Penn has received a $10 million donation to fund the creation of a new “world house” on campus, the University announced Tuesday.
Set to open near the end of 2015, the Perry World House — funded by University Trustee Richard Perry and his wife, Lisa — will become Penn’s main center for on-campus international engagement.
The World House will be located along Locust Walk at 38th Street.
“I think of it as our global hub and crossroads on campus,” President Amy Gutmann said. “It’s going to be the place where faculty, students and eminent international global visitors will congregate to discuss matters of global significance.”
Among other things, the World House will host the Global Solutions Program — a new initiative designed to bring high-profile international leaders to campus to discuss global issues. Once established, the Global Solutions Program will host conferences on a different international issue each year.
The donation will also be used to fund a new endowed professorship, adding a prominent international scholar to the University’s faculty.
News of the World House comes just weeks after the University announced that Ronald Perelman, one of Penn’s single largest donors, had given $25 million to create a new center for political science and economics on campus.
In an interview in February, Perelman — who earned his bachelor’s degree and MBA from Wharton in 1964 and 1966 — said he envisions the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics as a “mini Davos” that will ultimately allow Penn to “break down global barriers.”
Richard Perry — who donated $10 million in 2005 to help launch the Penn Integrates Knowledge program — hopes the World House will play a similar role.
“For Penn to be able to bring in all of these representatives from countries all around the world really distinguishes us as a leader,” he said. “The World House is going to be a great learning and communications center.”
The World House is one of several significant developments the University has made on the international engagement front of late.
Last year, the University Board of Trustees authorized an initial investment of $5 million in a new Penn-Wharton Center in Beijing. Penn is currently moving forward with plans for the center, which will serve as a hub for alumni relations, faculty research and study abroad in China.
While some peer schools like New York University have made news in recent years for their opening of international campuses, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel emphasized that Penn’s global development strategy is far from a similar “bricks and mortar” approach.
“The University is in the education business, not in the real estate business,” he said.
Emanuel added that the World House will also play a symbolic role in making clear the importance of international expansion to Penn moving forward.
“It should have a tremendous convening power on campus,” he said. “Our goal is to try to stimulate people, to engage people across the whole spectrum of international issues.”
Perry added that, by bringing international scholars to campus today, Penn is setting itself up well to form a stronger presence abroad in the future.
“Solutions don’t arise in Washington — they arise in the outside, where thoughtful people have developed ideas and have tried to make serious assessments and recommendations,” Emanuel said. “Ultimately, I think those solutions are what we’d like to see the World House achieve.”
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