The following letter was sent to the President, and later sent by its authors to Almanac for publication. The portion of Dr. Rodin's convocation address to which the letter refers is printed below.

A Challenging Vision

We are writing to express our appreciation of your convocation address to incoming students. When a Penn student challenged the University with difficult questions about its responsibility to the community, you did not become defensive. You used the opportunity to express the key element of your vision for 21st Century Education on this campus; i.e., the integration of theory and practice, of academic and intellectual growth combined with reflection on secular diversity. Your commitment to have Penn students actively engaged with the social, economic, and political realities of daily culture through their academic endeavors was clear.

Your foresighted vision is consistent with the application of the religious principles by which we operate our ministries and programs. It is consistent with the highest principle of academe; to use the intellect to ultimately enhance the quality of human life. We believe Benjamin Franklin would be pleased.

Please consider the religious communities your partners in this vision. You and the Provost are clearly blazing a trail for higher learning, which has the potential for revolutionizing the way we approach education. It marks a more integrative and holistic approach to learning that is remarkable in this era of specialization and fragmentation.

We commend your obvious commitment to being an innovative leader among the Ivy League schools.

Rev. Andy Barasda, St. Mary's Episcopal
Jeremy Brochin, Hillel
Bob Cardie, Newman Center
Rev. Beverly Dale, Christian Association
Fr. Mark Hunt, Newman Center
Rev. Lawrie Hurtt, Cathedral Church
Rev. Cynthia Krommes, University Lutheran
Rev. David Tatgenhorst, Calvary United Methodist

Excerpt from Dr. Rodin's Address to the Class of 1999, September 3, 1995

You are here because of our outstanding faculty, and your single most important challenge is to boldly seek out the intellectual destinations that lie gathered around you in the minds of our faculty and the ideas you and they will invent together.

Your time at Penn will produce self-knowledge, career choices, lifetime interests, and personal passions. Many of these you will find in the rich intellectual, social and cultural life of Penn's campus. Others can be discovered in the exciting city around us, in its museums and galleries, its parks and its politics, its historic sites and its stimulating shopping districts.

Out there, too, you will find opportunities for community service that will bring rewards beyond measure both to you and to those you decide to help.

One of last year's freshmen, Tal Golomb from Ridgefield, Connecticut, has written a brave challenge to you and to his own classmates. It appeared in the campus newspaper, The Summer Pennsylvanian.

Mr. Golomb spent his summer taking a seminar on revitalizing urban schools and their surrounding communities. As part of that seminar, he ran a summer camp program at the Turner Middle School right here in West Philadelphia. He learned not only the facts and theories of urban life, but the hard personal realities of what it takes to effect change and make a difference in someone else's life.

Mr. Golomb's experience prompted him to pose some hard questions to all of us: He asked "With one of the best medical institutions in the world," "why do our neighbors suffer an intolerably high infant mortality rate? With the best business school in the world, why is our community's economy crumbling?"

Of course the medical center and Wharton are and have been deeply involved in the community, as are so many schools and individuals at Penn, but we can all do more.

As Mr. Golomb challenged us, "No matter what club, activity, department, or school you are in," "continually question how you can focus your talents in partnership with our community, to better our community, to better yourself."

You will hear much over the next few years about how Penn tries to unite theory and practice in preparing you to live in the 21st Century. We believe with our founder Benjamin Franklin that theory and practice, knowledge and service, teaching and research, are merely different aspects of the same thing--education.

What we have in mind is what Franklin called "the "great aim and end of all education," joining inclination and ability "to serve Mankind, one's Country, Friends and Family."

So, whether you take a service-oriented academic seminar like Mr. Golomb, or invent toys for disabled children in Professor Daniel Bogen's bioengineering seminar, whether you volunteer as a tutor for inner-city children or work for the political candidate of your choice in next year's election, you will find yourselves facing--and meeting--the challenge that Mr. Golomb and Mr. Franklin have posed to all of us.

You will become living, breathing, acting examples of what education is, in the truest and broadest sense, and what the University of Pennsylvania is fundamentally all about.


Tuesday, October 31, 1995
Volume 42 Number 10

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