1996 College graduate Matt Robinson published his first book, “Lions, Tigers, and … Bulldogs?: An Unofficial Guide to the Legends and Lore of the Ivy League”, which reveals lesser-known facts about the Ivy League schools.
The book — which Robinson said is intended for audiences of all ages — takes the reader through each school in the League. It contains illustrations and trivia — or, as Robinson refers to it, "Tr-IVY-a" — about each one.
Robinson decided to write a book after his father was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a condition that degenerates parts of the brain responsible for personality, behavior, and language.
“We started to trace back and realized how strong this condition was in my family," Robinson said. "[Given that] I was a writer and made a living with my vocabulary, I was very concerned about how many years I had left. In honor and in memory of my father, I chose to write [“Lions, Tigers, and … Bulldogs?”].”
Robinson, who majored in English and history during his time at Penn, said that while he had brainstormed several possible book concepts, he had previously lacked the time to expand on them.
“I had a number of book ideas on the backburner," Robinson said. "But as I’d been a freelancer for most of my career, it was hard to justify doing a project for myself when a paid gig came in. So the books I did stayed on my computer, languishing — I would check on them every so often, but I really wasn’t doing anything actively with them.”
Of all these possible ideas, Robinson said that writing about the Ivy League felt natural to him — he had graduated from Penn, his father had attended Brown, and his wife had attended Dartmouth. He added that he also had a talent for knowing mascots, saying he has a harmless “thing” for them.
“People could name a school, and, most of the time, I could correctly name the mascot. I’m not particularly sure where that talent came from, but there it was,” Robinson said.
When he learned that his publisher committed copyright infringement by taking images from schools’ websites without permission, Robinson said that he made the decision to self-publish the book. While writing the book, he self-imposed a deadline: what would have been his father’s 80th birthday. After working on it for five years, he ended up publishing the first edition about a month before that date.
“It was a very emotional time … having that inspiration [of my father] at times really kept me going,” Robinson said.
Since then, he has presented the book at alumni groups, libraries, social clubs, bookstores, and even virtually to readers in Alaska and Switzerland.
Robinson’s book has been sold to children, parents, and new graduates — he added that some readers have told him that it has helped them with their college admissions essays and interviews.
“I think because it’s mostly animated — my illustrator, Jim Roldan, basically designed the whole book — people seem to think that it’s more of a children’s book, but it’s really for anybody,” Robinson said.
Robinson added that his favorite reader feedback comes from when they share their own experiences at their Ivy League schools. He now has a 100-page document full of additional facts, which he said could potentially help him write a sequel.
“I’m still working with volume one for the time being, but [I] definitely have enough material for more,” Robinson said.