John P. Birkelund Donates $5 Million to Princeton University for New Program

Princeton University campus

A recent donation will help Princeton establish a one-of-a-kind diplomacy program.
Image: Pete Spiro /

John P. Birkelund, co-founder of Saratoga Partners and former director of the New York Stock Exchange, has donated $5 million to Princeton University to establish a Program in History and the Practice of Diplomacy. The certificate program will allow students to take classes from politics to other social sciences and will prepare students for futures in international affairs and with governmental organizations. The new program, which is open to students of any major, will be integrated into the 2015-16 curriculum.

In addition to the courses the new program offers, a new summer internship will also be available, as well as fellowships, workshops, conferences, lectures, and field trips. The Chair of Princeton’s Department of History, William Jordan, is pleased to offer the unique program to students: “There is nothing quite like this at any of our peer institutions—no program that combines immersion in both history and the analysis of contemporary international affairs,” he says. “We see this as a real boon for Princeton.”

A 1953 Princeton graduate himself, Birkelund is known for his philanthropic donations. He serves as the director for the Birkelund Fund, an organization which supports cultural and educational institutions. He is a trustee at the New York Public Library, and the American Academy in Berlin’s John P. Birkelund Berlin Prize in Humanities was established in tribute to Birkelund’s charitable efforts and his encouragement of German-American discourse in the humanities.

Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, believes that the new program is an important one because it supports Princeton’s educational outreach. “[Birkelund] is helping Princeton extend its commitment to service to our nation and the world,” she says. Birkelund has said that his interest in diplomacy was sparked by his military service in the 1950s, where he found diplomacy to be a necessary skill.

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