Francis H. McAdoo, Jr. ’38 followed the path of his father (Ivy 1910) from St. Paul’s School to Ivy. Today, he is our senior member, and he agreed to answer some questions about his college years.
The Vine: We’re so grateful for your willingness to share some memories with your fellow Ivy members. You grew up during the Depression, and when you were in college, Hitler was preparing for war. How do you recall this time?
FHM: In some ways, my memory is rather vague, but I’m intrigued to give it a try, as those days at Ivy were so splendid. Those of us not in the History or Politics departments were not too disturbed by events in Europe. We lived through the grim Lindbergh kidnapping, and everyone was somewhat subdued by that. Probably most agreed with Lindbergh’s efforts to keep us out of war. My father, an ex-Naval officer from World War I, advised me upon graduation to apply for a Naval Reserve commission, which I did.
Note from The Vine: Mr. McAdoo served with distinction in World War II as a PT Boat Squadron Commander and was awarded the Silver Star. He was in Borneo when the atom bombs were dropped.
The Vine: What was your major, and who were some of your memorable professors?
FHM: I knew nothing about painting but chose Art History because I was infatuated with Cynthia, a budding artist. My favorite professors were Baldy Smith, and Albert Friend, who served in the First War, then remained in Europe helping to salvage art works damaged by the fighting. I recall J. Duncan Spaeth and his Shakespeare course; as he read the plays to us he would alter his voice for each character. At the end of his lectures we would all rise, enthusiastically shouting and applauding his Shakespeare performance.
Note from The Vine: Mac married Cynthia Heffron
in 1939, and they were together until her death in
The Vine: What can you tell us about the Ivy men of your time?
FHM: The members were usually, if not related to a previous Ivy member, from private boarding schools. We were not a particularly athletic club, although before my day there had been several greats, such as Josh Billings ’33 (Pyne Prize winner and Rhodes Scholar, later named Princeton’s scholar-athlete of the 20th century, whose portrait hangs in the Great Hall) and of course Hobey Baker ’14, venerated for his football exploits as well as his mastery of hockey (the annual trophy given to the nation’s best collegiate ice hockey player is named the Hobey Baker Award). Our Sections were a good mixture of those who would become doctors, or Ph.Ds in chemical engineering or art and archeology. My roommate for four years (and undergraduate president of Ivy) was Arthur Gorman ’38; he was closely reltated to the sardonic author Ogden Nash, who made many contributions to The New Yorker. Most of my Ivy friends, except Guy Rutherfurd, were in the class of 1937: Newty Cutler, Jim Miller, and Percy Pyne. We would get pretty worked up over the football season, and on Friday evening before the Yale game I remember the traditional bonfire outside the old library.
The Vine: There is always a lot of interest in JFK’s time at Princeton as a member of the Class of 1939. His friend Lem Billings ’39, with whom JFK had come to Princeton from Choate, was in Ivy with you.
FHM: I knew Lem well in college, and for many years before he died, he was my best friend. His older brother Josh, of course, had been a big man on campus and at Ivy, and Lem had a lot of friends, including my roommate Pete Gorman. He met Jack Kennedy at Choate, where they became friends, and he belonged to a sort of outrageous group of bad attitudes of the class, but he managed to graduate. Lem used to call on Pete and me, selling us junk food in the evenings, working his way through college, and he would sit with us for half an hour, laughing away at the absurdities of life. He was rooming with Jack then, but Jack had to leave college due to illness. When Bicker arrived, he was invited to join Ivy, which he declined, as he went to Tiger. After a few days, however, he wanted to be in Ivy, and asked if we would reconsider him. As you can imagine, this was quite unusual, but we wanted him so much that we took him, and gave him a free room in the attic. He and I were both in Art History, so we saw each other in those classes. I laughed at him for choosing Tintoretto for his thesis while I struggled with Cezanne.
Due to Lem’s close contact with the Kennedy family, Cynth and I became very friendly with Kick (Kathleen), who accompanied us one summer on a pack trip to Montana. She was the female counterpart of Jack, friendly, humorous, witty, and wonderful company. She and Lem were very close, in a platonic friendship.
After the War, we saw Lem in Maryland and New York, where he joined an ad agency. Kick had died, and then Jack was killed, but we still saw a lot of Lem. After Jack’s death, Lem said to me, “He was my best friend, and you are my second best.”
The Vine: One of the great paintings at Ivy is Barnard Lintott’s portrait of the legendary James Miller (inset, below), the Steward who came to Ivy in 1903 and retired when you graduated, in 1938. What can you tell us about him?
FHM: He was fantastic. His attention to us (there were about 36 members then) was like a father to his sons. Besides his professionalism, I always think of him as Mr. Perpetual Ivy Club. He attended to us as though we were shining knights, always concerned that we approved of the food, always taking care of the latecomers to the dining table, supervising the pool tables and generally maintaining the neatness of everything. On weekends during football season, he remembered so many of the old graduates and their families; he was certainly considered part of the Ivy family. I don’t believe I’ve ever met a man of more distinction or with more pride in his job.
The Vine: What are your favorite memories of Ivy?
FHM: I loved the escape from the hurly-burly, and the peace and calm and friendship of the Club.
The Vine: Thank you. We’re honored to have you share these memories with us.