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Former Princeton University Director of Admissions, Triangle Club President, educator and author John “Jack” Thomas Osander ’57 passed away Thursday, March 24 at the age of 87 in his adopted hometown of Princeton.
Osander served as director of admissions from 1966 to 1971, a period that saw the first women being admitted to the University in 1969. “We’re in business — finally,” he told The Daily Princetonian in 1969 when asked about the matter.
“We’ve got the opportunity now to use some of the really exciting ideas that have been tossed around and break a few traditional bonds and move toward a new educational community,” he said.
Born June 24, 1935, the only child to Fredrick John and Helen Kathryn Osander (née Woods), Osander was raised in Minneapolis, Minn.
Osander attended Washburn High School, where he found himself especially drawn to the great novelists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries like William Faulkner, Henry James and F. Scott Fitzgerald Class of 1917. He began creative writing in earnest as a high schooler, especially through his work on the school paper, “The Daily Grist.”
A scratch golfer in his teens, he considered a sport scholarship before his fascination with Fitzgerald in particular helped lead him to apply to Princeton University.
In Osander’s senior year, he was elected Triangle Club president. During his tenure he contributed lyrics and stories for three productions. Also at Princeton, Osander joined Tower Club, becoming its vice president by the time he was a senior.
His desire to write his senior thesis on F. Scott Fitzgerald was rejected by the English Department, so Osander instead wrote it on William Faulkner. In his senior year, Osander won an award from The Daily Princetonian as the undergraduate making the "greatest physical and moral contributions to the University.”
The now discontinued award was established in 1948 consisted of the recipient’s name being engraved on a silver bowl designed by Tiffany and Co.
Upon graduating in 1957 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Osander taught English and theater at the Blake School in Minneapolis. He then studied theater direction at Yale Drama School and attended Harvard Graduate School, where he received a Masters of Education degree. Afterwards, he taught English and theater at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, Ma.
It was in nearby Cambridge that he would meet his wife-to-be, Patricia. They married in 1961 and would go on to have two sons, Tom and Christopher.
In 1963 the young couple settled in the Princeton area, where Osander returned to the University and began working as an admissions officer. He became Director of Admissions in 1966 and served until 1971. It was under his leadership that the first women were admitted to the university. Osander oversaw a 20% increase in minority applications and enrollment.
In 1971, Osander moved to Educational Testing Services (ETS), where he helped design the Educational Passport, an efficient means at the time of condensing all of a student’s records and educational history on microfiche for fast and easy distribution. From 1984 to 1991 he worked for the state of New Jersey as Director of Teacher Recruitment and Placement, finding jobs for thousands of teachers in public schools.
Also during that time, Osander began working with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, eventually serving as Senior Deputy to the President until 1997 and co-authoring 5 major policy books on preschools, colleges, medical education, technology and leadership.
Officially retiring in 1997, Osander continued to pursue his passion for writing by authoring several novels, including the loosely biographical “Country Matters” (2000) and Fitzgerald-inspired “Call Me Kick!” (2002). He also wrote numerous short stories, scripts, adaptations and magazine pieces. Along the way, Osander found time to act in or direct productions of shows such as “Harvey,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Inherit the Wind,” and “1776,” and even appeared on the shows of Ed Sullivan and Ernie Kovac.
He was a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Authors League of America, Thoreau and Fitzgerald Societies, Playwrights Center, and Loft Literary Center. A contentedly private man in general, Osander was an avid birdwatcher and keen golfer. He loved the beaches of Cape Cod, Chatham Athletics baseball, and the stillness of an early weekend morning, with a black coffee in hand as he waited patiently in a bird blind at the Truro National Seashore, hoping to spot a Tern, an Osprey, or perhaps an elusive Piping Plover.
Osander is survived by his former wife Patty, two sons, Tom and Chris and three grandchildren, Connor, Ben and Robin, all of whom he loved dearly.
Tom Osander, an American musician based in Berlin, is John Osander’s son.
Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.