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When I came
back to Penn to edit the Gazette, in the summer of 1996, it
wasnt long before I heard people talking about the Universitys new five-year
strategic plan, the Agenda for Excellence. Not all the comments were
especially reverent. There seems to be something in the notion behind
such effortsthings can be different, and better, and we know how to make
them sothat brings out the cynic in people. For example, when we ran
a story on one of the key elements in the Agenda, the announcement of
the Six University Academic Priorities [Gazetteer, November 1996],
an unnamed faculty member professed not to have read them. They do come
and go, you know, he was quoted as saying.
I might think
this reaction was more common on a university campus, except that the
place I had worked beforea professional association of engineershad
been developing its strategic plan when I left, and, allowing for
context, the attitude was basically the same. I dont know what became
of that plan, but Penns has turned out pretty well. You can read about
some of the results starting on page 22,
followed by an extensive interview with
President Rodin on page 26.
In her regular
column, From College Hall, Dr. Rodin writes
about the history and current role of the arts at Penn. One of the campus
arts institutions she highlights is the Arthur
Ross Gallery. The gallery, located in the Fisher Fine Arts Library,
is represented in this issue by Art From a Land
of Sun and Shadows, on page 32which combines an article by senior
editor Samuel Hughes on the 35 years spent by alumnus Harry Pollak W42
collecting Mexican art with some stunning examples of the results, which
are on exhibit until December.
Around the same
time that Pollak was discovering his passion for the art of Mexico, Dr.
Raymond Davis Jr., research professor of physics and astronomy, was swimming
deep underground in the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, South Dakota. Some
time later, the mine would be the site of the first experiment to successfully
detect solar neutrinosnearly massless, weakly interacting subatomic particles
produced in fusion reactions at the center of the sun that could help
in understanding astronomical objects and the nature of the universe itself.
The results of
Davis experimenthe found neutrinos, but not enough to support the standard
model of the suns operationset off an international quest to discover
the missing particles or prove they didnt exist and that the standard
model was wrong. As associate editor Susan Lonkevich details in
The Particle Sleuths, Penn scientists have played a central role
in the hunt, up to and including the finding, announced in June, that
appears to have provided the smoking gun to answer the questions raised
by Davis 30 years ago.
is considered a contender for the Nobel Prize, but Alfred Butts Ar24who
also had to wait decades for his work to bear fruitis largely forgotten.
During the Depression, Butts invented Scrabble, which in the prosperous
1950s became the most successful boardgame in history. In an excerpt
from his book Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis C85 tells the story of
an unassuming geniuss long, lonely, and poorly compensated effort to
perfect his invention.
One more set
of results, and a moment of horn-tooting: Back in May, we conducted a
telephone survey of Gazette readers, and the responses were gratifying.
It turned out that alumni are reading the magazine (about five out of
six issues per year, on average), and to a great extent like what they
find in it. More than 80 percent considered the Gazette a reliable,
trustworthy news source and said that it strengthens their sense of connection
with Penn. (Shockingly, though, only 12 percent found this column to be
extremely or very interesting.)
To everyone who
took the time to answer the survey, many thanks for your commentsand
sorry to bother you at home.
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