A Letter From Former Head of School Paul J. Stellato


I am very interested in Princeton Day School, and I would like to see it strengthened and made one of the great schools of its kind in the country.

Dean Mathey, in a letter to the
trustees of the Bunbury Company, 1972


50 years elapsed from Dean Mathey’s initial, deep interest in his adoptive home, Princeton, and the discovery of the letter in which the line above is found. And now, 50 years on from the school’s opening day – September 17, 1965 – we indulge ourselves in this anniversary year, peeking over our shoulders, if only for just a moment, to recall and recognize those men and women present at the creation of our school; the ideas and aspirations embedded in its founding documents; and the commitment all of them have made in service to the children whose lives have been shaped on the Great Road.

Having made gifts of land to both Miss Fine’s School and Princeton Country Day School during the early part of the last century, Dean Mathey – Princeton University trustee, raconteur, Davis Cup great, and Wall Street Wizard – turned his eyes to a piece of property at the crest of a gentle rise on the Great Road. In 1924, he purchased 1,000 acres for the then-princely sum of $50 thousand and, for a decade beginning in 1962, transferred to a fledgling corporation and newly formed board of trustees the land upon which this new school – Princeton Day School – would rise and flourish. The original gift for the main school building was followed by another to accommodate athletics: the ice hockey rink, two athletic fields, a girls’ soccer field, and four tennis courts. Highly attentive to this new school and committed to its success, Dean Mathey provided, through his will, an additional 85 acres of land: Pretty Brook Farm, Behr House, and the broad sweep of north campus. And gifts, a flood of gifts for building, endowment, and incidental expense. The school he imagined quickly and surely shook off its infancy, taking its place in the pantheon of independent schools. It remains in the vanguard of that happy company today. Dean Mathey would not have had it any other way.

We are the fortunate recipients of his generosity and the grateful stewards of his vision for our school, as his insisting upon and encouraging the search for excellence in all arenas – classrooms, playing fields and courts, studios and seminar rooms – is as central to today’s Princeton Day School experience as it was in Dean Mathey’s founding vision. Leavened through the years with a deep humanity, empathy, and care; blessed by the wise leadership of its board members and heads of school; guided by generations of the finest independent school faculty; and prized by thousands of deeply committed families, Princeton Day School can rightly lay claim to membership in a select group of the country’s finest day and boarding schools. We’ve had a good head-start: Dean Mathey set us on the only true course our school could take.

In this 50th year, we pay a small part of a great debt we owe to those who have come before us. We prepare for our school’s coming greatness by acknowledging the strong foundation upon which we stand. Finally, in this 50th year, our school commits itself to two simple goals: to remember who we were, and how far we have traveled, during those glorious 50 years; and to imagine and create a next half century worthy of those which have come before. There, too, we have a good head-start.