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McNeil Center for Early American Studies:
A Permanent Home

Daniel Richter

The Barra Foundation and Robert L. McNeil Jr. have pledged $6 million to Penn to build a permanent home for the McNeil Center for Early American Studies in SAS and to provide a permanent endowment for the building's operational costs. The new building will be located on the east side of 34th Street between Hill Field and Walnut Street, a primary gateway to the campus.

"We are grateful to Bob McNeil and the Barra Foundation for their vision and support," President Rodin said. "The McNeil Center has provided an important interdisciplinary venue to highlight the critical role the study of our nation's past plays in understanding and shaping our future. This generous funding recognizes the University of Pennsylvania's role as a national leader in research and scholarship on early American studies."

Dr. Daniel K. Richter, professor of history and director of the Center, said, "This financial support will provide us with a fabulous facility. For many years to come, we will be able to serve the academic community interested in the early American period and to expand our role as the nation's premier incubator of young scholars doing innovative research on the people of early America."

Founded in 1978 by Dr. Richard S. Dunn, emeritus professor of American history, the McNeil Center specializes in the histories and cultures of North America before 1850, with an emphasis on the mid-Atlantic region and on promoting the scholarly use of the Philadelphia area's unparalleled research collections. It operates as a consortium of 16 mid-Atlantic colleges, universities, libraries, museums and historical societies, including the American Philosophical Association, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Athenaeum, the Winterthur Museum and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The Center offers pre- and post-doctoral fellowships, a seminar series attended by scholars from throughout the mid-Atlantic region and national symposia on specialized topics.

In cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania Press, the McNeil Center also publishes a book series and Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, the first issue of which will appear this spring.

In the 2002-2003 academic year, the Center appointed three postdoctoral and eight pre-doctoral fellows and 13 research associates from 21 universities in the U.S. and abroad.

Mr. McNeil is the former chairman of McNeil Laboratories and the current chairman of the Barra Foundation Inc., which provides program support for historical, arts, humanities and educational organizations that operate mainly in the Philadelphia region.

Dr. Samuel H. Preston, SAS dean, said, "This funding is the most recent demonstration of the Barra Foundation's and Bob McNeil's longtime commitment to the Center's work in this, the birthplace of American democracy. We are extremely grateful for their generous support."


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 18, January 21, 2003