The history of Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) dates back to the mid-1990s, when the Princeton University Class of 1969 celebrated its 25th Reunion in 1995. The Class was undecided how it would use its Memorial Fund Drive balance. Members of the Class had contributed to this fund since graduation in order to finance a significant gift to the University at its 25th Reunion. Besides funding a large gift to the University's Annual Giving fund that year, and setting aside money to fund the creation of the Class of 1969 Memorial Garden behind Murray Dodge Hall, there was still over $400,000 in the Memorial Fund.
The Class of 1955 led by Ralph Nader and five of his classmates, made a presentation to '69 at its 26th Reunion urging the Class of 1969 to do something special and significant with its Fund balance. They exhorted '69 to make a difference for Princeton undergraduates by emulating their own Princeton Project '55, which matched students and graduating alumni with nonprofit civic service organizations in major urban areas. Inspired by this example, The Class of 1969 created its Class of 1969 Community Service Fund (CSF), which offered Princeton undergraduates paid summer internships in nonprofit organizations, as well as provided seed money for Engineers without Borders (Princeton chapter); Princeton in Africa; Princeton in Latin America; Princeton University Class of 1995 Summer Service Fund; and the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program.
The first internships were created in 1996. With no staff, and just a handful of ’69 classmates doing most of the legwork, 13 students were awarded funding for their summer jobs in the nonprofit sector. Critical assistance in creating these internships was contributed by Project 55, Community House, and the Student Volunteer Council. The typical stipend was $2,500, with additional amounts awarded for travel and immunization costs for four foreign internships in Ecuador, Tanzania, and Belize. Three of the interns were sons and daughters of ’69 classmates, as many ’69 classmate legacies were on campus that year.
In its first year, the ’69 CSF became the second largest alumni class community service program at Princeton, behind only Project 55. In subsequent years, the number of internships grew and it soon became necessary to hire a staff person to oversee the process of creating and filling internships. In 1998 Project 55 provided a desk in its Nassau Street office for Seva Kramer, who would essentially run the program for the next 14 years and subsequently becoming an honorary '69 classmate. Numerous classmates and spouses continued to spearhead the program, serve as alumni partners, source internships, and fund both stipends and the cost of running CSF as an independent 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.
CSF continued to grow, and in recognition of its tremendous success as an incubator for civic service engagement involving both students and alumni, it was renamed Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) and its board was diversified to reflect the multi-Class commitment to service that is a major focus of Princeton and reflected in its unofficial motto. Over 1,000 undergraduates have held PICS internships to date, and for many of them these have been life changing experiences.