President William G. Bowen talks about the admission of Black students at Princeton University

We mourn the loss of William G. Bowen, the 17th president of Princeton University who died on October 21, 2016 at the age of 83 (see: He was provost when president Robert Goheen implemented major changes to the university during the 1960s with the admission of large numbers of African Americans and then women. Bowen expanded these initiatives at Princeton under his own presidency beginning in 1972.

I had the good fortune of interviewing Bowen in 1997 while completing production of “Looking Back: Reflections of Black Princeton Alumni,” a documentary that examines the history of black students at Princeton. The interview took place at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York City where he was president. I was struck by the honesty and clarity that he brought to issues of racism in America and the admission of minorities to elite institutions of higher learning.  These were issues Bowen had grappled with at Princeton and had thought deeply about over the years. In fact, he was in the process of writing “The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions” (1998), along with his co-author, former Harvard President Derek Bok. It was a groundbreaking affirmation of the need for race-based preferences for minorities at selective American universities. Here are some excerpts of Bowen's remarks from the documentary. You may screen the full documentary at: A memorial service will take place at the Princeton University Chapel on Sunday, December 11 at 1:30 PM.