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Welcome Back from the President
September 2, 2008, Volume 55, No. 2

Generating and Transmitting Knowledge to Serve Humankind

I am writing this column the morning after dining with a group of Penn alumni and watching Michael Phelps make history by winning his eighth gold medal in the 4 x 100 medley relay. We roared as Phelps and his relay partners—Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, and anchor Jason Lezak—swam to Olympic glory.

We all realized that as fast as Michael Phelps swam, he could not have made history without his teammates doing their parts in the three relays in which they all won gold medals. Nor would we be celebrating a gold medal in rowing for Penn alumna Susan Francia (C’04) had she and her teammates not worked together so beautifully.

Naturally, I spotted parallels with the history that Penn has made this year thanks to magnificent teamwork and star performances by our eminent and diverse faculty and staff:

• We have dramatically strengthened financial aid to make Penn a national leader in accessibility and affordability, and already have doubled the enrollment of undergraduate students from low-income families while broadly increasing the diversity of our undergraduate student body across all four schools.

• We have made Penn the gold (medal!) standard in generating innovative knowledge across the arts and sciences and the professions by strengthening existing interdisciplinary centers, launching new interdisciplinary institutes and initiatives, and recruiting and retaining the largest and most eminent faculty in Penn’s illustrious history, which now includes eight Penn Integrates Knowledge Professors along with an amazing range of extraordinarily dedicated and award-winning professors throughout our 12 schools. The gender and racial diversity of our faculty has increased, consistent with our fundamental commitment to nondiscrimination, and so has our academic eminence.

• We greatly improved the quality of student housing, completing three phases of our $106 million renovation of Harnwell, Harrison, and Rodin College Houses, and upgrading heating, cooling, lighting, and elevator systems in Mayer, Hill and Du Bois Houses.

• Our West Philadelphia campus has grown from 269 to 280 acres, and we are in the midst of a facilities development that will include a fully integrated biomedical clinical and translational research complex, a beautifully renovated Music building, a new Franklin Field arcade and fitness center, a state-of-the-art building for nanotechnology, and the conversion of a 10-acre, asphalt parking lot along the banks of the Schuylkill River into Penn Park, featuring new athletic and recreational fields that will be contiguous to Franklin Field and the Palestra.

• We launched the Lucien Blackwell Apprenticeship Program, endowed the Fox Leadership Center and the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, and welcomed our first class of Penn Civic Scholars.

These and a host of other academic and civic initiatives are strengthening both Penn and the social and economic fabric of our city and society. By becoming a model of a civically-minded University, Penn is more successfully achieving our mission of generating and transmitting knowledge that serves humankind. With the ongoing success of our $3.5 billion Making History Campaign, there will be even more to come.

This fall, I am especially delighted to be dedicating the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, which will revolutionize the treatment of cancer and heart disease while also generating hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact for West Philadelphia.

Our Botswana-UPenn Partnership is an inspiring model of Penn’s global engagement. What began in 2001 with the deployment of a few very dedicated Penn Medicine faculty to train health care workers in fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic has blossomed into a University-wide engagement and partnership with the University of Botswana, involving nine of our 12 schools and the University Museum.

As I look forward to that other quadrennial event—the US presidential election—I know that our students will unite across party lines and drive their Penn Leads the Vote campaign to set new records for voter participation and turnout.

Of course, this is no time to rest on our laurels and medals. Maintaining our momentum will require the sustained commitment of our individual talents and collective wisdom. Every successful Penn initiative is only as strong as the ideas that form its foundation and the people who implement it. I count myself privileged to lead a University with a gold-medal faculty and staff.

I want to thank every member of the Penn community for making this past academic year so extraordinarily successful for Penn (and consequently the most fulfilling year of my professional career). Going forward, I will continue to count on your strength and dedication as we continue to make history and add to the medal count of our great and beloved University.

Amy Gutmann Signature


Almanac - September 2, 2008, Volume 55, No. 2