Friend Center intended as a tribute and a crossroad

Princeton NJ -- When the Friend Center for Engineering Education opened on campus earlier this fall, it was both a herald of the future and a memorial of the past.

The Friend Center for Engineering Education is intended to accommodate both engineering students and undergraduates from other disciplines with its classrooms and other facilities, including this library, outfitted with the latest technology.


The imposing, light-filled building, designed by Henry Cobb of the renowned architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners of New York, is located at the corner of Olden and William streets, near the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

It is viewed by engineering dean James Wei as a keystone in his vision of engineering becoming an integral part of a liberal arts education. "In this new millennium, knowledge of engineering and technology is emerging as the next hallmark of a well-educated person," Wei said. "(The center) will be the crossroad where all Princeton students should gather and learn together."

The building also is a monument to a longstanding friendship between two Princeton students. University Charter Trustee Dennis Keller '63, chair and chief executive officer of DeVry Inc., provided a generous gift to establish the center in memory of Peter Friend '63. The two, friends since childhood in Hinsdale, Ill., were roommates at Princeton. Friend died while an undergraduate, just before his 21st birthday.

"In the enduring connection between Dennis Keller and Peter Friend, this new center symbolizes the bonds of friendship and devotion that are woven so strongly into the fabric of our University community," said President Tilghman. "The Friend Center will serve as a wonderful new resource for engineering students, and also as an important academic gateway, introducing undergraduates from other disciplines to the vastly interesting and vital study of technology and applied science."

Keller, who majored in economics at Princeton, went on to co-found the Keller Graduate School of Management, which changed its name to DeVry Inc. in 1987 and is now one of the largest private higher education systems in North America. He envisions the Friend Center as a magnet for engineers and students in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. "In this century, every citizen will be better served by an understanding of how technology can enhance our daily lives, and how it can work in the future," he said.

The center encompasses easily reconfigured high-tech classrooms and computer clusters, a distance-learning room set up for videoconferencing, a spacious convocation hall, a 250-seat auditorium outfitted with the latest in audiovisual technology, and a multi-tiered library that features electronic journals and seats wired for power and data access.

At the Sept. 29 dedication of the center, Keller described his important friendship with Friend. He spoke of Friend's steadfastness during a difficult period in high school, when both of Friend's parents died.

"Somehow, he found reserves of strength and purpose to continue his work, and continue being good and helpful to others through a period that would have been totally devastating to many 18-year-olds," Keller said. "When we graduated, he was valedictorian and won awards in music and citizenship and leadership -- becoming the most honored graduate in the history of Hinsdale Township High School. In a very personal sense, the lessons he taught by example during this period of perseverance and resolve and helping others have stayed with me and will stay with me through the rest of my life."

Keller said his decision to attend Princeton was a direct result of their friendship. "In the spring of our senior year in high school, we had both been admitted to Yale and to Princeton," he said. "Days before the decision date, we flew east for one last visit to both schools. We spent a day on each campus and then, as we settled in on the train to start on our trip back to the airport, Peter looked at me and said, 'I know where I'm going next year.' 'Oh? Where is that?' I said. 'Princeton,' he said. 'Then I guess I'll go there too,' I said."

Friend was majoring in history and planned to attend law school. In the fall of their junior year, the roommates co-founded the Student Pizza Agency which, Keller reminded the audience, is still the largest student agency on campus. The following spring, Friend was killed in an accident.

"Now there is a place at Princeton which will ... celebrate and remember Peter's strength of character, his accomplishment and his goodness," Keller said. "And this place will help the University I love take better care of generations of its 21st-century students, especially the A.B.'s who will come over to join Peter, the history major, to learn how technology can be helpful to them, and how they can use it to help the world."


[an error occurred while processing this directive]