When one thinks of Princeton, New Jersey, the first thing that comes to mind is the Ivy League university that put the town on the map—and with good reason. Perennially ranked in the top handful of colleges in the country and with an endowment roughly equivalent to the GNP of a small developing country, Princeton University is the alma mater of (to name just a smattering) presidents James Madison and Woodrow Wilson, the Dulles brothers, Donald Rumsfeld, Ralph Nader, political pundit George Will, numerous state governors, senators, and congressmen, the playwright Thorton Wilder and filmmaker Ethan Coen. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise while a Princeton undergraduate, and the faculty has boasted luminaries like New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, religion scholar Elaine Pagels and, at the Institute for Advanced Study, an erstwhile Swiss patent clerk named Albert Einstein.
“The college students infuse a young, energetic feeling to the place,” says Aqualine Suliali, who has worked and lived in the area for six years. “You get an Old World feeling because of the history, but it’s also new and exciting.”
At first, Einstein disliked his new place of residence, calling Princeton “a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demigods on stilts.” But its quaintness and ceremony apparently won him over, and he lived the last twenty years of his life in what is one of New Jersey’s oldest and most historic towns.
While the university certainly contributes much to the flavor of the town, not to mention its economy, there is more to Princeton than Princeton. The governor’s mansion, with the Harry Potterish name of Drumthwacket, is not in nearby Trenton, the capital, but in Princeton. The Educational Testing Service, better known as ETS—the academic outfit responsible for overseeing the SATs and GREs—is based in Princeton, as is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Siemens Corporate Research, Opinion Research Corporation and Dow Jones & Company.
Among Princeton’s 30,000 residents, then, are some of New Jersey’s most important movers and shakers. Not that you would know it. Princeton is too venerable to be ostentatious— it’s part of its charm.