Inaugural Address

DR. AMY GUTMANN
INAUGURAL ADDRESS
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
OCTOBER 15, 2004

Thank you, Chairman Riepe. Trustees, faculty, students, staff, and alumni, Governor Rendell, honored guests from other Universities; friends all:

Not long after the Penn Trustees announced that I would be the new President of Penn, a friend of mine at Princeton, where I had worked happily for 28 years, asked me whether I really knew what I was getting into.

Yes, I thought I knew what I was getting into. And I was excited about it. From my own previous visits here, I knew I was coming to a beautiful campus in the heart of a great American city to lead a great Ivy League university.

I knew about Penn’s distinguished faculty, and how much I admired their teaching and scholarship.

I knew about Penn’s staff, dedicated individuals who with competence and compassion keep this university running so well.

I knew about Penn’s extraordinarily talented and energetic students, students who graduate to become local and global leaders, loyal to their alma mater.

And I knew about Penn’s founder, Benjamin Franklin. And I believed that his pragmatic vision for higher education is no less essential today than it was in 1749.

So, with all due respect for my friend, I did know what I was getting into -- with one significant exception. I didn’t actually know you personally, the people of Penn, and what you believed about your university.

Over the past four months, that has changed. I have had the pleasure of getting to know you and so many other members of my Penn family. You have informed me, you have advised me, and you have even fed me more than anyone could deserve -- or in the matter of food, more than I could ever need.

But most of all you have helped me envision how Penn can better meet our responsibilities to higher education and the world. That is our mandate. I say “our” because I consider you not only partners but now also part of my extended public family. Family in the public and personal sense is important to me.

Without the love of my immediate family, I would not be here today. I am proud of my husband, Michael Doyle, and our wonderful daughter, Abigail Gutmann Doyle. I also proudly bear the name Gutmann. It honors my parents, Beatrice and Kurt Gutmann. They instilled in me a great love of learning, a commitment to defending the dignity of all people, and the confidence to pursue my dreams.

What better way to uphold these ideals than to serve as Penn’s eighth president!

Our University has long advanced the idea that democracy depends on well-informed, public-minded citizens from all walks of life. Benjamin Franklin rightly believed that it was our job to educate students to become that kind of citizen. And educate, Penn does, and does well.

As you know, many Penn alumni have made their mark on history. Yet we have never had a Penn alum as president of the United States -- unless you count William Henry Harrison, who studied medicine at Penn for four months in 1791.

Fifty years later, Harrison stood hatless and coatless under snowfall to deliver a presidential inaugural address that ran for two hours.

I don’t intend to follow in his footsteps. Harrison did manage to keep his promise not to seek a second term: He caught pneumonia and died one month later. I suspect he would have done better to complete his Penn education.

One day, I predict, Penn will claim a far wiser president. And I know that we will all be proud of her!

But securing bragging rights for Penn in the Oval Office is far less important than educating great future leaders. It was the idea of connecting higher education to this higher purpose that drove Franklin to help found the University of Pennsylvania.

My predecessors as President were guided by Franklin’s spirit. The late Gaylord Harnwell led Penn to become a major national research university.

Harnwell’s successors were no less outstanding. They energized the campus, forged closer ties between Penn and Philadelphia, and gave Penn’s academic profile international scope.

They are here today. Martin Meyerson, Sheldon Hackney, Claire Fagin, and Judith Rodin: Please rise so we can all show our appreciation for your great service to the University of Pennsylvania. Under your leadership, with the support of our extended Penn family, our University has accomplished so much.

So, how do we build on the progress that Penn has made? How do we rise from excellence to eminence in all our core endeavors?

My own background is in arts and sciences. I believe passionately in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.

But I also believe that universities have a responsibility to use knowledge to serve humanity. Today I want to emphasize how guided by our broader social responsibility, we can indeed rise from excellence to eminence.

Now this is a daunting task. Not only because Penn has already accomplished so much, but also because the society and world that surround us are so very divided and our disagreements so divisive.

American society is a house not merely divided. It is a house sub-divided along multiple fault lines. Forty-five million Americans, more than eight million of them children, lack access to quality health care, and millions have little chance of a quality education.

Too many politicians choose to demonize one another rather than debate the issues.

Our civic life fails to make a virtue of our diversity.

Moreover, our whole world is even more dangerously divided than our society. Ignorance and hatred create murderous schisms that show no sign of narrowing.

The higher education community must take the higher road. We need to fix our moral compass, fuel our will, and fire our imaginations by what unites rather than divides.

From the moment I first set foot on this campus, I was inspired by a University community that is much more united than our society and to a greater degree than even some people at Penn recognize.

Now, today, let us put our unity on firmer ground.

I propose a compact -- a Penn Compact -- that expresses our boldest aspirations for higher education -- a compact based on our shared understanding that “Divided we fail. United we flourish.” By honoring this Penn Compact, we will make the greatest possible difference in our university, our city, our country, and our world.

The Penn Compact that I propose encompasses three principles.

The first is increased access.

