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Lung cancer takes scholar Link at 77

Woodrow Wilson 1879 expert Arthur Stanley Link died Thursday of lung cancer. The former professor was known as the nation's leading authority on Wilson, the University's most well-known president. He was 77.

Link was the first historian to publish the complete papers of any U.S. president. According to a University press release, the project was undertaken over the course of 25 years.

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Link began work on the papers as a professor at Northwestern University and was asked to oversee the publication in 1958. He completed his research and released the 69th and final volume in 1983.

'Extraordinary achievement'

"He was the nation's leading expert on Wilson," said history professor Daniel Rodgers. "Very few editors see the whole project through in their lifetime," he said. "It's an extraordinary achievement," Rodgers added.

In addition to the papers, Link wrote and published more than 30 books. He was a two-time recipient of the Bancroft Prize for the best book on American history. The first award was for his second volume of Wilson's biography and the second was in 1960 for his book "The Struggle for Neutrality."

While researching the Wilson papers, Link also taught a full course load at Princeton.

"I think he was able to do as much as he did because of his extraordinary powers of concentration," said his son William, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. "When he was working, nothing could distract him."

Among those who have been taught by Link are former presidential candidate George McGovernand former Senator Bill Bradley '65.

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In addition, the mayor of Princeton Township, Phyllis Marchand, worked for Link as an indexer. Marchand said Link would insist she double check every detail, without the aid of computers, which he never used during the entire life of the project.

Political expert

Link's writing sheds light on Wilson, the president whom Link himself once called "one of the most admirable characters I've ever encountered in history."

"He knew more about the politics of the era than any other living person," Rodgers said. "To anyone studying any aspect of political or intellectual history, the Wilson papers are indispensable."

Link, who gave public lectures in all 50 states, Europe, South America and Japan, retired from the University in 1992. Since he left the University, Link divided his time between the Bermuda Village Health Center and the Working Group on Disability in U.S. Presidents, where he served as co-chair.

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Link received both his bachelors degree and his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Margaret Link, his wife of more than 50 years, died in 1996. Link is survived by a sister, Elinor Link Cagan; his four children Stanley Link, James Link, Margaret Link Weil and William Link; and four grandchildren.