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Press Conference Announcing Dr. Amy Gutmann's Nomination as Penn's Next President

Dr. Amy Gutmann Penn President, J. Riepe, J. Rodin
After the Press Conference, last Thursday morning, Dr. Amy Gutmann, the Trustees' unanimous nominee to become Penn's eighth president, Mr. James Riepe, chairman of the Trustees and the Consultative Committee, and Penn President Judith Rodin enjoying the "rare moment."


Last Thursday morning, in Houston Hall's Class of 1949 Auditorium, President Judith Rodin and the Consultative Committee for the Selection of a President welcomed and introduced Dr. Amy Gutmann, the nominee to be Penn's next president. She said that this "thrilling, wonderful oopportunity" is the "culmination of a lifelong devotion to teaching and education. "What attracts her to Penn is the chance to "learn and lead at the same time."

President Judith Rodin's Remarks

After ten wonderful years leading this extraordinary institution, I'm delighted to welcome you to Penn for this exciting announcement. We are here to mark another important milestone in Penn's history, as our Trustees continue the tradition of selecting a President for the University of Pennsylvania.

First, I would like to thank the Chairman of the Board, James Riepe, for his hard work and leadership in this process and in the last five years. Next, I want to salute you, the people of Penn.  For the last decade, with your energy and wisdom and passion, we have moved Penn to the very top ranks of American universities--and I am so proud of and so grateful to all of you--including our excellent deans and senior officers, our outstanding faculty, brilliant students and dedicated staff.

In the past decade Penn has gone through a period of unprecedented growth. We've tripled our research dollars as well as tripling both annual fundraising and the size of the endowment.  We've developed scores of groundbreaking programs and new types of degrees, particularly those that cross schools and disciplines. This is a flourishing, robust, entrepreneurial academic landscape, and I hand it over with great pride to my successor.

We have also created a dramatic physical transformation of the campus. There is light and life and energy, packed into every space of this compact campus. We have also forged a blueprint for growth and forged the ability to do so to the east and south. We have also led a transformation of West Philadelphia that is winning international awards and changing views about how to reanimate the urban fabric of America.  We are so proud of our local community--you are our  friends and our neighbors.

Finally, we have made Penn a real part of this City and this Commonwealth in more than location. We are a great national and international University, but we have also made a visible commitment to help this region succeed and have worked to lead that effort. We have joined the mayor and governor, Councilwoman Blackwell and other elected officials as true partners and the results have been fantastic.

Finally, I'd like to remind all of you that Benjamin Franklin, our founder, believed strongly in being thrifty. I congratulate the Trustees, as Ben would, for picking a President who will be able to wear my academic robes. (laughter)

Amy, I look forward to working with you, during the transition, and I wish you great success in the years to come. 

Trustee Chairman James S. Riepe's Remarks

Thank you, Judy and thank you all for being here today. This is truly a great day for Penn. These transitions don't come that often and they're significant when they happen.  Penn is the nation's first university and one of the world's great research universities--and our sole purpose is to keep it that way. 

It is a distinct honor to serve this institution as Board Chair and particularly to have been entrusted with leading the task of identifying a new President for the University. 

As you know, Dr. Rodin announced her intention to step down from the presidency last June 20 after leading this institution through a decade of unprecedented growth and accomplishment. 

In the last 10 years, the distinction of our faculty, the selectivity of our student body, the amount of research funding and generosity of our private donors all have risen dramatically.  We have also greatly improved the built environment on our campus and the surrounding community. 

As one small measure of our progress, we began the Rodin decade ranked 15th among U.S. universities by U.S. News & World Report and today we stand 5th.

Judith Rodin does not leave small shoes to fill for sure, although the robe will be filled (laughter).  And with the foundation she helped to build, we are poised for even greater achievements.

The Consultative Committee for the Selection of a President, composed of trustees, faculty, and students--many of whom are here today--has worked tirelessly for the last five months to identify the leader who can continue to realize Penn's considerable potential. I note the five months because a few of the things I've heard is how rapidly we moved, that's the difference between academia and the commercial world I guess; five months is a lifetime  in our business.

We were seeking to identify someone who could whole-heartedly embrace the goals outlined in the strategic plan...Building on Excellence...but make the plan their own and put their own stamp on its realization.

