Work at Penn? Join the club

Every morning, before starting their hectic day, a small group of Penn people sit at linen-covered tables, leisurely sipping coffee and biting into lemon Danish. Some scan today’s headlines while others share quiet conversation.

If this sounds like a better way to kick off your day than your now-hurried routine, consider joining Penn’s Faculty Club. Complimentary morning coffee and pastries is just one of many membership perks.

Located on the second floor of the Inn at Penn on the 3600 block of Walnut, the club now welcomes all Penn faculty, staff and alumni. Elsa Ramsden, president of the club’s Board of Governors, said that has not always been the case. Known as the Lenape Club in the late 1800s, the club used to have a reputation for being highly exclusive. Back then, only full-rank or well-established male faculty could join. Today, more than 2,000 people with various affiliations to the University are members.

Ramsden said the space the club now enjoys is largely due to the efforts of former Executive Vice President John Fry. The club used to call Skinner Hall—now Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall—home.

“He thought that an institution like the University of Pennsylvania ought to have an inn that was a quality hotel,” she said. “He thought the Faculty Club would be a good addition because hotels routinely do poorly on meal service in the middle of the day and the Faculty Club would pick up some of that slack.”

Members can enjoy a fixed-price buffet in one of the club’s two dining rooms or take advantage of a full-service menu, said Faculty Club Coordinator Natalka Swavely. The club also hosts four different themed dinners throughout the year, including April in Paris and Oktoberfest.

But the Faculty Club is more than just food. You can find artwork by members of the Penn community, including West Philadelphia residents and Penn alumni, hanging on the walls of the club’s Burrison Art Gallery. In the spring you can enjoy works by Penn’s own fine arts students. Ramsden also said the space is used to showcase works by local high school students.

Faculty Club comforts can also be found away from home. The Club is part of the Association of Faculty Clubs International, which means members have access to more than 100 other faculty clubs across the nation and around the world, from Boston to Hong Kong.

Members can also share their privileges. “One of the reasons people join is that it’s a wonderful place to bring colleagues and visiting friends,” said Ramsden. “It’s a great place for the trustees to have their special meetings and dinners. It’s a nice place for the development office to bring guests.”

To join, download an application from the club’s Web site (www or contact Swavely at 215-898-4618. Annual dues are $50 (Sept. 1 through Aug. 31). A special half-price discount is available during the club’s mid-year membership drive. First-year membership for first-year faculty and staff is free.

Originally published on January 30, 2003