President's Message - Making History & Penn Compact Progress - September 23, 2011

Dear Members of our University Community:

By any measure, the fall term at Penn has gotten off to a superb start (earthquake and Hurricane Irene notwithstanding!).  Before I detail some of the historic gains we have made this year, I want to extend my thanks to all of you for the tireless effort that has helped establish a Penn degree as one of the most valued in the world.  This is an exceptional place because we have so many exceptional people, and I can't begin to say enough about the creative energy that permeates our campus.  It should bring an enormous sense of pride to everyone in the Penn family.

I am delighted to share with you some truly historic news.  With 15 months still to go in the Making History Campaign, this week we reached the $3.5 billion mark.  This accomplishment is a testament to the generosity, loyalty and enthusiasm of our alumni, volunteers, friends and supporters, and demonstrates what is possible when Penn people come together around the common goal of making history and making Penn the best.

While we have not only hit the overall goal of the campaign - we also have set all-time participation records for Alumni Weekend and Homecoming, Annual Giving and Penn Fund records, and celebrated the record $225 million naming gift for our Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine - we still have much important work to do.  There are several goals within the campaign that have not yet been met, and we will use the time remaining until the campaign's conclusion to achieve as many of these goals as possible.

Our commitment to increasing access is a central component of the Penn Compact, and is reflected in our no-loan financial aid program, where 45.8% of this year's freshmen are receiving aid from Penn, up from 42.7% last year.  Our campaign goal for undergraduate student aid is $350 million, and at this point we are 81% of the way there, so additional work is necessary.  Philanthropic support for undergraduate aid will continue as one of our highest priorities.

The same is true for graduate and professional student aid so essential to attracting the best graduate students and enabling them to pursue their passions for scholarship and service. Meeting our $323 million goal for graduate aid is paramount. 

Our most comprehensive goal in the Making History Campaign is building faculty support and our endowment.  With a target of $623 million, this goal impacts every school and center. While our work here is not yet done, Making History's efforts have enabled Penn to endow 100 professorships - including 21 new PIK Professorships and 79 additional full professorships across our schools. Generous donors have also endowed 16 positions for our great curators, directors and coaches.

That so many generous donors would step forward during such a challenging economic time speaks volumes about the quality of our University and the potential that we all have to influence the future for the better.  This wonderful, historic achievement has come about because of the collective effort of so many members of our Penn family.  To all who have helped us reach this milestone I offer my most sincere and heartfelt thanks.

It is also important to note that the University has been a good steward of the funds it has received.  Last week we reported that our endowment grew by 18.6%, lifting it to more than $6.5 billion - a level above its apex before the economic downturn. The management of our endowment has been among the very best in the country.

The impetus of our philanthropic work is to help the University realize the goals outlined in the Penn Compact. One of those is to engage locally, and there was no better example of our ability to influence the local landscape than the opening of Penn Park earlier this month.  As the centerpiece of Penn Connects, this project transformed 24 acres of neglected land along the Schuylkill River into an urban oasis.  It dramatically opens our campus and the entire West Philly area to the rest of our great city.  If you've not had the chance to see it in person, I urge you to visit Penn Park. Enjoy its lovely walkways, picnic spaces, athletic fields, and the most spectacular views of downtown you'll ever see.

We begin this term with the most accomplished and diverse class in Penn's history.  The 2,467 students who comprise the Class of 2015 come from 49 of the 50 states and 66 countries.  The number of African American and Latino students increased 22% over last year's incoming class, and at 2155, the average SAT was two points higher than last year.  Penn's popularity is soaring around the world; this year's class was chosen from an applicant pool that grew by 18 percent over the previous year.

Earlier this month we officially welcomed Dr. J. Larry Jameson as Penn's new Executive Vice President for the Health System and Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine.  An eminent physician, scientist, and educator, Dr. Jameson served as Vice President for Medical Affairs at Northwestern University, and the Dean of the Feinberg School of Medicine before coming to Penn. I can't imagine a better person to be leading our medical efforts, and am confident that Larry will take Penn Medicine to ever-greater heights.

This summer we welcomed globally renowned bioethicist Ezekiel J. Emanuel to Penn as our 13th PIK professor. As the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor and vice provost for global initiatives, Dr. Emanuel will chair the Perelman School's new Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy.  He also will have an appointment at our Wharton School.

Earlier this month, Provost Vince Price and I released the Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence, distributing it to the Penn community through the Almanac. The University has committed $100 million over the next five years - $50 million from central resources and $50 million from the twelve schools - to this important initiative. These resources will be used to recruit and retain underrepresented faculty who add to Penn's eminence and enable us to build a campus community that is maximally welcoming to the most talented individuals.

Lastly, I am pleased to report on the striking success of our new Integrated Studies Program. Established to underscore the importance of integrating knowledge, the program developed by innovative faculty members in our School of Arts and Sciences provides intensive concentration on the liberal arts - with concentration on the physical sciences, social sciences, and the humanities - to our Benjamin Franklin Scholars in the College. By virtue of being residentially based in Riepe College House, Integrated Studies enables students to share their intellectual experience inside and outside the classroom. Eighty-one freshmen were selected from 222 applicants as the inaugural cohort. Faculty members Peter Struck, Greg Urban and Scott Poethig are teaching the fall course, which focuses on three streams of study: Classics, Anthropology and Biology. They collaborate to ensure the streams converge, providing a broad platform of inquiry for students.

We are off to an extraordinary start for the academic year. Our alumni and friends continue to support our highest priorities. Our campus grows even more beautiful and inviting. Our faculty are making transformative breakthroughs in their research with enormous impact on human lives and understanding. Our students impress us all with their intellectual curiosity and social awareness. The entire Penn community continues to lift the University to global eminence.  The progress we are making on the Penn Compact - integrating knowledge, engaging locally, engaging globally, and increasing access - is nothing short of remarkable. 

Ours is a university rich in heritage and tradition.  But never in its history has there been a better time to be at Penn. 

Welcome back, and have a great year!


Amy Gutmann