Today's announcement represents the culmination of an exhaustive search process--one that has endeavored to include input from all of Penn's constituencies and identify the one best candidate to lead this institution forward in the next decade.

I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the members of the Search Committee who gave so much of their time, energy and intellect to assure the successful outcome of this critical undertaking. We are all extremely grateful for your efforts.

Dr. Barbara Savage, who is Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, was a member of our Search Committee, and she will now give us some additional insight into everything that went into defining the search criteria and evaluating candidates.

Dr. Barbara Savage's Remarks

Thank you, Jim. Before I say a few words about the process in which the committee engaged in over the last few months, I feel compelled to say--and I know without having to ask--that all of the members of the committee would also agree--that Jim did a masterful job as Chair, in establishing a truly collaborative process for us and one that was marked by his own integrity and patience and efficiency--and by a great sense of humor, so that while we all took the process and the gravity of our charge and our deliberations quite seriously, we were able to work together in an atmosphere of good will and shared commitment to Penn--and it is a credit to Jim's style of leadership--and to the other members of this committee--that that was achieved and maintained throughout this process with such ease and grace.

One of the reasons that our deliberations moved so smoothly from the first time that we met as a group in September is that we spent a good amount of time initially not talking about individual candidates at all, but really trying to arrive at a common understanding of Penn's many strengths and its achievements over the last decade under President Rodin's excellent stewardship; we spent time talking about its particular challenges as Penn and as a university with commitments to excellence in teaching, research and training; about Penn as a major proudly urban university who sees itself partnered in broader missions here at home in this neighborhood and in this city; and finally, as an institution that aspires to continue to be a leader in higher education, both in this country and abroad. Our benchmarks always were to be true to our dual commitments to excellence and to diversity, two ideals we saw not only as entirely compatible, but as mutually interdependent.

Within those general frameworks, we had increasingly specific discussions and quite detailed discussions about priorities and resources as we tried to critically assess not only the Penn of today but to envision the Penn of the 21st century. What was especially gratifying in that process--or what we learned from it--was that the diversity of our own group--as students, as faculty, as trustees--and in whatever other ways we might otherwise self-identify ourselves--that out of our own diversity, there emerged rather remarkably a complex but congruent understanding of what Penn is, what it needs to hold on to, and where it needs to improve--if its own potentials are to be fully realized.

And it was only after that process was concluded that we began to talk with one another about the kind of person we believed could best build on the progress of the last decade and lead the University forward. We talked at length about the characteristics we wanted to see in a new president, that we had in mind a set of shared values, a constellation of abilities, and a portfolio of proven experience that we hoped to find in the ideal candidate.

Rarely in life do we live to see the ideal realized, but this is one of those rare moments. Blessed with a field of rich possibilities, we were able to move beyond the questions of "can this person do the job" or "is this a good person for Penn"--but to ask rather, at the end of the process we began in September, we had the luxury of asking ourselves--"is this the absolutely best person to lead Penn and to bring out what is best in Penn." And when we were able to answer all of those questions "yes, yes, yes"--then we knew that we had found that rare person, who is in fact ideally suited to lead Penn.

We found someone who is an extraordinary scholar, a person of deep commitments and integrity, someone with a wealth of experience, and someone who understands all that Penn is and all that it can be--and finally, and importantly, someone who shares our commitments to both excellence and diversity. And so it is for all of those reasons that the committee so enthusiastically reached its recommendation.

Mr. Riepe:

Thank you very much, Barbara. They were very astute comments. 

As Barbara describes, Penn's next President must lead a complex institution with many and varied constituencies, certainly as I have come to learn in my term of duty.  In our 260-plus year history, this University has made its mark on higher education and on society in general.  We have observed over that long history, and especially the last ten years, that leadership does in fact make a difference. For that reason, it was critical for us to find the kind of leader who is capable of sustaining the momentum Penn has today.

We feel certain we have identified an able administrator and a compelling leader in our first choice. In our reference checking we were, frankly, stunned by the comments we received from her colleagues. We quickly learned that our favorable impressions through the interviews were supported and confirmed many times over by those who knew and have worked with her.

Provided with these overwhelming endorsements and based on many hours of interviews by the Search Committee, the Executive Committee yesterday evening unanimously nominated Dr. Amy Gutmann, Princeton University Provost and Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics, to be Penn's next President.

