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This Time the Door
is Held for Ramos

As a Penn student, Pedro Ramos C’87 once plotted—successfully—to take over College Hall in a protest. This month, as he began a new job as the University’s vice president and chief of staff to President Judith Rodin, the once-besieged building became his workplace.

Ramos, who will report directly to Rodin, will play a key role in senior-level decision-making and serve as a senior policy advisor on short-term and longer-range issues at Penn.

“It’s like being invited to join a gold-medal Olympic team,” said Ramos during a brief phone interview in late November. “Certainly the leadership of the University is among the best, if not the best, in the country, and the institution itself—the faculty, students, and staff—are among the world’s best. It also has the bonus of being an institution I feel very close to.”

In addition, he said, “There is a whole lot of planning and implementation going on that will benefit the University for the next 100 years, so it’s an exciting time to be there.”

As president of the Philadelphia Board of Education for the past two years—the youngest person and the first Latino to hold that position [“The Education of Pedro Ramos,” September/ October 2000]—Ramos, who is also an attorney, has not lacked excitement in his public life. At the time of this interview he was “locked up in a hotel” conducting negotiations to stave off a threatened state takeover of the school district in which private companies would be allowed to run some schools.

Before taking the job at Penn, Ramos stepped down as partner with the Philadelphia law firm Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, where a large portion of his practice included advising higher-education institutions, hospitals, and other non-profit organizations.

Ramos is also a founding board member of Penn’s Association of Latino Alumni. The organization’s president, Patricia Marin C’90, called his appointment “fabulous,” noting that the Latino community has been following his career since he was a student at Penn. “He is someone who constantly and continuously makes our community proud, and I’m confident the work he will do will be of benefit to the University as a whole.”

Rodin described Ramos as “a proven leader with extensive policy-making experience and a demonstrated commitment to the principles of education,” adding that “his legal, business, and civic experience equip him with a wealth of skills and seasoned judgment that are an excellent match for his new responsibilities.”

During his undergraduate days, Ramos was a student activist who pushed the University to recruit more minority students and to divest its holdings in companies doing business with South Africa—and he has joked about holding some “unscheduled meetings” with former President Sheldon Hackney Hon’93.

The irony of his new role at the University is not lost on Ramos. Asked how it felt to join an administration he once protested against, he responded with a laugh. “I’ve already heard from some friends who asked the same question,” he said. “I accepted this position because it’s an opportunity to help the president and trustees and faculty and students, who are all trying to work together to take the University to another level. I am very excited about where President Rodin has been taking the University—and where she wants to take it.”

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Copyright 2002 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 1/2/02