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Penn School of Social Policy & Practice: 100 Years of Social Work Education
October 13, 2009, Volume 56, No. 07



Last Wednesday, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice dedicated the new Locust Walk entrance and the renovations to the Caster Building and then unveiled its new Centennial Wall, celebrating 100 years of social work education at Penn.

President Gutmann spoke about how approriate it is to “open the walls of the School of Social Policy & Practice to Locust Walk and to the entire University.” She explained, “Clearly, SP2 is a key academic asset and partner in our efforts to break down intellectual barriers and integrate knowledge for the benefit of society. Those efforts begin at home—on Locust Walk. It is fitting that the School have a footprint along the main thoroughfare of the Penn campus, where faculty and students from all our schools and centers mingle.”

She added, “We are also breaking down barriers inside the building.We have removed interior walls in order to create spaces that are more welcoming, more functional, and more conducive to collaboration. We have completely renovated the classrooms while adding a new computer lab and new student lounge.

President Gutmann recognized “some of the people whose foresight, wisdom, and generosity have brought us here today,” including the late Harold Caster, whose gift enabled the School to erect this building. “And Andy and Mindy Heyer; Andy has given us a textbook case in high-impact leadership. When he became chair of the SP2 board, Andy called for opening the Caster Building to Locust Walk. As alumni of Wharton and the College, he and Mindy knew how important it was to increase SP2’s visibility on the campus. And they delivered.”

The School commissioned Penn alumna Karen Singer, MFA ’81,  to create the Centennial Wall, an art piece that will serve as a recognition vehicle for alumni and donors and also a historical memento to note 100 years of producing agents of social change at Penn.

Ms. Singer, a Philadelphia-based sculptor and ceramic tile maker (at lower right, with the Wall), has created other pieces for the School, including the large Penn shield (above) that hangs in the newly renovated lobby.

The Centennial Wall is a mosaic-tiled, artistic impression of the original School of Social Work building that was once located near 24th and Pine streets before the School moved onto campus and into the Caster Building in 1966.

To mark its centennial, the School established the “100 for 100” campaign, with the goal of raising $1 million in financial aid support by 2010. All donors who pledged more than $400 during the Annual Fund Centennial Campaign may have their names inscribed on the Wall.

Constructing the Centennial Wall is only one part of the renovations the Caster Building underwent this year. Other improvements besides the new the main entrance included new landscaping, a disability-compliant access ramp and a remodeled lobby.

The president also called attention to the architectural details: “A wonderful combination of steel and glass symbolizes the strength, transparency, and visibility of a School that begins its second century poised to be a global leader in  improving the human condition.”

Singer, Karen

President Amy Gutmann cuts the ribbon, with Andrew Heyer, former chair of the SP2 board of overseers, SP2 Dean Richard Gelles, and Ann Reese, current chair of the SP2 board of overseers.

Mural 2

Photographs by Marguerite Miller



Almanac - October 13, 2009, Volume 56, No. 07