"A Hub of Our Own"
As we launch the first school year of the 21th century at Penn, we should
pause to appreciate the many achievements and advancements that are transforming
our University and our West Philadelphia neighborhood.
We may begin by welcoming the most selective and academically accomplished
class in Penn's history. As they set sail on their voyage of intellectual
and personal discovery, these extraordinary young men and women will have
exceptional resources, enhanced facilities, a bounty of supports, and most
important, a richly honored and decorated world-class faculty behind them.
How I envy them!
This class also arrives in a neighborhood that grows cleaner, safer,
friendlier, lovelier, and livelier with each passing month--a far cry from
where we were only a few years ago. The opening of the Sundance Cinema
and fresh food market, the construction of the Penn-assisted preK-8 school,
a robust housing market, and other developments will add new chapters to
the restoration of a healthy urban ecology in University City.
These projects remind us of the many important connections between
Penn and the rest of West Philadelphia. Our main thoroughfares make up
a vibrant retail, cultural and service hub around which the Penn and West
Philadelphia communities meet as friends and neighbors.
Now, with the official opening this month of the new Perelman Quad,
Penn has a new hub of its own around which the University's academic, social,
and cultural lives can happily converge.
Thanks to the generosity of Trustee Ronald O. Perelman, Houston Hall,
College Hall, Logan Hall, and Irvine Auditorium--the buildings that make
up Penn's historic heart--have been restored to grandeur. I am confident
that this revitalized heart will pump new life and excitement into the University.
Designed by Robert Venturi and GSFA alumna Denise Scott Brown, the Perelman
Quad radiates the genius of two internationally acclaimed architects who
have developed a vision to create a seamlessly integrated precinct of student
The buildings have been treated to the three Rs: restoration, renovation,
and rejuvenation. The new Wynn Commons--once a pleasant, nondescript outdoor
venue for lunch breaks--has been redesigned, through a gift from Trustee
Stephen A. Wynn, into a central plaza that provides a dynamic and unifying
sense of community and a purpose.
Befitting its proud status as the nation's first student union, Houston
Hall has been rediscovered as a living work of art. It has regained its
décor, a second majestic staircase, and spacious common areas, which
are enriched with a browsing library on one end and a café on the
other. Now, there also are more dining options for students, faculty, and
staff, a dance studio, more meeting rooms, more recreational offerings,
and a perfectly restored Class of '49 Auditorium.
Irvine Auditorium has also received a loving and intelligent makeover.
Always cherished for its dazzling murals and Curtis Organ, Irvine took its
drubbing in the past as an acoustic black hole where sounds went to die.
Now, besides the welcome addition of a café and a small recital
hall, Irvine dazzles anew with the Curtis Organ refurbished, the murals
restored, and the acoustic black holes filled.
Borrowing from Heraclitus, no one ever steps onto the same Penn campus
twice, for the landscape is constantly changing.
The opening of Perelman Quad signals a dramatic change in the campus
landscape worth celebrating. Students will have a dynamic center in which
to meet, deliberate, dine, and unwind. And I am sure all of us will appreciate
having a premier outdoor campus hub for concerts, ceremonies, debates, celebrations,
and spontaneous fun.
In fact, the way we come to "see" Perelman Quad will be shaped
by the planned and spontaneous ways students, faculty, and staff use its
grounds and facilities.
I am confident that we will like what we see.