This article was originally published in the May 2018 Princeton Echo.
If Fox News celebrity Sean Hannity wants to have a partisan-fueled field day he could dredge through the Princeton University archives at Mudd Library and unearth a trove of bad news about Robert S. Mueller. The speckled academic record includes several letters to his parents, advising them of his bad grades; a notice to repeat a course in summer school; an order to take over a comprehensive exam in his major and to re-submit his senior thesis in order to qualify for his bachelor’s degree, a year after the rest of his class graduated.
As the assistant dean of the college noted in an judiciously worded letter of recommendation, “Robert Mueller was not a very good student in college, but I would estimate that he would prove to be a very able man in any job he undertakes of a non-academic nature. At college he was popular and well thought of. Of his character, gentlemanliness, and patriotism, I have the very highest opinion.”
Of course, before Hannity and Fox go racing back to their studios, we should point out that all the comments above pertain to Robert S. Mueller Jr., Princeton Class of 1938, not his son, Robert S. Mueller III ’66, the former FBI director now serving as special counsel investigating possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign.
And there are other Princeton ties to the Mueller family. Bob Mueller, the lackluster student, was in fact a popular guy, elected class president three times. He was on the hockey and the lacrosse teams, served in the Navy during World War II, and became a successful salesman with Dupont. He and his family, including Robert III, the oldest of five children, moved to Princeton in the 1950s so that he could commute to Dupont’s New York office. He later did precious metals marketing and had a firm called Tugwell Mueller Associates.
The Muellers lived at 158 Springdale, 120 Winant Road, and 49 Balcort Drive. Young Bob attended Princeton Day School before heading off to St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. Mueller III was in the Class of 1966 at Princeton, played hockey and lacrosse, was a member of Cottage Club, and wrote his senior thesis on “The Case Between the Union of South Africa and Liberia Before the International Court of Justice.”
His post-graduation plan was to teach for a year and then go to medical school. But when a Princeton alumnus from the Class of 1965 died in Vietnam, Mueller was motivated to enlist in the Marines. He fought in Vietnam, and then enrolled at University of Virginia law school.
In the Nassau Herald, the senior class book, Mueller III identified himself as a Republican.
Mary Chapin Carpenter
If you ever see a woman in her early 60s standing across the street from 33 Cleveland Lane, looking wistfully at the stately, 125-year-old house, you might check the entertainment events. Five-time Grammy winner Mary Chapin Carpenter might be in town to perform again at McCarter, and she might be the person taking a long look at the house where she lived until she was 10 years old.
As Carpenter related in an interview earlier this spring with the Wall Street Journal, the family lived in Princeton while her father was commuting to his job on the publishing side of Life Magazine in New York. Her mother played ukulele and a Spanish acoustic guitar. When Mary was 6 or 7 she began teaching herself to play, and memorized songs by the Beatles, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan.
When her parents had friends over for dinner they would ask Mary to play a song or two. As she told the Journal, “I often opened with ‘Try to Remember’ from the Fantasticks. I’d close my eyes and sing earnestly.”
When Carpenter’s father was transferred to Tokyo in 1968, the family left Princeton. “The image of the moving van showing up never left me. They wrapped our entire life in paper and moved us away. I’ve mined that vein in songs ever since,” she told the Journal.
A few years ago she came across a for-sale listing for the house in a design magazine. “I wanted to buy it. I thought if I owned it, living there would let me fix everything that came after. But it was crazy expensive and too big for me. And of course, the past is the past.” Carpenter returns to McCarter on November 2.