Jack Osander, Princeton Class of ’57, grew up in Minneapolis, across the river from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s childhood home, St. Paul. “I really picked Princeton because of Triangle Club — and a girl,” says Osander. “She couldn’t go there, but one Sunday in December, 1952, she sat me down in front of her round TV to watch some guy named Ed Sullivan introduce some college musical number, and then chat with the guys on stage, from the Triangle Club at Princeton.”
The son of an insurance salesman and a mother who had both graduated from the University of Minnesota, Osander was admitted — with scholarships — to all four colleges on his list: Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, and Carleton. He chose Princeton and worked his way up to become president of Triangle, not an eating club but the undergraduate troupe that has produced original musicals (complete with a traditional all-male kickline) from 1893 to this day. Like Fitzgerald, Osander wrote books and lyrics for three shows.
After accepting a bid to Tower Club (at the time not one of the “top five” clubs but in the middle tier), Osander earned his degree in English and then taught at Blake, a prep school in Minneapolis.
He returned to Princeton as an admission officer and became director of admission, serving from 1966 to 1971. During his time in admissions Princeton admitted its first women undergraduates and increased its African-American enrollment from less than 1 percent to 10 percent. He twice interviewed Tim Lanahan, the son of Scottie Fitzgerald, the daughter of Scott and Zelda. “We had long conversations with teachers and guidance folks, ‘Was Princeton a good college for Fitz’s only grandson?’ Scottie wrote wonderful notes and visited twice. We admitted him with the Class of ’69, but he never took to college, went to Vietnam, and became a young suicide in 1973.”
In 2003 Osander had dinner with Scott’s oldest granddaughter, Eleanor Lanahan, biographer of her mother, Scottie, when he was seeking rights to use names from “Gatsby” in his novel “Call Me Kick!” He also began working with critic Matthew J. Bruccoli to obtain rights from the Fitzgerald estate for “Gatz,” a full performance of “The Great Gatsby” to open in New York at the Public Theater this October.
Now living in Minneapolis, Osander has continued his study of Fitzgerald. He has assembled many first editions and what he calls “a fine research collection” of biographical and critical works — some 750 books in all, as well as notebooks and other memorabilia from Triangle shows, including the 1933 program for Jose Ferrer’s only Triangle show (“he was shy yet reviewed as stunning on stage,” Osander says).
Osander wants his collection to some day be part of a Fitzgerald study center. He has been in discussions with Cottage Club officials about replacing the editions of “This Side of Paradise” and “The Great Gatsby” in the club library with proper first editions.