a special lecture series within the Princeton Adult School curriculum, a gala, and a shopping spree, all commemorating the Adult School’s past 75 years of classes and lectures attended by an estimated 200,000 individuals. In addition, the celebration will toast the Adult School’s future in which the organization will grow stronger and even more committed to inspiring a lifetime of learning and personal enrichment.

Several other local non-profit organizations will be hosting events in honor of the Adult School’s 75th birthday. These include the Princeton Public Library; Princeton Arts Council; McCarter Theatre; Princeton Art Museum; Pro-Musica; Rider University/Westminster Choir College; Princeton Festival; Princeton University Concerts; Historical Society of Princeton; Morven; Institute for Advanced Study; Princeton Symphony Orchestra; Dorothea’s House; and Princeton HealthCare System.

The first Princeton Adult School Anniversary celebration event will be a conversation with former ABC Good Morning America news anchor and Princeton University Alumnus and Board member Charlie Gibson, September 27, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Princeton University’s Friend Center.

The topic is “Higher Education: Changes over the past 75 years — looking back and looking ahead.”

Mr. Gibson, an ABC Network news anchor and commentator, will lead a conversation with former Princeton University Presidents Shirley Tilghman and Harold Shapiro. Conversations, which will continue throughout 2014, are an informal exchange among people in leadership roles who will share their insights and experiences. Patron tickets for the entire Conversations Series will be $150; A single ticket is $25. All proceeds benefit the Princeton Adult School 75th Anniversary Fund.

The next event with a confirmed date is the Champagne Gala and Live
Auction, Sunday, May 4, 2014, at Jasna Polana. This birthday party is being underwritten by William and Judy Scheide, who are honorary co-chairs along with Betty Wold Johnson and Vivian and Harold Shapiro. Among the items to be auctioned are a trip to the Today Show with NBC’s Chief Medical Editor and Princeton resident Dr. Nancy Snyderman, a day with award-winning Chef Scott Anderson of Elements, and a cocktail party for 20 with two mystery servers.

Also: a day behind the scenes at McCarter Theatre with Artistic Director Emily Mann, an after-hours children’s birthday party at JaZams toy store, a day with Princeton University Art Museum Director James Steward going behind the scenes at the Frick Collection and other art galleries on the Upper East Side in New York City, and a walk-on role at the Princeton Festival production Diamonds are Forever.

Eight lectures will be held from October 8 through December 12 to celebrate the Adult School’s 75th Anniversary, also known as its Diamond Anniversary. Participating scholars are selecting someone or something from the last 75 years that has transformed their respective area of research or expertise.

Lecturers from Princeton University, include Cecilia E. Rouse, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School and Professor of Economics; Simon Morrison, Professor of Music; Michael W Cadden, Chair, Lewis Center for the Arts and Senior Lecturer in Theater; Angela Creager, Professor of History; Virgina A. Zakian, Professor of Molecular Biology; Alexander Nehamas, Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature; and Paul B. Muldoon, Professor of Creative Writing at the Lewis Center for the Arts.

Local shops and restaurants are donating a portion of all the proceeds and sales generated on November 7. More than 60 businesses already have made the commitment to participate in this Shop and Eat Event to benefit the Adult School, and it is anticipated that more will join.

Even though the Princeton Adult School held its first classes in January, 1939, the Adult School concept was born a year earlier during a discussion among Ruth Schleiffler, Laura Peskin, whose husbands owned Princeton News Delivery Service, and Mrs. W.R. Brearley, principal of the Nassau Street Elementary School. Mrs. Schleiffler visited the Trenton Adult School and returned from her adventure with one question and one statement:

“Why don’t we have such a school here? If Mrs. Brearley will do the curriculum, I’ll do the registration.”

Out of those words emerged what was then called Princeton’s Leisure Hour School, with a system of registration that involved spreading out index cards on tables in the Schleiffler living room.

The new adult school opened its doors literally to nearly 500 people during that first term, and figuratively to a new era in race relations. The adult school classes welcomed individuals of all races and religions, and its classes were being held at the Nassau Street Elementary School, a segregated school that remained segregated for public education classes for several more years.

After ceasing its operations during World War II, Princeton’s Leisure Hour School was reborn as the Princeton Adult School in 1948. When the Adult School turned 50 in 1989, student enrollment had grown six times during the course of the five decades. At the age of 75, the Princeton Adult School, during the 2012-13 fall/spring term, had enrolled more than 3,500 students in approximately 320 courses which is seven times the student enrollment and 11 times the course offerings that were available at the Leisure Hour School in 1939.

The variety of the course offerings are the result of the dedication of the Adult School staff and Board members and the resources of the Princeton community. Students can explore America and the world by learning languages, understanding the workings of governments, art and music, history and architecture. They can learn to cook exotic foods while remaining physically and mentally fit with exercise, computers, photography, and arts and crafts classes, and courses about the universe.

For information on the celebrations and course offerings, visit, or email For online courses, visit