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Welcome Back from the President
January 15, 2008, Volume 54, No. 17

Discovering New Territory


Sometime before the big ball drops on Times Square, we make resolutions to recommit ourselves to personal goals and worthy aspirations. Penn is welcoming 2008 by converting aspirations into action. Like Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the American west (which is retraced in a current Penn Museum exhibit), we have launched our Penn expedition to chart new intellectual terrain and to extend our physical horizons. Let us look at the ground we have covered in pursuing Penn’s three top priorities: financial aid; faculty and program support; and facilities.

We have reached a new milestone under the Penn Compact in making a Penn education accessible to high-achieving students from all socio-economic backgrounds. Beginning in September 2008, Penn undergraduates with calculated family incomes less than $100,000 will receive loan-free aid packages, while other students will receive a 10 percent reduction in need-based loans. By fall 2009, all undergraduate students eligible for financial aid (currently 40% of Penn undergraduates) will receive loan-free aid packages, regardless of family income.

This program marks the logical next step in a series of Penn initiatives to encourage greater opportunity for middle- and upper-middle-income students along with low-income families. Since 2003, we have more than doubled our undergraduate financial aid endowment. In 2007 we more than doubled the number of undergraduates able to replace loans with grants by raising the family income level cap for loan elimination from $50,000 to $60,000. Achieving the $350 million undergraduate financial aid goal of our Making History campaign will secure our future as a need-blind institution that educates the world’s ablest students to contribute to the advancement of knowledge and society.

Extending intellectual horizons for our students and society begins with our faculty. Our new Institute for Regenerative Medicine, under the leadership of eminent Penn scientists Jonathan A. Epstein and Ralph L. Brinster, will foster campus-wide collaborations to explore the frontiers of stem cell biology, which is paving the way towards the discovery of lifesaving therapies in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases, wound healing and aging. With new centers to study the impact of genetic testing, to explore genetic causes of disease in animals, and to design new approaches to the long-term care of people with chronic illness, Penn is in the forefront of shaping the health care landscape of the future.

Nowhere are signs of our progress more visible than in the changes to our campus.  We already are beginning to implement the first phase of our Penn Connects campus development plan by building and renovating facilities that will inspire the creation of knowledge and encourage the exchange of ideas. You may have noticed the new green roof on English House, external and internal improvements to Civic House, and upgrades in Harnwell College House. Construction of our new Annenberg Public Policy Center is underway.  In 2008 expect to see the opening of our Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, and the completion of renovations to Harnwell and Penn Nursing’s Fagin Hall. We also will begin renovations to Rodin College House, the Music Building, and facilities at Franklin Field.

Penn Connects calls for the creation of a strong commercial, residential, and recreational neighborhood along the Schuylkill River that will strengthen connections between University City and Center City. Later this year, we will begin converting parking lots along the river into our new 24-acre Penn Park, whose athletic fields, recreational green spaces, and river views will transform the landscape. In November, Penn’s development partner Brandywine Realty Trust began demolition of the Post Office Truck Terminal Annex on 30th Street between Chestnut and Walnut streets. Brandywine will redevelop the site as Cira Centre South, a new office and retail complex that will spark economic growth and will house some of Penn’s administrative services, thereby allowing us to continue strengthening our academic core.

Along the western edge of the park lands we are building what may be the first truly translational biomedical research facility in the country. Designed to foster interactivity, this complex will integrate the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine’s state-of-the-art outpatient cancer and cardiac care with the Roberts Proton Therapy Center (opening in 2009) and a clinical research tower (opening in 2010). While our building and renovation plans to enhance academic and residential life at Penn span the next 30 years, the changes now taking shape give us much to anticipate in coming months.

Our momentum in all of these areas is matched by the progress of our Making History campaign. More than 7,500 alumni parents, faculty, staff, students and friends joined together in October for twin launch celebrations on campus. We have raised $1.72 billion toward our $3.5 billion goal. Enthusiastic participants have turned out for regional events in Boston and Washington, DC, and this month we will carry our message to Asia before returning home for trips to the West Coast, South, and mid-West.

The journals of Lewis and Clark describe great mountains and waterfalls, winding rivers and magnificent plains. After arriving at one summit, Lewis wrote of “feasting my eyes and resting myself for a few minutes” before proceeding to the next bend in the Missouri river. With the holiday break behind us, I look forward to discovering new territory with you in 2008 as we continue on our journey toward even greater eminence. Happy New Year!

Amy Gutmann


Almanac - January 15, 2008, Volume 54, No. 17