Capital campaign planned  

After just a few months on the job, John Zeller is ready to tackle his first major challenge at Penn: A new capital campaign that could help shape the future of the University.

Zeller, who took over as vice president for development and alumni relations in January, says his department is in the initial planning stages of the first major capital campaign at Penn in more than a decade. It’s a campaign that could have a “dramatic impact” on the University, Zeller says. Though Penn has a large endowment, its sizable student population also means it has less to spend per student than other top-tier schools. “Penn does an amazing amount with very little,” he says.

The job of heading a major campaign is a considerable one, but Zeller is certainly up to the challenge. He had the same role in his previous job, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and led two enormously successful campaigns. One of those campaigns had raised $850 million, on the way to $1 billion, at the time he announced his move to Penn.

Zeller says he’s spent much of the past few months learning about Penn’s unique “culture.” “What really distinguishes complex institutions is their culture,” Zeller says. “I think [they] are very similar, but there are a lot of variances between Hopkins and Penn.” Penn, he says, is particularly unique because of its focus on entrepreneurship.

Zeller says fundraising has been very strong since his arrival, and should get even better. He also says he’s ready for the challenge ahead.

“This job is a ball,” he says. “It’s a great time.”

Originally published on July 7, 2005