In January, 1939, two local women, Ruth Schleifer and Laura Peskin, took their hopes for a “leisure hour school” from idea to reality. With the support and encouragement of B. Woodhull Davis, Supervising Principal of the Princeton Public Schools, Harold Dodds, President of Princeton University and John Mackay, President of the Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton Adult School was born. Its purpose as stated in the by-laws, was “…to offer each year to the adult residents of the Princeton area – regardless of race, color, creed, place of national origin, or sex —a variety of educational courses for their benefit and enjoyment.”
On January 16, 1939 – the first evening of classes – 500 people had registered for the 20 classes offered on Tuesday nights in the public school. Difficult economic times and a world on the brink of war were reflected in the course offerings. The first lecture series was called “World Politics.” Courses in literature, music, art and French were joined by classes in boiler repair, dressmaking, typing and modern homemaking. Dr. Davis, in particular, was anxious that this new educational effort should offer to those struggling through the depression a chance to improve their job skills so they could return to the work force.