PAW Tracks

In the spring of 1977, Robin Bennett Osborne ’81 received a moving letter from her grandfather, E. Lansing Bennett ’22, that convinced her to come to Princeton. Four years later, the two were pictured on PAW’s cover, marching arm-in-arm at the P-rade.

Elbert Lansing Bennett ’22 and Robin Bennett Osborne ’81 were pictured on the cover of PAW’s July 20, 1981, issue.
Robert P. Matthews

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I’m Brett Tomlinson, the digital editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, and if you’re a new listener to PAW Tracks, welcome. With each issue of the magazine, we release a new oral history interview with an alum — or a group of alums — sharing their Princeton stories.

Many of the interviews are recorded at Reunions, including this one from Robin Bennett Osborne, Class of 1981. She told us about a letter from her grandfather that proved pivotal in her choice to come to Princeton.

Osborne: I had a lot of relatives who went to Princeton — my grandfather, my great-grandfather, my father, my uncle, and my sister had all gone to Princeton. So when I was applying to colleges I didn’t really want to come here. I was one of those people who was like, “I’m going to do my own thing. I’m going to you know, stake out on my own.” But I applied to Princeton just to please the family. So I was accepted to Princeton and I was not accepted to Harvard, which thank God I wasn’t because I probably would have gone there, and I got on the waitlist at Dartmouth. 

I guess my father had told my grandfather that I was accepted at Princeton, and he wrote me this letter, and it wasn’t a letter that was trying to talk me into coming, it was letter about how incredibly wonderful it was that I was going to be at Princeton and that all these great things that we were going to do together and we’re so proud of you and we’re going to march in the P-rade together and you’re carrying on the tradition of women at Princeton because it was pretty early and it was just such an amazing letter.

It’s from April 1977, and he said:

Dear Robin,

What cause for great joy and celebration. Your father informed me today that all your hard work and diligence has led to an acceptance into the Class of 1981 at our beloved alma mater. This news is like music to my ears. Now we will have two Bennett women joining the earliest classes of women at Princeton. It will be a great honor for me to visit you on campus from time to time and march with you in the P-rade.

You are carrying on a long and wonderful tradition in the Bennett family. Your grandmother and I are deeply proud of you and are looking forward to many happy years of attending reunions with your father, your uncle, your sister, and now you. We will now add your name to the back of the tiger painting which currently hangs in Connie’s room on campus. As you know, the painting has resided in the dormitory rooms of your great-grandfather, Robinson Potter Dunne Bennett, Class of 1892, myself, Class of 1922, your uncle Lance, Class of 1948, and your father, Class of 1952, before finding its way to its present home with Connie, Class of 1977. I hope you will hang it with great pride when you enter Princeton in the fall.

You see he was just assuming that I was going.

You will be carrying on a tradition that brings pride and honor to the family.  One more time I offer most sincere congratulations from your grandmother and me.

With warmth and admiration, your grandfather, Elbert Lansing Bennett, Class of 1922. 

Then he writes:

P.S. Your father and I thought we might try to persuade you to take a year off and enter the Class of 1982 so you would be having reunions with Connie, your father, and myself, but this is half in jest. 

The Bennett family’s tiger painting, left, and alumni who’ve displayed it in their dorm rooms, written on the back of the canvas.
Courtesy Robin Bennett Osborne

You know, I just read the letter and I thought I would have to be an idiot to just not go to Princeton, right? So it completely turned my mind around and I think if he had written a letter trying to talk me into it, I might not have, I don’t know, it would have had a different feel to it.

Our senior year, at our graduation, we somehow ended up on the cover of the PAW, marching in the P-rade together, and he’s just looking proud as punch. So that’s the story; it’s just a little story about how his love of Princeton really turned it around for me.

Our thanks to Robin Bennett Osborne for sharing her story. Brett Tomlinson produced this episode. The music is licensed from FirstCom Music.