Celebrating Inaugural President’s Engagement Prize Recipients

Penn President Amy Gutmann said she vividly remembers the afternoon she called the five recipients of the new President’s Engagement Prizes.

“There aren’t many days in the life of a president that are as great,” she said at a luncheon on April 7 to recognize the awardees. “Your reactions, I couldn’t legally tape them probably, but they go over and over in my mind. Some of you cried for joy and others of you shouted for joy, and both reactions were just uplifting.”

Jodi Feinberg, a School of Nursing student, said she was a crier.

“It felt unreal,” she said. “It’s a dream come true.”

The five engagement prize recipients were joined by parents, deans, faculty members, advisers, and other leaders of the University at an intimate celebration at the president’s house. All the students received unique, handcrafted certificates conveying the high honor they achieved.

Feinberg is one of the five seniors receiving up to $150,000 from Penn to fulfill a special engagement project the first year after graduation.

Her project is dubbed “Home, Heart, Health: Engaging the Community in Bridging the Gap.” Feinberg plans to design, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation model for home care.

“It’s really a combination of all my passions and all the areas I want to make a difference in,” she said, adding that the award will really help to launch her career.

“We’re excited for her,” said Robert Feinberg, Jodi’s father. “It’s a tremendous challenge. She can take it on.”

Feinberg and the other four engagement prize recipients were joined by parents, deans, faculty members, advisers, and other leaders of the University at an intimate celebration at the president’s house. All the students received unique, handcrafted certificates conveying the high honor they achieved.

Gutmann recognized how remarkable it is to have students from all four of Penn’s undergraduate colleges in the mix for this inaugural award program.

Adrian Lievano and Matthew Lisle are two students from the School of Engineering and Applied Science who want to develop and implement a rainwater catchment and purification system in Kimana, Kenya. Shadrack Frimpong, from the College of Arts & Sciences, plans to establish the Tarkwa Breman Model School for Girls and Community Clinic in his home village in Ghana. Katlyn Grasso, from the Wharton School, will use the prize to further her work with GenHERation, a female empowerment network for high school girls.

“Undertaking this prize is not the conventional path, or the safe bet,” Gutmann said. “It’s the bold plan. It will inspire and it will improve the world. It is foregoing the sure thing to achieve the great thing.”

Each recipient will receive $50,000 for living expenses and each project will be awarded up to $100,000 for project implementation expenses. The President’s Engagement Prizes, which are part of the Penn Compact 2020 presidential initiatives, have been supported by Trustee Judith Bollinger and William G. Bollinger; Trustee Lee Spelman Doty and George E. Doty, Jr.; and Emeritus Trustee James S. Riepe and Gail Petty Riepe.

“We have lots of prizes and they speak for what we value,” Gutmann said. “It’s never been more important both to say and to show that higher education, especially at Penn, is a public good.”

  • Text by Lauren Hertzler
  • Photos by Scott Spitzer