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InĀ our Sept|Oct 2006 issue, we published a story on the University’s then-new master plan, Penn Connects, which prominently featured the conversion of some 14 acres of cracked, weedy asphalt adjacent to the Schuylkill River, formerly owned by the US Postal Service, into playing fields and green space. The cover of the issue—cleverly, we thought—showed a model costumed to look like a young Ben Franklin, photographed in mid-jump, and the words “Great Leap Eastward.”

Well, Ben has landed.

In “Penn Connected,” associate editor Trey Popp and photographer Greg Benson provide a walking tour in words and pictures of the $46.5 million Penn Park, which opened in September. While there were some changes from the 2006 vision along the way—no pedestrian bridge across the Schuylkill (yet), for example, and a planned field house was put aside as too expensive—it’s hard to quarrel with President Gutmann’s assessment: “Frankly, it’s beyond my expectations.”

Trey’s piece details the Park’s amenities, which include two synthetic-turf fields, a 470-seat stadium, tennis courts, grass fields, a picnic area, and more, as well as its environmental benefits—underground cisterns will store 2 million gallons of storm water annually, the “green” lighting system will save 300,000 watts per hour, etc. He also recounts Penn’s long pursuit of the property (which goes back at least to the 1980s), the previous history of the land’s use, and the challenges faced in Penn Park’s design and construction.

A century and a half ago, on another 14 acre site at the opposite end of campus, where residential blocks now border Clark Park, there once stood the largest military hospital built during the Civil War, the 4,500-bed Satterlee Hospital, where alumnus Isaac Israel Hayes M1853 was the director.

Hayes is profiled in “Pointing the Way to the Pole,” by frequent contributor Dennis Drabelle G’66 L’69. The title refers to Hayes’s earlier experience as an Arctic explorer with fellow alumnus Elisha Kent Kane M1842 (about whom Dennis wrote in “Explorer in a Hurry,” Mar|Apr 2008) and at the head of his own expedition in 1860-61. Though he fudged, or was mistaken in, his calculations about how close he got to the North Pole, Hayes’s discoveries and methods—including taking guidance from the native population—were invaluable to later explorers. He concluded his working life as a state legislator in New York—a rare honest one, in that broadly corrupt era, as indicated by the fact that he died, at age 49, owing back rent.

And speaking of politics, I admit I was not immediately bowled over when senior editor Samuel Hughes brought the memoir Speechwright to my attention. For one thing, I’d never heard of the author, William Gavin ASC’62—a speechwriter for Richard Nixon who was not named William Safire or Pat Buchanan. But, appropriately for a writer who was Nixon’s go-to guy for stuff “with heart,” Gavin’s plainspoken, engaging voice soon won me over.

In our excerpt, “Some Words for Nixon,” he recalls the heady moment when he realized that the newly anointed GOP presidential candidate was using some of that stuff in his acceptance speech, and muses on his one-time boss’s sharp insights into crafting what he calls “working rhetoric.” In an accompanying interview, Gavin graciously sidesteps commenting on the current Republican field and offers measured praise for the rhetorical gifts of the White House’s current occupant.

—John Prendergast C’80
Editor


 
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