News Briefs

Ted Farrell

Playing for Love

What’s a dad to do when it comes to paying for his daughter’s wedding? Ted Farrell, a detective supervisor with the Penn Police Department, decided to bank on his mastery of trivia.

Appearing last month as a contestant on the daytime game show, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” Farrell successfully answered such brain busters as: “On the Mayflower’s historic voyage to America, a child was born at sea and given what unusual name? ” (Answer: Oceanus Hopkins), and “What world leader formally resigned on Christmas Day, 1991?” (Answer: Mikhail Gorbachev).

Farrell climbed the quiz ladder up to $50,000. But when faced with a difficult $100,000 question—“Aristotle wrote that what animal ‘reputed to enjoy immunity from all other illnesses, is occasionally subject to flatulency?’”—and with no lifelines remaining, Farrell chose not to answer, walking away with $50,000. The answer: an elephant.

Rare gift for Rare Books

A donor who has asked to remain anonymous has given the Penn Libraries a $4.25 million gift for the renovation of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the creation of a Special Collections Center. The donor is a member of the Libraries’ Board of Overseers.

The gift will support the first phase of a $15 million expansion project that will transform the collection, study and curatorial facilities on the sixth floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center into a new Special Collections Center. The Center will encourage the use of special collections in both research and in the curriculum. The new design will also include much-needed additional classrooms, improved reader spaces and a media lab.

“This gift will energize fundraising efforts to reach our $15 million goal for the Special Collections Center,” says H. Carton Rogers, vice provost and director of libraries. “It is a truly momentous gift.”

Penn goes to China

President Amy Gutmann and a group of faculty and deans are scheduled to travel to China from March 7 through 13 on a trip designed to enhance academic collaborations and engage with Penn alumni, parents and friends.

During the visit, Penn will reaffirm the many relationships it has with leading universities in China. Faculty from Wharton and the schools of Engineering and Applied Science, Law and Dental Medicine will participate in a series of symposia. One of the events will focus on sustainability, building on the partnership established in 2006 by Penn and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Penn alumnus and 2010 Commencement speaker Jon Huntsman, Jr. C’87, who now serves as the U.S. ambassador to China, will host a reception for Penn alumni at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The Penn community in China is large and growing, with nearly 3,000 Penn alumni in the country.

$171 million in ARRA funding

Last month was the first anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, through which Penn has received more than $171 million in funding for more than 348 studies in gene therapy, robotics, public education, neurological disorders, the origins of cardiovascular disease and more. Approximately 700 different positions at Penn are funded by the ARRA, allowing Penn researchers to continue studies in nearly every aspect of basic science and public health.

Steven J. Fluharty, Penn’s vice provost for research, says the ARRA is making a difference “by funding important scientific studies that will lead to the improved health and well-being of millions and will spur economic growth in the long term.”

Mindfulness in the military

A Penn-led study in which training was provided to a highstress U.S. military group preparing for deployment to Iraq has demonstrated a positive link between mindfulness training and improvements in mood and working memory. The study found that the more time participants spent engaging in daily mindfulness exercises, the better they were able to exercise complex thought, solve problems and maintain cognitive control of their emotions. Mindfulness is defined as the ability to be aware and attentive of the present moment without emotional reactivity or volatility. Cognitive neuroscientist Amishi Jha of the Department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Penn, and a colleague from Georgetown, provided mindfulness training to U.S. Marines before their deployment. The findings suggest that engaging in mindfulness exercises on a regular basis may help maintain peak performance in extremely stressful circumstances, often experienced by people such as first responders, relief workers and trauma surgeons. Funded by the John W. Kluge Foundation and the Department of Defense, the study was originally published in the journal Emotion, and was also featured in the Joint Force Quarterly, the advisory journal for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Originally published on March 4, 2010