Robert Reidy Cullinane, who lived most of his life in Princeton, N.J. and Washington, D.C., died in Princeton on Nov. 11, 2019, at the age of 71.
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1948, Mr. Cullinane was the fifth and youngest son of Leo P. and Lucia Cullinane. A celebrated journalist, Leo Cullinane served as a correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune from the late 1920’s to the 1950’s. For many years before and after World War II, he covered the White House and got to know Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the New Deal era. During the war, when he served as a correspondent in the South Pacific, he wrote portraits of some of the country's top military leaders, including General Douglas MacArthur and Admirals Chester W. Nimitz and William F. Halsey.
Through his father, Robert Cullinane met several historical figures, including Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, better known as Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. Impressed by young Robert’s extraordinary knowledge of the late President of Princeton, Governor of New Jersey, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and 28th President of the United States, Edith Wilson invited him to visit her almost weekly at the Wilson house on S Street in Washington. The president’s widow had a guiding influence on his life and bequeathed to him a number of the president’s personal possessions. Moreover, Mrs. Wilson steered the young Mr. Cullinane to Princeton University, where he became a member of the Class of 1970.
Thirty years after graduating from Princeton, Mr. Cullinane returned to the University and spent the last two decades there as a writer working in institutional development and stewardship. Part of his job under the auspices of the Office of the Recording Secretary was to write inscriptions in English, Latin, Irish, and other languages. Carved in limestone, granite, bronze, and brass, they are scattered across the campus—in the Chapel, courtyards, plazas, and dormitories.
Before returning to Princeton as an employee, Mr. Cullinane earned an M.A. in History at the University of Virginia. He then worked for Benjamin Read, first director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Among other assignments, he researched the writings of Woodrow Wilson for inscriptions appropriate for the prospective new headquarters of the center near the National Archives in Washington. In addition, he was employed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Smithsonian, and for James Billington, the Librarian of Congress and a former professor of history at Princeton. At the time of his death, Mr. Cullinane was an associate trustee of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.
Mr. Cullinane is survived by four brothers—Leo Patrick Cullinane, Jr., of Washington, D.C; Anthony J. and Eugene J. Cullinane of Chevy Chase, MD; and Michael T. Cullinane of Harpers Ferry, VA.—as well as by several nieces and nephews. He will be buried in Princeton Cemetery.
George L. Bustin, co-president of the Class of 1970 and a Princeton-area resident, described Robert Cullinane as “exceptionally esteemed by his friends and classmates.” Three of his closest friends and classmates were with him as he died peacefully within the sound of the bell in Nassau Hall on Veterans Day or Armistice Day—a day of profound significance to his lifelong hero, Woodrow Wilson, a member of the Princeton Class of 1879.
Memorial Contributions may be made to Princeton Hospice.
A Memorial Service will be scheduled for the Spring.