College Tries To Lure Students With Tenuous J.D. Salinger Connection


Every college tries to impress applicants with a list of its famous alums, and for Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, that list basically consists of J.D. Salinger. According to the New York Times, Ursinus has been trying to attract Catcher In The Rye fans for 50 years, even though the author only spent one semester at the school in 1938.

While Salinger reportedly enjoyed his brief time at Ursinus, he rebuffed the school’s numerous offers to give him honorary degrees and guest lecturer spots, as this would tarnish his image as the world’s most famous recluse. He did finally contact the school in 2006, when it started offering a $30,000 per year Salinger scholarship. He said (through a rep, of course) that he wanted his name removed, so it became the Ursinus College Creative Writing Award.

Salinger didn’t really do anything at the school except write horrible newspaper columns and “mindlessly positive” theater reviews in the school paper, which the Times notes have led some to speculate, “that his primary artistic goal was bedding coeds.” Ursinus’ only Salinger item of value is the cramped freshmen dorm room he once stayed in, so scholarship winners are allowed to live there for a year. From The Times:

“It’s a pretty tiny room,” said Anton Teubner, a senior who slept there in 2007.
“It is small,” said Logan Metcalf-Kelly, the current occupant. “But I don’t mind sleeping in it.”
“Late at night,” Mr. Teubner said, “I’d be in bed and there’d be these drunk freshmen yelling in the hallway: ‘It’s the room, it’s the room.’ Cut into my sleep.”
On the other hand, for the lonely male freshman, there are benefits. “Girls are interested in seeing the inside of Salinger’s room,” Mr. Metcalf-Kelly said.

Now there’s the quote for the brochure! The Ursinus students interviewed for the article seemed dismissive of Salinger’s work, but who isn’t interested in luring girls into their room under false pretenses? At my alma mater there was one small, oddly-shaped room where our most famous alum was rumored to have lived, but as far as I know, no one ever used their prime campus real estate to “bed coeds.” (Possibly because the term is frowned upon at a women’s college.) To paraphrase Holden Caulfield’s progeny Max Fischer, college students are spending far too much time trying to follow in celebrity alums’ footsteps. They should probably be trying harder to score chicks.

J. D. Salinger Slept Here (Just Don’t Tell Anyone) [N.Y. Times]

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin