From the Newsletter: WW’s Most Senior Fellow

An Unanticipated Turn: Beverly S. Ridgely WF ’46, the Most Senior Woodrow Wilson Fellow


Dr. Ridgely, center, with his three children, Bob, Pete (standing), and Ginny.

Seventy years ago, Beverly Ridgely was admitted to Harvard Law School. Like many of his Princeton classmates, he anticipated a career in the law. But, at the suggestion of some faculty members in Princeton’s French and Classics Departments, Dr. Ridgely applied for a new Fellowship that would support a year of graduate studies.

While Dr. Ridgely had gotten a taste of teaching during his service in the U.S. Navy, it was his 1946 Woodrow Wilson Fellowship that eventually led to a career as a professor in French literature. Today, he is the Foundation’s most senior Fellow.

“I think I would equate [my career] to the opportunity to come back to graduate school,” says Dr. Ridgely. “I would not have thought about it in serious terms. Everyone was becoming a doctor or a lawyer, particularly Princeton graduates. So I would say that the Fellowship year was the main thing that turned me.”

Dr. Ridgely earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1953 and went on to teach for 30 years at Brown University.

“I think the major reward was not just the teaching, but getting to know the students,” he says. “I enjoyed the writing and the teaching in French civ, but I had no idea that some of them would become lifelong friends, even though they are much younger than me.”

Going on 96 years old, Dr. Ridgely is still adding to his Birds of the World in Philately series of handbooks, which now comprises 76 volumes, and serves on committees at the self-governing Providence, RI, retirement community where he has lived since 1995. He also continues to support the Woodrow Wilson Foundation each year.


This story appeared in the spring 2016 issue of Fellowship, the newsletter of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. To see the full newsletter, click here.


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