Amy is a distinguished scholar, an excellent administrator, a profound social and political thinker, and a passionate advocate for ethnic and cultural pluralism. 

She combines intellectual capacity with high energy, long experience, and a warm personality, all of which positions her to be a great leader for Penn. She also likes red and blue better than orange and black (laughter), at least today.

It is, therefore, ladies and gentlemen of the press, and friends of the University, my great honor and pleasure to introduce you to our nominee to be the 8th President of the University of Pennsylvania--Dr. Amy Gutmann.

(Applause, standing ovation)

Dr. Amy Gutmann's Remarks

Well, thank you so much. I do have to change my attire when I go back to Princeton this evening. I could not be more honored than to accept the nomination as the eighth president of the University of Pennsylvania, and I understand, that unlike some other presidential nominations, I'm all but assured of winning the final election without a recount (laughter).

In addition to being honored, I am exhilarated by the prospect of becoming Penn's President and I'm enormously thankful to the Chairman of Penn's Board of Trustees, Jim Riepe, and to the Search Committee who recommended me to the Board. How could anyone not want to be President of a university that has undergraduate student leaders as great as Jason Levy and Ophelia Roman and graduate student leaders like Robert Alvarez and Dierdra Reber and such a superb faculty, and such excellent administrators and staff?

 I also want to thank the two past-presidents of Penn whom I know and admire--Sheldon Hackney and Judith Rodin, for all they have done to make Penn so excellent and exciting an institution. And I can say with certainty--with absolute certainty--that were it not for the groundwork laid over the past decade by Judy Rodin, I would not be here today.

Penn today is a powerful force in the Ivy League of higher education. And higher education is a powerful force for the betterment of American democracy and the world. Democracy cannot thrive without, not just educated, but highly educated, men and women. The place called Penn also has a great spirit that attracts me. A spirit that I associate with its founder, Benjamin Franklin and all that is wonderful about American democracy. Penn's excellence is electric. It is pragmatic and principled, it is urban and international, it is multicultural and multidisciplinary, it's demanding and diverse, it's collaborative and collegial, and it's energetic and entrepreneurial.

I am looking forward, come July, to beginning a new chapter of my education in this electric and excellent place called Penn, in the great city of Philadelphia. I will move from Princeton, my home of 28 years, to my new home, in Philly, for which I already have enormous admiration and attachment. I look forward to working in this dynamic city with Mayor Street, with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and other city officials, to continue the progress made on strategic plans for the Post Office and the Civic Center sites. And I look forward, as well, to working with Governor Rendell and state officials in this great state of Pennsylvania.

Penn's excellence across an extraordinarily broad spectrum of teaching and research is paramount to what attracts me here, and what it can offer the city, the state, the nation and the world.              

A Penn education brings arts and sciences and engineering, medicine and business, law and education, communication and fine arts, nursing and dental medicine, social work and veterinary medicine, all together in one beautiful campus, in one great city. My education is now five decades in the making, and it's clearly just about to begin. I'm greatly looking forward to living on this beautiful campus, which my husband and I will, come July, call home.

Someone, maybe more than someone, will no doubt want to know what my own particular priorities are for Penn in the years ahead--in addition to my intent to partner with the city and to build on Penn's broad excellence in teaching, research and public service across its 12 schools, furthering Franklin's polymathic tradition of putting knowledge of the highest order to the service of society and the world. And I'm happy to tell you all of my particular priorities--about a year from now, (laughter) after I actually have been Penn's President for some time and had the opportunity to educate myself at and by Penn.

Any avid teacher--which I pride myself on being--must first and foremost be an avid learner. At my stage of life, I can think of no better way to continue my education than at Penn, and no more demanding and exciting way than to do this at Penn, than as its president. I am thrilled to be moving to Philadelphia--the cradle of liberty, learning and civic service.

Thank you all so very much for giving me this welcome and wonderful opportunity. I only wish, I have to say in conclusion, that my mother and father could be here to know that this has happened, this wonderful opportunity in my life. Thank you so very much.

(Applause, standing ovation)

To see the video of the press conference, and for photos of Dr. Gutmann as well as comments about Penn's next president, see the website,



  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 19, January 27, 2004