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David and Lyn Silfen's $12 Million Commitment to Intellectual Life

David and Lyn Silfen

President Amy Gutmann’s birthday is in November, so she was surprised when Trustee David Silfen, C ’66, called her in January and wished her a happy birthday. The birthday was Benjamin Franklin’s, and, inspired by his commitment to education, David and Lyn Silfen were making their own commitment to Penn in the form of a $12 million pledge to support academic life at the University. $10 million will fund two University professorships, and $2 million will create a distinguished annual lecture series.

In announcing the gift, President Gutmann hailed David and Lyn Silfen for their support of one of her highest priorities—integrating knowledge across disciplines. “I am thrilled,” she said, “by this remarkable understanding of what it takes to move Penn to the very highest level of teaching and scholarship. The Silfen gift will strengthen the intellectual life of the University, helping to transform the way we teach and apply knowledge to solve world problems.”

The two University professorships are among the 18 called for in the Penn Integrates Knowledge component of the Penn Compact, Amy Gutmann’s strategic plan to take Penn “from excellence to eminence.” Building on Penn’s longstanding tradition of interdisciplinary research and teaching, the chairs will be awarded to distinguished faculty who have demonstrated exceptional intellectual achievement across disciplines. Each professor will hold joint appointments between two schools. The two professors funded by the Silfen family will each hold an appointment in the School of Arts and Sciences as part of their joint appointments. The Silfens’ preference is that one of the chair-holders will have a scholarly focus on ethics.

According to School of Arts and Sciences Dean Rebecca Bushnell, “By making an SAS appointment part of the professorships, the Silfen gift confirms the importance of the liberal arts in the creation and dissemination of new knowledge.”

Complementing the two professorships is an endowed lecture series, with an annual lecture on or about the January 17th anniversary of Franklin’s birth. The lecture will feature a high-profile speaker whose topic will, preferably, be interdisciplinary in nature.

“Our entire family is extraordinarily pleased to make this gift which will support one of the important cornerstones of the Penn Compact,” said David Silfen. “We are confident that this and other commitments will build upon the University’s recent success and help insure a vibrant future.”

David Silfen, senior director of The Goldman Sachs Group, has been a Penn Trustee since 1998 and currently serves as the chair of the Trustee Development Committee. He and his wife, Lyn, are the parents of Jane Silfen, a current Penn junior, and Adam Silfen, C ’98, WG ’03. Longtime supporters of undergraduate education, they previously funded the Silfen Student Study Center (Almanac February 20, 1996), a term professorship, and the David and Lyn Silfen Fund in the School of Arts and Sciences, to support the Pilot Curriculum.


  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 25, March 14, 2006


March 14, 2006
Volume 52 Number 25


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