Shaping the Future

So, it’s 2012. Another party, this one celebrating the successful conclusion of Making History, is itself history. What difference will that $3.5 billion (or, with luck, maybe even a little more) make? Will it be, in the current jargon, “transformational”?

The word is often used too loosely, says Riepe, but he believes that this will be more than “just another capital campaign.”

“The issue for Penn is that we’ve had this tremendous leap forward in the last couple of decades, and in particular the last decade,” he says, “and the challenge for the trustees and all our supporters is, can we continue that momentum to really solidify the strong position we now occupy?”

Programs like the PIK professorships and establishing more endowed chairs and increasing endowment for financial aid should attract even better students and faculty. “Clearly what we’re doing on the east end of the campus is physically transformational,” he adds. “But I think this campaign has the potential to be transformational for the entire University, and I definitely think it has the ability to sustain this wonderful momentum that we have going forward.”

His meetings with alumni provided a number of useful insights, Riepe says, but one he was especially struck by was the “bifurcated” nature of the alumni constituency. While those who knew the school and campus of 35 or 40 years ago may still be processing all the changes that have occurred, that’s not so for more recent grads, whose attitude is “‘OK, we know Penn’s great. It’s got this great urban campus. What are you going to do [now]?’” he says. “With respect to the campaign, we have to figure out how to appeal to both of those” groups.

An aspect of the campus that is often not sufficiently recognized is the competitive advantage conferred by having all of Penn’s schools represented on a compact urban site, within easy walking distance—and convenient collaboration—of each other, he notes. “One of our priorities in this campaign is to get ourselves in a position to develop more and more programs that take advantage of the physical proximity of our schools.”

Gutmann gives her answer in the context of talking about the choice of “Making History” as the theme of the campaign. “We wanted a theme that suggested the dynamic, forward-looking quality of Penn, as Franklin’s university, at the same time as it recognized our historic roots,” she says. “We’re going to shape the future, and in shaping the future we’re going to be part of a great historical legacy that is Penn. And we’re going to be very proud of what Penn becomes because of this campaign.

“And I daresay there are parts of what we’ll become as a university that are unimaginable today,” she continues. “We can imagine what we need to do on financial aid, and faculty support, and facilities, to make Penn greater, but none of us, I believe, can imagine how much of a difference this is going to make—how beautiful and dynamic and vibrant the campus and community is going to become because of this campaign.

“So there’s the unimaginable part as well as the imaginable. And that makes it all the more exciting. And I think when you’re making history, that’s what it’s about. It’s about what you can imagine, and it’s also about the unimaginable—that will take us forward even beyond what we’re now envisioning.”

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