Student Award

Four Undergraduate Majors Awarded Munificent Mary Cunningham Humphreys Prize


At the annual German Department Holiday Party on December 6th, the Departmental Representative Prof. Thomas Y. Levin awarded The Mary Cunningham Humphreys Junior German Prize to four members of the Class of 2019 for outstanding academic work in the German Department during their junior year. While the prize is normally bestowed upon the top two German majors, this year the astonishingly strong academic records of the top four members of the Class of 2019 – Marc Decitre, Allison Fleming, Spencer Hadley, Alexander Robinson – were mathematically indistinguishable, resulting in a four-way tie.

The Mary Cunningham Humphreys Junior German Prizes fund was established in March 1898 by former Princeton professor and head of the German Dept. Willard Humphreys with a series of gifts in memory of his mother. The first prizes of $25 and $15 respectively represented the income on $1000, his first gift. Humphreys continued to give $1000 on the first of October during his lifetime, but requested that as long as he was alive the source of the prizes be kept a strict secret. According to the language of the gift (articulated in a letter on March 3rd, 1898), the income was to be “awarded to those members of the Junior Class (Academic) who, having taken the regular German course for at least two years, shall at the close of the second term pass the best examinations on the work of the term and on the life of the author whose works have been the principal subject of the years of study.” Professor Humphreys died in 1902 just months after accidentally taking “an almost fatal dose of choral [a popular late-19th century anesthetic] while trying to allay the pangs of toothache,” according to a front-page story of the New York Times on September 25, 1902.

Over a century later, this early act of departmental philanthropy has resulted in a prize which, even when split four ways, rewards its winners with a magnanimous four-figure sum. A fifth German Department Major, Sang Lee, was awarded a runner-up prize consisting of the renowned six-volume Stuttgart Edition of the works of Friedrich Hölderlin, a handsome set that was previously owned by the father of Dorothea von Moltke, the co-owner of Princeton’s Labyrinth Books, who in turn was the son of the famous Helmut James Graf von Moltke.

The entire German Department faculty extends its most heartfelt congratulations to all of the German Majors of the Class of 2019.