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The Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships
October 2, 2007, Volume 54, No. 6



The University of Pennsylvania will name its Center for Community Partnerships for Edward Netter, a 1953 graduate of Penn’s College, and his wife, Barbara, in recognition of their commitments of more than $10 million.

“One of Penn’s great strengths lies in our ability to work hand-in-hand with our West Philadelphia neighbors to improve lives,” President Amy Gutmann said. “This extraordinarily generous gift from Barbara and Edward Netter will enable Penn students, faculty and staff to deepen and expand this creative and dynamic partnership.  The Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships will greatly enhance Penn’s ability to make a difference in our West Philadelphia community while creating new knowledge that can benefit communities everywhere.”

Since its 1992 founding, the Center has been a catalyst for the transformation of West Philadelphia from a declining neighborhood to one with a promising future (Almanac July 14, 1992). The Center directs the talents and idealism of thousands of Penn students in addressing problems of schools, health care, childhood obesity, environmental hazards, unemployment and economic decline. Penn faculty teach more than 50 courses a year that engage students with the community, enriching their academic experience as well as benefiting the neighborhood they serve. This type of academic work led to the development of the university-assisted community schools model which had not previously existed, one that research is finding to be effective, cost efficient and of proven success.

“The Netters’ inspiring generosity will enable colleagues at Penn and in the community to take their work to the next level, making a greater difference on campus, in the community and in society in general,” said Dr. Ira Harkavy, the center’s founding director.

Part of the Netters’ gift will be used to replicate nationally the success of the Center’s widely recognized university-assisted community school programs. Such programs involve more than 6,000 children and youth, parents and community members at six sites in West Philadelphia.  Twenty-two colleges and universities in the U.S. have developed their own community-schools programs based on the Penn approach.  Teams from an additional 75 higher-education institutions have been trained on the model.

Mr. Netter is the chairman and chief executive officer of Geneve Corporation, a private diversified holding company in Stamford, Connecticut. His wife, a psychotherapist, has been involved in education for many years. Both serve on the Center’s National Advisory Board and have helped the Center over the past several years to grow and develop through their ideas and support.

“One of the key issues we face in this country is finding ways to improve public schools.  What Penn has achieved in West Philadelphia with university-assisted community schools is dramatic.  If it could be duplicated on a national scale, it could go a long way towards significantly improving the education system,” Mr. Netter said.

In visiting CCP’s sites in West Philadelphia, the Netters became early converts to the Center for Community Partnerships approach.  They backed the Center’s Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative to attack obesity in school children and its academically based community service courses, which bring together Penn faculty and students to work with local public schools, faith communities and other organizations to address issues of environment, health, education and culture.

The Netters’ gift will also be used to build capacity and permanence by endowing the Center’s operations.  Funds will be used to hire and expand staff and to evaluate programs with special emphasis on university-assisted community schools in terms of academic performance, attendance and community involvement.

Besides school reform, the Netters have made cancer research in gene therapy a philanthropic priority. They are co-founders of the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, a public charity that has made significant grants to scientists nationally, including those at Penn Medicine.

Almanac - October 2, 2007, Volume 54, No. 6