Mathey College was dedicated on November 6, 1983 and named after Dean Mathey '12 , one of the most devoted, energetic and generous supporters of the University in modern times. His association with Princeton covered a period of 65 years.
As an undergraduate, he twice won the national intercollegiate tennis doubles championship and was captain of the tennis team his senior year. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with honors. After graduation, he began work as a bond salesman and built up a sizeable fortune as a partner in the Wall Street firm of Dillon, Read & Co. He was later Chairman of the Board of the Empire Trust Company and Honorary Chairman of the Bank of New York.
Dean Mathey came to live in Princeton in 1927, remodeling an old farmhouse on the property of the Drumthwacket estate (now home of New Jersey's governor) on Stockton Street. He was an alumni trustee of the University from 1927 to 1931, charter trustee from 1931 to 1960, and trustee emeritus from 1960 until his death; he served at various times on every one of the board's nine standing committees including 34 years on the Committee of Grounds and Buildings, serving as chairman from 1942 to 1949.
According to Christopher Knowlton (Fortune magazine , Oct. 26, 1987), Dean Mathey's actions as chairman of Princeton University's investment committee twice helped preserve Princeton's endowment: prior to the great Crash of 1929, when he moved the endowment from stocks into bonds; and midway through WWII, when he sold off 80% of the university's bonds and replaced them with common stock holdings. In each case, Knowlton judges it to have been an "exquisitely timed maneuver" that greatly augmented the endowment. In reply to critics of his actions in the 1940s, he is said to have replied: "The only true test of conservatism is to be right in the future."
In Dean Mathey’s book of Princeton reminiscences, Men and Gothic Towers (1967), he recalled spending a night in Blair Hall, prior to becoming a student at Princeton, and hearing students singing on a "lovely starlit May evening" next to Nassau Hall and enjoying the "medley of sentiment, humor, loyalty to Alma Mater and the nation" that their songs captured. The high school tennis star was struck by "Blair Arch with its spectacular steps, the clock in the tower and the dormitories! Just to think I might some day be living in rooms like these! It seemed then it might be like a knight living in a feudal castle at King Arthur's Court..." (Sources: Alexander Leitch, ed. A Princeton Companion, pgs. 320-321; and Dean Mathey, Men and Gothic Towers [Princeton, 1967], p. 3)
The Mathey College Shield
According to “James Wolf Heraldry,” the Mathey family coat of arms (in its French version) was a silver shield with a red saltire (a heraldic red, not burgundy), containing 5 gold bezants. It is made in the form of a St. Andrew's cross, or the letter X. Its breadth should be one-third of the field. The saltire is also popular in Scottish heraldry (there appears to be a Scottish branch of the Mathey family, with its own coat of arms). It is supposed to have been introduced into English heraldry by the Crusaders, who had received the gold coin while in the East.
The current Mathey shield was designed by a Princeton alumnus, Brody Neuenschwander (GS – ’81) in the early 1980s, at the time of the establishment of the five initial residential colleges and then updated by the Office of Communications in 2007, in preparation for the opening of Whitman College (and the designing of a sixth residential college shield).
The year 2007 was also the moment when Mathey became a four-year college. Prior to then, from 1982 to the spring of 2007, Mathey College had typically housed about five hundred freshmen and sophomores, with two hundred and fifty students in each class. In the fall of 2007, however, Mathey College became a four-year residential college, and thus home for approximately two hundred first-year students, two hundred sophomores, and one hundred and forty juniors and seniors.