The University’s top leaders promise that Penn’s $3.5 billion fundraising campaign will make history—by changing the face of Penn’s campus and extending its local and global impact, strengthening financial aid and faculty support, and pointing a new multidisciplinary direction in higher education. With $1.6 billion already committed, donors seem to be listening. By John Prendergast

“This is Penn’s moment,” declares President Amy Gutmann, in the (relative) calm-before-the-storm leading up to the public launch of Making History: The Campaign for Penn on October 20. “We have the right goals, and we have an enterprising, collaborative culture” to achieve them, she says. Put that together with the advantages of a contiguous campus that is “second to none,” the University’s continuing and growing popularity with the most gifted students, and its ability to attract the best and brightest faculty “as long as we have the resources to do it,” and Penn “has the momentum to become one of the greatest urban teaching and research universities in the world.”

With a target of $3.5 billion by the end of 2012, Making History is easily the most ambitious fundraising program in Penn’s history. (In part, this is an indication of how steeply the financial stakes in higher education have risen since the conclusion of Penn’s last “comprehensive” campaign in 1994. Netting a then-staggering $1.47 billion, it was only the second to break the billion-dollar mark. By contrast, no fewer than 31 schools are in the midst of $1 billion or more campaigns right now.) Penn’s campaign goals are pretty far-reaching, as well—to “push the frontiers of teaching, research, and service, and to redefine what people everywhere can expect from higher education,” in the words of a publication for potential donors.

The campaign is organized around major investments in three broad areas:

Campus improvements: Making History will help jumpstart the campus development plan, Penn Connects [“New Campus Dawning,” Sept|Oct 2006], complementing recently announced projects financed with outside developers [“Gazetteer,” this issue]. Some $924 million will go to converting portions of the former postal lands to green space and playing fields, as well as to developing new athletic and fitness facilities around Franklin Field; constructing new teaching and research facilities in the critical areas of nanotechnology, neural and behavioral science, and the translation of medical research into clinical practice; and to build a new College House on Hill Field.

Financial aid: To ease the pressure on Penn’s operating budget, which currently funds the bulk of financial aid awarded, and to strengthen the University’s ability to attract the best students regardless of family income, plans call for raising $350 million for undergraduate student aid. Another $323 million is earmarked to provide funding for graduate and professional students, in order to aid in recruitment, relieve their loan burdens on graduation, and allow them to plan their careers based on professional satisfaction rather than salary.

Faculty support: Endowed professorships are considered a critical incentive in the recruitment and retention of faculty “superstars and rising stars.” The campaign goal is to raise $623 million for endowed professorships and other programmatic and institutional support for faculty, as well as to increase the size of Penn’s faculty overall. A big emphasis will be placed on people and programs with the potential to advance teaching and research across multiple disciplines.

To complete the total, Penn also seeks to raise $909 million for programs and research needs, and another $371 million in unrestricted funds. Half of the overall goal—$1.75 billion—is slated to go for building the University’s endowment, with the rest divided between the $924 million in capital projects and another $826 million for current uses. In addition, each school and center has its own unit goals and fundraising targets, from the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts’ $9.8 million for “a creative venture fund for theater, music, and dance; facility renovations, and annual giving” to Penn Medicine’s $1 billion to support “new clinical, research, and educational facilities; research; endowed professorships; student financial aid; patient and student programs; and annual giving.”

(More details on school and center plans can be found in Proudly Penn, which was mailed with this issue of the Gazette. This is also the first fundraising campaign launched at the University since the Internet became a ubiquitous presence in our lives, and there will be extensive resources available online between now and 2012. Interested alumni can start at

Making History echoes and extends President Gutmann’s Penn Compact, announced in her inaugural speech in October 2004 [“From Excellence to Eminence,” Nov|Dec 2004], which called for increased access to a Penn education, interdisciplinary research and teaching, and engagement both locally and globally. It also resonates strongly with the educational philosophy and principles of founder Benjamin Franklin—updated and enhanced for the new century, Gutmann says.

“Franklin founded a university dedicated not to sectarian ideology but to the idea that the pursuit of knowledge would redound to the benefit of society, and particularly the pursuit of knowledge with an eye towards applying it to practical purposes,” she explains. “We’ve built on that another distinctive strength, which I call integrating knowledge. Wherever the base of a particular piece of understanding resides—in business, or law, or education, or arts and sciences—at Penn we can integrate knowledge across those disciplinary boundaries.”

And by doing so, she continues, the University will be uniquely positioned to address the most difficult and challenging problems of our time. “That, I think, is the 21st-century version of Franklin’s vision—bringing knowledge together across boundaries and putting it into very important social practice for the betterment of humankind. It’s a very lofty goal, and it’s an achievable one” for Penn.

“There’s another part of Franklin’s vision that is equally critical,” she adds. “We are a university where the best and the brightest faculty and students come together across all social divides to learn and apply their knowledge. That underscores the importance of access at Penn, and it also underscores how we’re a university that creates a culture of talent, of dynamic, enterprising academic understanding and contribution to the world beyond.

“I think that’s got to be the model for eminence” in the future, Gutmann says. “We’ve got to become ever more meritocratic and diverse as a university—diverse in the backgrounds of the people who come here—in order to become ever more eminent in the knowledge creation that we’re capable of.”

Nov|Dec 07 Contents
Gazette Home

Seizing the Moment By John Prendergast
Photograph by Candace diCarlo

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A successful launch: This fireworks display over the former postal lands was only part of Penn’s campaign-kickoff. For more on the festivities, turn to p. 5.

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©2007 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 11/09/07