PHILADELPHIA -- Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, accepted the Benjamin E. Mays Award from A Better Chance in New York yesterday in recognition of Penn’s no-loan financial-aid program and commitment to diversity and access and for Gutmann’s scholarship on democratic education.
A Better Chance, the oldest and only national organization of its kind, is committed to increasing the number of young people of color who attend highly selective universities and go on to assume leadership positions in American society. Penn has graduated more ABC alumni than any other college or university in the country.
The Benjamin E. Mays award recognizes leaders who have demonstrated a serious commitment to promoting education and diversity.
Benjamin Mays was an American minister, educator, scholar, social activist and the president of Morehouse College in Atlanta and was considered one of the most outspoken critics of segregation before the rise of the modern civil rights movement in the United States.
At the ceremony, Gutmann was introduced by Joshua Bennett, a senior in Penn’s College of Arts and Science who will graduate on May 17. He is an ABC alumnus who was awarded a Marshall Scholarship to study next year at the University of Warwick in London.
“I have long argued that excellence and diversity go hand in hand in higher education,” Gutmann said. “As a matter of justice, A Better Chance and Penn open doors to a world of knowledge and possibilities for talented, deserving students like Josh.”
Jillian Joseph, who graduated from Penn Law School in 2005, and is an ABC alumna, also spoke about her experience at Penn and in the ABC program.
A Better Chance’s signature initiative, the College Preparatory Schools Program, annually recruits, refers and supports about 500 students at more than 300 member schools in 27 states.
At the ceremony, ABC also honored Clarence Otis Jr., the chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants, with the Chairman’s Award. In addition, a number of ABC students were honored: Kamila DeSouza, a senior at Wellesley High School, was given the Judith Berry Griffin Award for “exceptional and steadfast determination to achieve;” Marie-Fatima Hyacinthe, a senior at the Hewitt School, received the Nancy J. Lucas Memorial Award for “promoting equity and justice” at school; and 38 ABC high schoolers were honored with scholar awards for their achievements.
A Better Chance has been opening the doors to greater educational opportunities since 1963, and more than 12,000 alumni have now gone on to distinguished careers as physicians, artists, educators, lawyers, elected officials and corporate executives.
Penn is committed to meeting 100 percent of a student’s determined financial need as part of its undergraduate financial-aid program. In 2008, under Gutmann, Penn’s financial-aid program changed from loans to grants, meaning that students who qualify for need-based aid will no longer have loans as part of their financial-aid package. Loans will be replaced with grants, making it possible for them to graduate debt-free.
In addition, Penn has a need-blind admissions policy, which ensures that applications are reviewed without regard to whether the applicant is applying for financial aid.
A leading national advocate for socio-economic equity, Gutmann has urged higher education to devote more attention and resources to enroll student bodies that are diverse in class background as well as in geography, gender, race and religion.