Yes, my last name is Linderman like the library. No, I don’t go here for free.
Linderman Library was named for Asa Packer’s daughter, Lucy Linderman, who married Garrett Brodhead Linderman. Think: Lucy’s Cafe and Brodhead House.
That makes Asa Packer my great-great-great-great-grandfather. So, yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.
Growing up, I had heard a lot about Lehigh, most of it from my grandfather, who graduated in 1959. Despite Lehigh being a constant topic of conversation at family events, I did not actually know a lot about Lehigh as a school. We could talk about Lehigh all day, and the only takeaway I got was that it was the only institution of higher education worthy of my attendance.
Here’s what I did know about Lehigh — it was an engineering school. I didn’t want to go there.
As I started applying to colleges during my senior year of high school, I learned a few other things about Lehigh, most notably that my GPA and SAT scores weren’t good enough to get in, but I still had to apply anyway because of family obligation.
When I finally visited Lehigh for myself, I was surprised by how much I actually liked the school. It became my top choice, and I was terrified I had not done enough to secure myself a spot in the class of 2019.
Getting into Lehigh felt like a miracle, and it definitely was not a given.
For legacy students, and not just super-legacies like myself, having a family member who has attended Lehigh is a lot more than just an application boost, if it even is one at all.
At Lehigh, everyone wants to leave a legacy, whether it’s a club that continues long after you’ve graduated or playing on the basketball team that beat Duke. But as a family legacy, I felt like mine was already given to me. I’d been told by family I was going to be held to a higher standard than the average college student simply because of my name. People were going to know who I was.
My entire family’s reputation was suddenly placed on my 18-year-old shoulders. Barely an adult, I was responsible for upholding a legacy that predated me by more than 150 years.
Even more frightening was I didn’t know if I belonged at Lehigh. How much weight did my name really carry when admissions counselors were reading my application? Was I going to be able to handle the normal pressures Lehigh presented?
I often feel like I don’t deserve to be at Lehigh. That feeling falls further to the wayside the longer I am here, but the thought is always in the back of my mind.
On some level, that’s my own self-deprecation talking, but it’s not all my fault. The idea that legacies have it easier in the admission process is definitely the popular opinion, and not just at Lehigh.
I remember a comment a friend made to me about President Simon’s son, who also goes to Lehigh. He said something like, “I wonder if he would have gotten in if his dad wasn’t the president.”
He might as well have said, “I wonder if you would have gotten in if your name wasn’t Linderman.”
I think that often enough for this entire campus.
I feel as though I have something more to prove. I’m not just a legacy. I’m not just a name on a fancy library. I am my own person who has her own goals and her own legacies to leave, just like every other student here. I deserve to be here, and I deserve to believe that about myself.
It shouldn’t matter what other people think being a legacy means, but the way you perceive others has an effect on them, whether they want to be affected or not. I consider myself a rather resilient person, but not everything rolls off my back as easily as I would like it to or as I might make it seem.
I will probably never know how much of an influence my name had on my application process, and I’m learning to be OK with that. I think my aunt, who graduated in 1995, put it best. She said, “Like cards, everyone is dealt a certain hand in life.” I got the Lehigh card, as she put it, so I might as well play it as long as I have it. If that’s truly what got me to Lehigh, so be it. I’m here now receiving a wonderful education. That is what’s really important to me.
At this point, being directly related to Asa Packer is little more than a fun fact. It would be nice if everyone could see it that way, but I have control only over the way I view my legacy.
Asa Packer was a big deal, but contrary to my earlier statement, I am not.
Emily Linderman, ’19, is an assistant lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]