Penn alum named fifth Presidential Term Professor


Wendell Pritchett helped develop President Barack Obama's Promise Neighborhoods proposal


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Penn’s fifth Presidential Term Professorship will bring a former faculty member and student back to Penn’s campus.

Wendell Pritchett, former professor at Penn Law School and current chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden, was named a Presidential Term Professor last week.

Presidential Term Professorships were established at Penn in 2011, with the intention to recruit distinguished and diverse faculty to the University.

Throughout his career, Pritchett focused on urban policy and redevelopment in the city of Philadelphia. He earned his doctorate in history at Penn and later taught at Penn Law from 2001 to 2009.

“I’ve been around Penn forever ... I even took my SATs at Penn when I was in high school,” Pritchett said. “I grew up in Philadelphia. I had tons of friends whose parents taught at Penn, I had tons of friends who went to Penn, I did my graduate work at Penn, I taught at Penn - so it’s just been home for decades.”

During his years at Penn Law, Pritchett taught classes on land-use controls and local government law, as well as seminars on urban policy and development.

In 2007, Pritchett contributed to then-Senator Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) presidential campaign as chair of his Urban Policy Task Force. Pritchett conducted research and analyzed existing economic development programs while also writing policy papers for the future president. He helped design a proposal for “Promise Neighborhoods,” an initiative to improve education and family resources in high-poverty communities. The program was approved and implemented during Obama’s first term.

“[Promise Neighborhoods] are urban development neighborhoods,” Pritchett said, describing them as “a new way of approaching and revitalizing disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

On Jan. 8, Obama designated five areas across the country as Promise Zones - launching an initiative that stemmed from Promise Neighborhoods - to help create jobs, expand educational opportunities and increase economic security in poor areas.

West Philadelphia is one of these new Promise Zones.

Pritchett has focused on urban improvement throughout his career. He currently serves on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. He also chaired the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia and is the former president of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation. While practicing law, he represented various nonprofit organizations in the city.

“What I’ve been interested in is urban redevelopment, particularly in the city of Philadelphia,” Pritchett said. “What led me to nonprofits was that I was interested in rebuilding areas that had declined in the city.”

His research in the area of urban policy included the publication of two books - one on a neighborhood in Brooklyn that was subject to urban policy experimentation and a second on Robert Clifton Weaver, an urban reformer and the first African-American cabinet secretary.

Pritchett will start his new position at Penn Law on July 1. He looks forward to his teaching role after spending five years as a chancellor at Rutgers.

“I taught some classes over the past five years, but I’ve really been an administrator,” he said. “The biggest thing I’m excited about is actually being in the classroom and teaching students.”

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