"There is an ideal at the heart of everything American, and the ideal at heart of the American university is intellectual training, the awakening of the whole [person], the thorough introduction of the student to the life of America and of the modern world, the completion of the task undertaken by the grammar and high schools of equipping [that student] for the full duties of citizenship. . . ."
—Woodrow Wilson, 1909¹
¹In an article for The Delineator, November 1909, as excerpted in Woodrow Wilson on Education, ed. August Heckscher (New York: Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 1958).
About the Woodrow Wilson Foundation
Why Woodrow Wilson?
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, named in honor of the political scientist who became the United States’ 28th president, stands—as he did—for excellence in teaching, citizen-scholarship, and educational innovation.
Woodrow Wilson is the only American president to have earned the Ph.D. He was a respected scholar, a popular teacher and, during his presidency at Princeton (1902-1910), an educational reformer. He spoke widely and often about higher education’s service to the nation. He sought to make higher learning less exclusive. Above all, he reemphasized the centrality of the liberal arts and sciences as preparation for citizenship in a democracy.
In the century since Wilson’s days of academic leadership, the challenges facing education in the United States have broadened. Today the nation seeks access to excellence at every level, from kindergarten through graduate school, for every American, including women, people of color, and those from the neediest socioeconomic backgrounds. At the same time, many of the principles Wilson articulated—including the essential importance of great teaching and scholarship in a democracy, the academy’s service to the nation as a whole, and the liberal arts’ centrality to that service—remain at the core of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s work.
For more information about Woodrow Wilson as an educator, see the following: