Dr. Carl A. Fields, an educator, advocate and the first African American dean of an Ivy League university, served the education field for more than 40 years -- improving young lives and challenging malfunctioning systems.
He came to Princeton in 1964 as assistant director of student aid, and was promoted to assistant dean of the college in 1968, becoming the first African-American to hold such a high-ranking post at an Ivy League school. He pioneered creative and practical policies and practices, which increased enrollment and retention of African-American and other students of color, Jewish and female students. Fields set up the surrogate family hosting program and the community service summer work program and supported the establishment of the Third World Center. He was a very valuable mentor to many Princeton students and helped develop several student associations, including the Association of Black Collegians, the first Princeton student organization focused on the specific concerns of African-Americans and a forerunner to the Association of Black Princeton Alumni. Dr. Fields was also instrumental in establishing the University's Fredrick Douglass Service Award, in 1968, which is given annually on Class Day to a graduating student(s) "who has exhibited courage, leadership, intellectual achievement and a willingness to contribute unselfishly toward a deeper understanding of racial minorities... the tradition of service embodied at Princeton." He also took an active role in the Princeton-Blairstown Center, a University-owned camp that serves inner-city youth and their families. He remained active and engaged with Blairstown and within the University community even after leaving the University in 1971.
Fields left Princeton for a three-year Ford Foundation Fellowship, where he served as the planning officer at the then-fledgling University of Zambia, the only university in the central African republic after Zambia ceased to be a British protectorate. He oversaw the development of the university’s administrative structure, its educational policy and improvements to the physical plant.
As the principal partner and founder of the African Technical Educational Consultant Service (ATEC) from 1974-1984, Fields dedicated himself to assisting educational institutions, foundations and nonprofit organizations in the creation of programs that would promote the development and educational achievement of disenfranchised communities. His clients included the United Methodist Church, the Lilly Endowment, the Carnegie Corporation, Hastings College of the Law at the University of California, the National Council of Churches Division of Overseas Ministry, and the American National Advisory Committee-Nigerian Universities.
In 1984, Fields became the administrative officer of Riverside Church, in New York City, and, in 1998, became the associate director of the Bishop Tutu Southern African Refugee Scholarship Fund.
The oldest of four sons born to Queena R. Grayson Fields and Ralph A. Fields, Carl Fields was born in Columbus, Ohio, and grew up in Brooklyn. He was a graduate of Boy’s High School and graduated from St. John’s University with a B.S. in English and social science in 1942. Fields was the first African American member of St. John's University's Skull and Circle academic honor society and the first African American to serve as captain of the school's track and field team. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and in 1944 received a Bronze Star for bravery at the Battle of Saipan. He earned his M.A. in vocational guidance from New York University in 1950 and his Ph.D. in educational philosophy from Philathea College, London, Ontario, Canada, in 1967.
Fields was an active member of several organizations, including the New York Theological Seminary, board of trustees; the College Entrance Examination Board; the Carter Commission on Financing Minority Students in Higher Education; the Westminster Foundation, board of directors; the Church Society for College Work; the New York College Bound Corporation, board of directors; the Joint Connection, president of the board of trustees and he was named to Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities in 1972.
Fields received numerous awards and honors from his alma mater. He received the St. John’s University Distinguished Achievement Award in 1989, the University’s President's Medal in 1992 and the Medal of Honor in 1997. In 1998, he was named to the St. John's Athletic Hall of Fame. He also served on the St. John’s University President’s Advisory Council.
Dr. Fields received the Association of Black Princeton Alumni (ABPA) University Service Award in 1985 and the award was subsequently renamed the Dr. Carl A. Fields Memorial University Service Award. He was also honored at an ABPA dinner, in 1994, which was attended by more than 100 alumni, family and friends from the University community, including Dr. Robert F. Goheen '40 *48, the University President when Fields arrived at Princeton and a leading Fields advocate. The Alumni Association of Princeton University recognized Fields' significant contributions in 1996, when he received the Alumni Council Award for Service to Princeton.
Dr. Carl A. Fields passed away on July 20, 1998, at age 79.
Dr. Carl A. Fields papers are available for research at Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University.