Statement on Changing the Name of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

Additional Materials

FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, June 30, 2020
CONTACT: Frances Hannan, Director of Multimedia Projects | 201-587-4755 


PRINCETON, NJ (June 30, 2020) – The Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has voted unanimously to rename the organization and to remove Woodrow Wilson from its name. The Board took this action because the racist policies and beliefs of Woodrow Wilson are fundamentally incompatible with the Foundation’s values and work.

The Foundation Board and staff have grappled over time with the fact that the name both does not reflect the nature of our current work and is tied to a man with a racist legacy. Recent events and the current national conversation about racial justice, as well as our desire to support improved civic learning and dialogue, gave new urgency to these concerns.

When the organization was established 75 years ago at Princeton University our mission was to recruit new academics—professors to teach a rapidly expanding body of university students. Thus, our founders named the organization after Princeton’s most famous president, who was himself a proponent of excellence in college teaching.

We retained the name even as our work grew to include promoting more gender and racial diversity in American higher education. More recently, that work has also focused on improving the quality of K–12 education in our country, strengthening STEM teaching in high-need schools, and improving understanding of American history and civics. Over the years more than 27,000 Fellows from various Foundation-based programs have contributed to creating not just a better educated, but a more just and inclusive America.

The Foundation already has been expanding the scope of our work to focus on civic education and the promotion of a more informed, productively engaged and hopeful citizenry able to sustain the reality of a democratic republic. We believe it is critical that our name most appropriately align with our mission, our values, and our ongoing work.

We will be talking with a number of stakeholders to gather advice on a new name, which we anticipate announcing by early fall.




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