The excellent education we offer must be more accessible. We must make a Penn education available to all outstanding students of talent and high potential. In a democracy and at great universities, diversity and excellence go together. Keeping them together requires access based on talent, not income or race.

Penn must build on its commitment to need-blind admission and need-based financial aid. You will be as passionate and committed as I am after you meet even a few of our many scholarship students.

One example is George Sworo, a Sudanese refugee who has lived most of his life in a Ugandan refugee camp. George used his earnings from a summer construction job to build drinking wells for two villages in Uganda.

There’s Hania Dawood, a Palestinian student who attended high school in Bahrain. Hania views her Penn education as her passport to fight for the empowerment of women in the Arab world.

There is Matt Feast, a finance major and two-time All American and All Academic in wrestling whose energy and perseverance promise to propel Matt into leadership.

And then there is Jamie-Lee Josselyn, whom I met just last week. Jamie-Lee is the daughter of an auto mechanic and the first in her family to attend college. Her experience here as a writer has transformed her life.

Imagine how much greater Penn could be if we could offer scholarships to more students like Jaime-Lee, Matt, Hania, and George. Our ongoing commitment to students like these must remain our sacred trust.

We also must make the most of what Penn’s increased diversity affords us. This is not simply a matter of justice for those who deserve to have access. It is also an educational benefit for all of us.

Let us show the world how very much there is to learn from cultural diversity, and how productive respectful disagreements can be.

Let us extend the example of Muslim and Jewish students at Penn who pursued dialogue and fellowship after the tragedy of 9/11.

 

I pledge to do everything in my power both to increase access and educate our students to think independently and act compassionately. And I trust you will join me in this effort.

So that’s what I mean by increasing access.

The second principle of our compact is about knowledge. We must better integrate knowledge from different disciplines and professional perspectives in our research and teaching.

Universities have a natural tendency to relegate each problem to the province of one or another academic discipline or profession. This inclination reflects a long-standing division between the liberal arts and the professions.

But the most challenging problems cannot be addressed by one discipline or profession. We cannot understand the AIDS epidemic, for example, without joining the perspectives of medicine, nursing, and finance with those of biochemistry, psychology, sociology, politics, history, and literature.

Yet as economic pressures mounted over the past three decades, many American universities shifted their attention toward professional education.

The casualty of this growing divide has not been the arts and sciences. They are as important as ever. The loss has been the knowledge that we can gain by better integrating liberal arts and the professions.

 

Penn has made worthy strides in integrating knowledge. Yet for all of our progress, we, like our peers, still remain too divided into disciplinary enclaves. We must better integrate knowledge in order to comprehend our world.

The time is ripe for Penn to achieve a truly successful partnership between the arts and sciences and the professions. And I know that our faculty will join me in putting this principle into ever more effective practice.

The third principle of the Penn Compact is to engage locally and globally.

No one mistakes Penn for an ivory tower. And no one ever will.

Through our collaborative engagement with communities all over the world, Penn is poised to advance the central values of democracy: life, liberty, opportunity, and mutual respect.

Effective engagement begins right here at home. We cherish our relationships with our neighbors, relationships that have strengthened Penn academically while increasing the vitality of West Philadelphia.

We will build on the success of the Penn Alexander School to strengthen public education in our neighborhoods.

We will embrace inclusion as an employer, as a neighbor, and as a developer of our campus to the east.

Working collaboratively, we will convert the parking lots of the Postal Lands into research facilities and playing fields. We will create a state-of-the-art cancer clinic and a proton therapy program in partnership with Children’s Hospital. Our new Center for Advanced Medicine will save countless lives. It will also will provide thousands of jobs and beautify our eastern campus.

We will help drive economic and technological development throughout the city and Commonwealth. And we will build our national and international leadership by sharing the fruits of our integrated knowledge with the rest of our country and world.

We also will collaborate with other university leaders to expand the pipeline of people of color and women in the professions, including the professoriate.

The Penn campus and its environs will increasingly be a mecca for the arts and culture. We will demonstrate how much arts and culture contribute to the eminence of our education, and to the quality of life in our community.

So, this is our compact: to increase access, to integrate knowledge, and to engage locally and globally.

It won’t be easy. There will be challenges. But we will meet them and we will succeed. By putting our principles into ever better practice, our Penn family will rise from excellence to eminence in teaching and research as we become ever more accessible.

I am asking much from all of you, but no more than I demand of myself. I pledge to you that I will engage in the full life of the University.

I will encourage our students to make the most of their Penn education.

I will support our faculty in pursuing eminence in research, teaching, and clinical practice.

I will lead our staff in creating the ideal climate for teaching and learning.

I will strive to keep our alumni ever more closely connected with the life of our University.

I ask that you join me in uniting behind our Penn Compact. Let us make this new beginning at Penn worthy of our boldest aspirations.

Together we shall rise, as together we serve.


Press Releases:

Inauguration of Amy Gutmann as Penn’s Eighth President Begins with Procession at 10 a.m., Ceremony at 10:30
-Oct. 11, 2004

University of Pennsylvania and Sayre High School Hold Community Celebration Day and Health Fair
-Sept. 28, 2004