Nourishing the University's Growth
As the hooky specialist extraordinaire (and
philosopher) Ferris Bueller famously remarked, "Life moves
pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while,
As I prepare for the home stretch
of what has been the most exhilarating ride of my career,
I cannot help but marvel at
the velocity with which this University moves, and the myriad
changes and achievements that have firmly established Penn
as one of the world's premier urban research universities.
Many changes are hard to miss. Transformed by an unprecedented
wave of new construction, renovations, and restorations, the
Penn campus is more attractive than ever. Our buildings and
spaces are better designed and more welcoming to students and
to a neighborhood that itself has been revitalized.
But even more dazzling is the
fabric of intellectual life at Penn. How does one even begin
to capture all the leading-edge
research, the brilliant publications, the path-breaking and
often life-saving discoveries, the life-changing lectures,
and prized consultations that issue continuously from the minds
of our extraordinary faculty? Obviously, as much as anyone
of us tries to keep abreast of the latest faculty achievements,
we are keenly aware that at a dynamic academic institution
like Penn, we're missing more than we can ever learn.
Fortunately, I have tried to
stop and look around as much as I could. Throughout my tenure
at Penn, I have enjoyed the privilege
of hosting faculty breakfasts at the President's residence.
I invariably come away from those conversations both impressed
by the range of original thinking by our faculty and hardwired
to the excitement of their disciplines.
I see that creativity and excitement projected in open lectures
for the Penn community and reflected in the emergence of stronger
departments, new innovative, interdisciplinary programs, and
more coherent curricula.
So I am never surprised when members of our Penn faculty win
the most prestigious awards in their fields.
At the same time, no column
or book could do full justice to the thousand daily innovations,
gestures, and heroic deeds
performed by Penn's dedicated staff. These talented women and
men are indispensable in advancing the University's core mission.
They, too, help educate our students, and create the safe,
nurturing environment in which students and faculty can thrive.
Again, regrettably, there are
wonderful individual and collaborative staff achievements
I'll never know about. But I see their hand
in a magnificent University that is so much more than the sum
of all its parts.
Change is a constant at Penn,
and soon, we'll all learn the
name of the woman or man who will lead this University forward.
While no one can predict the future, I have absolutely no doubt
that my successor will discover very quickly that Penn's greatest
strength is not a collection of fabulous buildings or its gorgeous
landscaping; it's the extraordinary men and women who have
planted their roots deeply and lovingly in Penn's fertile
academic soil. Regardless of the season, they can be counted
on to bear fruit that continues to nourish the University's
growth. For the time I have left as president of my beloved alma
mater, I look forward to enjoying the feast with all of
Let's dig in!