In Response to: The Legacy of Legacy

Like many alumni, I have mixed feelings about the issue of “legacy” admissions (“The Legacy of Legacy,” December issue). As the father and son of Princeton graduates, I am proud (and grateful!) that this attachment to and affection for the University has been sustained over three generations. However, I also understand that, as Princeton has grown more diverse, the idea of giving alumni children an edge in admissions smacks of indefensible privilege — unearned and inherited, like a country estate.

Perhaps we need to ponder what “legacy” really means and why it should remain important to Princeton. In current parlance, the word is regrettably misleading: It connotes an advantage based upon status and not merit. Statistics belie this view: As the recent PAW article on this subject confirmed, alumni sons and daughters more than measure up academically and in all other salient regards. What they add to the University is a sense of time — a living connection with what Princeton once was and what it will become. As a result of coeducation and the greater emphasis put on attracting nontraditional students, this link to the past has become greatly enriched. Nothing is more gratifying to me than knowing that loyalty to Princeton now encompasses a much more varied group of students.

Without this personal awareness of the past, universities and other communities inevitably become impoverished — their raison d’etre reduced to what they are only in the present moment. Excellence can continue to flourish with this limitation, but its roots will be more shallow.

John V.H. Dippel ’68
Salisbury, Conn.