Lee Spelman Doty Elected Penn Alumni President

“Like so many things in life, it was very accidental,” says Lee Spelman Doty W’76 of her “transformative” decision to apply to Penn’s Wharton School. Growing up in Northern New Jersey, Doty admits she had never heard of Wharton when she happened to pick up a University catalog while visiting an aunt who lived in Cherry Hill just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

“She had no Penn involvement—I think it had just come in the mail,” Doty recalls. “I was reading through it and reading about the Wharton School and I said, this sounds fantastic—to study economics and accounting, all these subjects I knew nothing about.”  The decision was an unlikely one both because Wharton was relatively unpopular in that “kind of anti-capitalist” era and because “there were very few women [enrolled] at that time,” but for her it was “just terrific—it was great,” Doty says.

“I love Penn. Not only were my four years as a student transformative, but my volunteer involvements over the past 20 years have been among the most meaningful aspects of my life,” she adds.

Those involvements have included working to get the Penn Club of New York off the ground, membership in the Trustees Council of Penn Women (where she recently completed a term as vice chair), serving on the boards of overseers for the Graduate School of Education and Penn Medicine and as a Penn trustee, and—as of July 1—becoming President of Penn Alumni, the society representing all of the University’s alumni.

 “My first thought is that I am deeply honored,” Doty says of her election, which took place over Alumni Weekend in May. “It’s very intimidating to follow in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before me, including my immediate predecessor Paul Williams [W’67] and past presidents Lenny Shapiro [W’64] and Elsie Sterling Howard [CW’68], both of whom I’ve known well. But I’m thrilled to take on this new role.”

“With the departure of Paul Williams after five incredible years as Penn Alumni president, only Lee Doty could step in to fill the role,” says Hoopes Wampler, assistant vice president for alumni relations. “She is a unique leader with a remarkable passion and vision for Penn who will make sure all Penn Alumni are engaged in the life of our great institution.”

Lee Spelman was the first person in her family to attend the University. “My parents sacrificed tremendously to send me to Penn,” Doty recalls.

She wasn’t alone here long, though. Her sister, Lisa A. Spelman C’77, joined her on campus the following year, and her brother, Edmund C. Spelman III C’79 GEd’79, two years later—meaning her parents were supporting three kids in college at once. “As a result I don’t think they took a vacation in 30 years,” Doty says. “But I know now that they think their investment in their children’s education has paid off.”

Having come from a family “where nobody ever owned a share of stock,” Doty says, “Wharton opened up a career path for me that I would never have dreamed possible.” After graduation she went on to spend 25 years as a securities analyst covering the technology sector and currently is a managing director at J.P. Morgan Fleming Asset Management, where she leads the firm’s U.S. equity client portfolio-management team.

She also met her husband and classmate, George E. Doty, Jr. W’76, at the University when they were both sophomores—specifically, at mass at St. Agatha-St. James Church at 38th and Chestnut streets. (It’s a “corny story,” she admits, adding though that, “we have a very soft spot for that corner.”) The Dotys have three children, including one Penn graduate, Christopher C’06. “I am hoping he will be a very active alum as time goes on,” she says.

Doing more to keep younger alumni connected and engaged with the University is one of the goals Doty sets out for her term as president, which runs for three years, with a possible additional two one-year terms. She recalls being involved with her five-year reunions from the beginning, but credits Lynne Tarnopol CW’60 with encouraging her to take on a broader and more intensive involvement with Penn, starting with the effort to create the Penn Club of New York that came to fruition in 1994 with the opening of the present facility at 30 W. 44th Street in Manhattan.

“Lynne was just inspirational,” says Doty. “She still is to this day to me the quintessential Penn alumna, who is just so involved, so dedicated, and shows so much leadership.

“Through that involvement, one thing led to another,” she adds. “It’s like the domino effect.”  One of those things that seems to have special meaning for Doty is the Trustees Council of Penn Women, which this year celebrated its 20th anniversary [“What Women Wanted,” this issue]. “TCPW has been just an amazing experience,” she says. “So many of my closest friends come from TCPW. I think [it] does just incredible work at Penn in terms of furthering the agenda for women faculty and women students.”

As Penn Alumni president, Doty is quick to note, she does not want alumni “to think that their involvement only has to be around financial resources.”  At the same time, she adds, the goals of the ongoing $3.5 billion “Making History” campaign have generated great interest among alumni.

The focus on increasing access to Penn and the new financial-aid programs “are phenomenal,” Doty says. “I think that it’s just great to be able to [admit] the very best students to Penn regardless of their ability to pay.” 

The campaign’s financial-aid goal goes “hand in hand” with efforts to raise money for endowed professorships and other faculty improvements, she adds. “You can’t get the best students unless you have the best faculty; you can’t get the best faculty without the best students.”

Finally, the various new building projects and especially the planned development of the former postal lands also have alumni “very excited about the physical transformation of the campus.”

Doty calls this “an amazing time for Penn,” crediting Penn President Amy Gutmann’s “dynamic leadership—and I really do think it’s been dynamic”—for helping the University reach “new heights of prominence on the world stage,” as well as the “incredible team” in alumni relations. “Everywhere I go the sense of Penn pride is palpable,” she says. “Penn alumni want to be connected to their alma mater, they want to be involved, and I think that this is our moment to really get people connected and have them stay connected.” —J.P.


Profiles : Events :
Notes : Obituaries

Penn Alumni President Lee Spelman Doty W’76
Newseum chairman Alberto Ibarguen L’74
Cathouse creators Doug Leferovich C’94 and Seth Yudof EAS’94
Dueling Tampons website wizard Matt Rosler C’96
Bible translator Carl Harrison Gr’70

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Last modified 06/27/08