Early life and education
Alito was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Samuel A. Alito, Sr., an Italian immigrant, and Rose Fradusco, an Italian-American. Alito's father, now deceased, was a high school teacher and then became the first Director of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, a state government position he held from 1952 to 1984. Alito's mother is a retired schoolteacher.
Alito grew up in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, a suburb of Trenton. He graduated from Steinert High School in Hamilton Township as the class valedictorian, and graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1972 before attending Yale Law School, where he served as an editor on the Yale Law Journal and earned a Juris Doctor in 1975.
At Princeton, Alito chaired a student conference in 1971 called "The Boundaries of Privacy in American Society" which, among other things, supported curbs on domestic intelligence gathering and anticipated the need for a statute and a court to oversee national security surveillance. The conference report itself also called for the decriminalization of sodomy, and urged for an end to discrimination against gays in hiring by employers. "Though Alito's name is attached to the chair's report, it remains unclear to what extent the report represented his personal opinions. Alumni, who served as 'commissioners' for the junior conference Alito chaired, offered conflicting information on how best to interpret the report." He also led the American Whig-Cliosophic Society's Debate Panel during his time at Princeton. Alito avoided the eating clubs at Princeton University and instead joined Stevenson Hall.
While a sophomore at Princeton, Alito received a low lottery number, 32, in the Selective Service drawing on December 1, 1969. In 1970, he became a member of the school's Army ROTC program, attending a six-week basic training camp that year at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Alito was a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which was formed in October 1972 at least in part to oppose Princeton's decisions regarding affirmative action. Apart from Alito's written 1985 statement of membership of CAP on a job application, which Alito says was truthful, there is no other documentation of Alito's involvement with or contributions in the group. Alito has cited the banning and subsequent treatment of ROTC by the university as his reason for belonging to CAP.
At Princeton, Alito was "almost alone" in his familiarity with the writings of John Marshall Harlan II and was much influenced by the course on constitution interpretation taught by Walter F. Murphy, also his faculty adviser.
During his senior year at Princeton, Alito moved out of New Jersey for the first time to study in Italy, where he wrote his thesis on the Italian legal system. Graduating in 1972, Alito left a sign of his lofty aspirations in his yearbook, which said that he hoped to "eventually warm a seat on the Supreme Court".
He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps after his graduation from Princeton and assigned to the United States Army Reserve. At Yale, Alito was a classmate of future-Dean Anthony T. Kronman and was one year behind future-Justice Clarence Thomas. Following his graduation from Yale Law School, he served on active duty from September to December 1975. The remainder of his time in the Army was served in the inactive Reserves. He was a captain when he received an honorable discharge in 1980.