Campus remembrances of conflicts past

Illustration by Bo Brown

Dear Benny,
I was walking past the west wing of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center the other day and noticed there is a plaque dedicated to the memory of the Penn alumni who perished on 9/11. Are there other memorials on campus to Penn alumni, faculty or staff who died in other conflicts?
— Lest We Forget

Dear Remember Me,
Yes, there are. After a little sleuthing and fact-checking with the staff of the University Archives, I found these campus memorials to conflicts past:

A tablet in 200 College Hall is dedicated to the “Sons of the University who died to uphold the laws of their country in the War of the Great Rebellion”—the Civil War.

Memorial Tower, the 37th Street entrance to the Quadrangle, was dedicated in 1901 to the memory of Penn men who served in the Spanish-American War.

Three plaques inside the Quad—one on each side of the Memorial Tower arch and one at the entrance to Class of 1887 dormitory in Fisher Hassenfeld College House—honor Penn grads killed in World War I.

The flagpole on 33rd Street opposite Smith Walk was dedicated in 1952 to the men of Penn who died in service to their country from 1740 to 1950.

And finally, there is the Peace Sign in front of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, dedicated in 1970 as both an expression of “our commitment to peace and the principle of self-determination of peoples” and sorrow over those killed in Vietnam, including Penn alumni serving there.

Dear Benny,
What’s the oldest document in the University Library?
— Ancient Book Lover

Dear Bibliophile,
According to Rare Book Librarian Michael Ryan, it’s a papyrus fragment from Egypt. Professor of Religious Studies Robert Kraft, who has studied the document, says it dates back to the second or third century BCE.

Got a question for Benny? You can ask Benny about benefits, worklife issues, University history or trivia, or other matters pertaining to life at Penn. Send it via e-mail to or via regular mail to the Current, 200 Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106. A Current coffee mug goes to those whose questions we publish.

Last story in sequence
Front page for this issue
Next story in sequence

Originally published on October 2, 2003