Illustration by Bo Brown
Is former Provost William Pepper the same William Pepper who helped found the Philadelphia Free Library? Please tell me more about the man and the connection.
—Need to know
Dear Knowledge Seeker,
Yes, our Mr. Pepper is indeed that Mr. Pepper. Here’s some bio on the famous Philadelphian. Born in 1843, William Pepper, Jr. earned his bachelor’s degree at Penn in 1862, graduating Valedictorian of his class and sharing the Senior English Prize. He stayed at Penn for his medical degree and went on to teach Morbid Anatomy and Physical Diagnosis here, becoming a professor of Clinical Medicine in 1874. Impressed by medical teaching and practice in Europe, Pepper raised money to open the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in part to give Penn’s medical students clinical training in addition to classroom teaching.
In 1881, Pepper became Provost at Penn, and in his 14 years in office he’s credited with transforming the University into a modern institution. As well as establishing the Wharton School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, he also added 200 faculty members and more than doubled the student body.
Pepper was no slouch when it came to civic affairs, either, founding
both the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Free Museum of Science
and Art. Of his efforts, Pepper said, “You and I must pass away,
but these things will last.” A statue of William Pepper by 19th
century sculptor Karl Bitter sits in the Perelman Quad, across from Houston
Originally published on October 6, 2005