DMathey_GolfDean Mathey (1891-1972)

Dean Mathey was born in 1891 and raised in Cranford, N.J. where he attended the Pingry School. A natural athlete, he excelled at hockey and tennis, captaining both teams in high school and earning the National Interscholastic Championship at Newport, Rhode Island. He went on to compete at Wimbleton. Mathey was a member of the Princeton University Class of 1912. Upon graduation he worked as a bond salesman for $15 a week at William A. Read & Co., becoming a partner of its successor, Dillon, Read & Co., before retiring his career as Chairman of The Bank of New York. He served his country during the Great War, stationed with the 314th Field Artillery in France. In 1927 he married Gertrude Winans, and raised three sons, Dean Jr., David and Don, on his beloved Pretty Brook Farm, now part of Princeton Day School, where he lived until his death in 1972. The original farmhouse was remodeled with the help of his architect classmate Arthur Holden, on property he had bought from the estate of Moses Taylor Pyne. In 1950, he married the former Helen Behr, a survivor of the Titanic, after the death of his first wife.

A devoted alumni of Princeton University, Mathey served as an active trustee from 1927 to 1960, and as trustee emeritus until his death in 1972. A twelve year chairman of the Finance Committee, Mathey is credited with saving the Princeton University Endowment from the Great Depression.  In 1928 and even a bit before, he methodically moved the University out of common stocks that he considered overvalued. Under his watch, throughout the Great Depression Princeton never had a year in which the endowment lost value except for the catastrophic 1932 (the endowment dropped about 16% while the Dow went down 71%).  He was fond of saying, if asked about some attractive investment his committee may have overlooked, “Well, you can’t kiss all the pretty girls,” but, as one of his associates said, “Mathey didn’t miss many of them.”

While he was a gifted financier, his greatest love was architecture.  His many contributions can still be seen across Princeton, from the University’s campus to Princeton Day School and, in his later years, through funding The Windham Foundation and supporting the historic restoration of Grafton, Vermont, a place held dear by his cousins.