Forbes College is located on the site of the historic Princeton Inn, a gracious hotel overlooking the Princeton golf course. The Princeton Inn, originally constructed in 1924, played regular host to important symposia and gatherings of renowned scholars from both the University and the nearby Institute for Advanced Studies for many years. Of particular note is the 1955 conference "Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth," one of the first multi-disciplinary symposia encouraging collaboration among international scholars from both the natural and social sciences to discuss "man's capacity to transform his physical-biological environment and upon his cumulative and irreversible alterations of the earth." As such, Forbes College ties to sustainability and the environment reach back many decades.
In 1970, the Inn was acquired by the University to create an undergraduate residential college. A generous gift from Malcolm S. Forbes, Sr. ’41 allowed for extensive renovations to the entire facility in 1984. The newly renovated residential college was named in honor of Malcolm S. Forbes, Jr. ’70. Forbes College, now one of six residential colleges at Princeton, functions as a center of undergraduate academic advising and carries on the legacy of the Princeton Inn by hosting a diverse range of intellectual, social, and cultural events.
The Forbes College mascot is Malcolm the friendly bear. The image of three bears on the Forbes College shield is inspired by the three dancing bears that adorn the Forbes family crest. Malcolm the friendly bear makes guest appearances at Forbes events to welcome, and on occasion dance with, students and members of the college community. Malcolm is fond of the 4BZ ("four bees") that often decorate Forbes items and serve to remind him of honey, his favorite snack food.
Former Heads of College include Albert Sonnenfeld, Professor of French Literature and Comparative Literature (1970‑1973); Lawrence Lipking, Professor of English and Comparative Literature (1973‑1976); Lou Ann Garvey (1976‑1983); and Lynn T. White, Professor of Chinese Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School, (1987‑1988).
John F. Wilson, Agate Brown and George L. Collord Professor of Religion, was head from 1983‑1987 and 1988‑1992; John G. Gager, William H. Danforth Professor of Religion (1992-2000); Andrea La Paugh, Professor of Computer Science (2000-2004); Elizabeth Lunbeck, Professor of History (2004-2006); Christian Wildberg, Professor of Classics (2006-2010); Michael Hecht, Professor of Chemistry (2010-2018).
The current head is Maria Garlock, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (2018- ).