Penn Receives $20 Million for University Professorships; Weiss Gift Will Create Four PIK Positions

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Media Contact: | | January 19, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Pennsylvania has received a $20 million gift designated for faculty support from George A. Weiss, a Penn alum and trustee and chair of the Making History campaign, Penn President Amy Gutmann announced today.

The gift will be used to fund four Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professorships and advances the PIK initiative launched by Gutmann in 2005 as a component of the Penn Compact. The PIK program recruits exceptional scholars whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across academic disciplines. To date, 10 distinguished faculty members have come to Penn as PIK Professors, each holding a joint appointment between two schools.

“True to form, George Weiss has demonstrated a profound love for Penn, a consummate sense of our mission and impeccable timing,” Gutmann said. “Faculty support is a key campaign priority, and the George A. Weiss University Professorships will help us to catapult our academic community to a new level of eminence. It is a transformative moment, and we are grateful for George’s vision and unwavering support.”

Penn’s Making History campaign recently reached a significant milestone; it has now raised 75 percent of its overall $3.5 billion goal. Faculty support is a key priority of the campaign, with a goal of $623 million. Weiss’ gift brings the amount raised for faculty support to more than $386 million, more than 60 percent of the campaign goal.

“I have long felt that education is the key to making a difference in the world,” Weiss said, “and I recognize that faculty are at the core of the University’s strength. By providing faculty support for the best teachers and scholars with an interdisciplinary focus, we can tackle the complex problems of our times and prepare Penn students to become leaders.”

Weiss’ total giving to Penn now exceeds $80 million, nearly $50 million since the start of the Making History campaign, and he has spread his philanthropy broadly and deeply across the spectrum of Penn priorities. His previous gifts in support of faculty have established five endowed professorships and a deanship, in three schools. His legendary commitment to financial aid includes a $14 million gift to create Men and Women of Pennsylvania, a challenge program designed to encourage extraordinary donors, and he has funded many endowed scholarships to provide support for scores of Penn undergraduates.

His generosity established the Weiss Tech House, a student-run learning hub focused on technological innovation, and the Weiss Center for International Financial Research at the Wharton School. His steadfast commitment to intercollegiate athletics will soon be celebrated once again at the opening of the George A. Weiss Pavilion, a state-of-the-art weight-training facility and fitness center built in the arcades of Franklin Field.

“It’s impossible to overstate George’s impact on the very basics of living, learning and teaching at Penn,” Gutmann said.

The first George A. Weiss University Professor is Karen Glanz, who shares appointments in the School of Medicine and School of Nursing and is leading Penn’s new Center for Health Behavior Research. Glanz specializes in the impact of behavior on health, especially the modification of risks for cancer and obesity. Throughout her career, she has been a leader in research that directly influences social policy in such areas as cancer screening, ethnic differences in health behaviors, adherence to medical treatment regimens and the use of new communication technologies in disease prevention.

The University will now begin to identify and recruit candidates for the additional three George A. Weiss University Professors. With 12 schools located on one campus, Penn is uniquely positioned for interdisciplinary teaching and research and will seek faculty who will foster more effective integration of knowledge and expertise across multiple professions and academic disciplines.

Penn Provost Vincent Price hailed the scope of the Weiss gift, saying, “We are indebted to George Weiss for his generous and far-reaching gift. The PIK program embodies two of Penn’s distinctive commitments –- to integrate knowledge across traditional boundaries, and to bring that cutting-edge research into the classroom. These values, with the help of this gift, will continue to shape our community for many years to come.”

Weiss is president of George Weiss Associates Inc., a money-management firm with offices in Hartford, Conn., and New York. In 1987 he founded the Say Yes to Education Foundation, a nationally recognized program that combines academic support and intervention with an offer to pay college tuition or vocational-training costs for inner-city students.

At Penn, Weiss is a charter trustee and vice chair of the Executive Committee of the Board. He is chair of the Making History campaign and serves as a member of the Athletics Board of Overseers. He has also served as chair of the University Committee for Undergraduate Financial Aid and president of the Connecticut Valley Alumni Club for a number of years.

Other past service includes the Alumni Committee on Athletics, the Penn Alumni Board of Directors, the Jeff Davis Association and the Alumni Club's Advisory Council. Weiss is a 1985 recipient of the Alumni Award of Merit, the University of Pennsylvania’s highest alumni honor.

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