David Scott has a chair in Lippincott Library in Van Pelt dedicated to him.
Every Saturday and Sunday for a year, Scott — a 1969 MBA recipient — sat in that chair and studied, only taking a break to treat himself to a movie.
Scott, a Democrat, is now the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 13th congressional district. He is currently one of few Penn alumni serving in Congress.
The education and experience Scott received at Wharton “has been the cornerstone of my movement into politics,” he said.
The congressman arrived at Penn in 1968, having graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
After finishing his undergraduate education, he “caught wind” of an internship with the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. during the summer when a major airline strike was raging across the country. One of the labor negotiators whom he met that summer happened to be the late George W. Taylor, who was then a professor of industrial relations at Wharton.
“There was something I said in one of the [labor negotiation] meetings,” Scott said. “And during the break, Taylor comes over to me and asks my name, where I’m going to school.”
At the time, Scott was planning to apply to Yale Law School and become a lawyer. Taylor, however, suggested Wharton — a name that Scott had never heard before.
Scott is the third African American to graduate from Wharton. He worked with Thomas Settle, then-director of admissions of Wharton’s graduate program, to encourage African Americans and other minorities to apply.
Settle, who is now a director and co-founder of investment firm The Winchester Group, recalls that he and Scott helped coordinate admissions interviews and recruit students at predominantly black colleges in the South.
“It was a major breakthrough just to introduce a concept that a graduate program in management was a possibility [for minorities] and that the knowledge attained” was widely applicable in different areas of life, Settle said. “David was certainly very helpful in cementing that track for black students.”
Settle added that early on, Scott liked hearing every side of an issue and working through situations thoughtfully.
Just five years after graduating from Wharton, Scott was elected to the Georgia state legislature, where he served until 2002 as both a state senator and representative. Later that year, he was elected to the national Congress.
He emphasized that his combined experience in labor relations and business—he currently owns a large advertising agency in Atlanta—has shaped the values that have marked his political career.
In May, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union released a rating showing that Scott has had an overwhelmingly anti-management and pro-labor voting record. His pro-labor stance and dedication to inner-city citizens, he said, was fostered during his time at Wharton.
His masters thesis, titled “The Light Out of the Darkness,” focused on the “area of labor markets interacting and responding to the economic conditions that were happening in the inner cities,” he said.
“If you don’t have economic rights, if you don’t have a job,” he added, “you won’t be able to navigate the growing complexities of our growing economic system.”
Scott’s voting record has shown he has supported initiatives on both sides of the aisle.
He voted against the first version of the 2008 bailout, believing that “we couldn’t just throw money up at Wall Street.”
According to Scott, the federal government “had to put something down to help these homeowners [since] it was the mortgage problem that had poisoned the system.”
He later worked with the U.S. Department of Treasury to promote the Hardest Hit Fund — an aid program launched in 2010 that will provide, through 2017, a total $7.6 billion to those states “hardest hit” by the mortgage crisis. For all the states included in the program, the HHF established state housing finance agencies that develop local programs to assist struggling homeowners.
On civil rights, Scott has shown a mixed record. He has voted for bills that aimed to curtail racial profiling, and in June 2011, he signed the Equal Rights Amendment for Men and Women, which would have “prohibit[ed] denying or abridging equality of rights under the law … by any state on account of sex.” The amendment was not passed.
In 2004, however, he voted for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Even today, Scott’s politics still find their origins at Penn. When he was a student, “college campuses were the fuel that revolutionized politics and civil rights and the whole essence of where we are today.”
“For me to be there in the middle of it prepared me for what I’m doing in Congress today,” he said.
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