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Finding a Home

IT'S PROBABLY just as well that we've already published an article this year whose title played off The Philadelphia Story. If not, we certainly couldn't have resisted doing so with this month's cover story-an excerpt from the recently -- published book, A Prayer for the City, by Buzz Bissinger, C'76. The book chronicles the tumultuous first term of Mayor Ed Rendell, C'65, when he and his then -- chief of staff, David Cohen, L'81, successfully rescued the city from bankruptcy.
   While the book is a Philadelphia story it is also, to a large extent, a Penn story. Rendell and Cohen are both alumni of the University, and so is Bissinger, who also taught a class here while he was researching and writing the book. When I first e -- mailed him about running an excerpt from Prayer in the Gazette, he wrote back describing his success in the field of writing-which includes a previous bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize for reporting at the Inquirer, and a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard-as "a great success story for Penn. And I am homegrown all the way, an English major who was lucky enough to have Peter Conn in my freshman year, and a DP lifer both as sports editor and editor of the editorial page."
   When we met for an interview, he was eloquent on the value of the education he received at Penn, recalling with special fondness a seminar class taught by Conn and former faculty member and SAS Dean Dr. Joel Conarroe. "It was a wonderful experience, because it was sort of the first time I realized professors were human beings; they realized I had attributes," he said. "It was intimate; it was intellectually engaging. And my whole experience as a Penn undergrad was like that."
   The other half of what Bissinger calls the "marriage" he found at Penn was The Daily Pennsylvanian. The DP was founded by the Philomathean Society, now in its 184th year of existence, I learned from the article in this issue by Caren Lissner, C'93. The two organizations parted company a long time ago, but they have in common the fierce loyalty of their alumni. Though Philo has shrunken considerably since its 19th -- century heyday (when more than half of all students belonged), it remains for its members, as one says, "the focal point of [the] Penn experience."
   The DP and Philo are examples of ways that students find a special place for themselves on what can be a very big campus. For some, that spiritual home is literally where they live-the college house system, which will expand from its current six houses to all Penn residences next year. December's "Notes from the Undergrad," questioned whether this was a good idea. This month we run a kind of reply, from a committed college house resident.
   Our apologies to the approximately 3,000 Gazette readers who should have received our October, November, and December 1997 issues but did not, due to a coding error in our computer -- generated mailing list. The error has been corrected, and future issues should arrive on schedule. Since we order our print runs based on the mailing list, supplies of the missing magazines won't be enough for everyone. While they last, however, we will gladly send the issues to the readers who did not receive them. Please e-mail us at or write us at The Pennsylvania Gazette, E. Craig Sweeten Alumni Center, 3533 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104 -- 6226.
    -- John Prendergast, C'80

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