Evelyn Wiener, the executive director of Student Health Service, used to visit students when they were sick in the hospital.
“She assisted students when they were admitted ... and liaisoned with physicians caring for them, answering questions from parents ... and helped coordinate follow up care for [the students],” SHS Director of Finance, Administration and Risk Management Erika Gross said.
As director, Wiener acted as a liaison between SHS and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
“That was one of her great passions — she made sure students knew they had an ally when they were admitted to HUP or Presbyterian,” Gross added.
But on Thursday, May 8, Wiener died at age 62. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment since then.
Wiener started as SHS executive director in 2000. As director, she oversaw the transition of SHS from the basement of the Penn Tower Hotel to it’s current location at 3535 Market Street.
Associate Vice Provost for University Life Max King, who was Wiener’s supervisor for many years, “just thought the world of her.”
King said that Wiener’s extensive knowledge of health insurance issues made her a valuable member of the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee, one of many committees she sat on while serving at Penn.
“She was always very interested in small details that made things better for students,” King said. “She strongly believed that students should have helmets when riding bikes, and she made sure that was incorporated in the health insurance plan.”
King also noted that Wiener was a very bright and talented analyst and was able to use her knowledge of data to benefit the running and planning of SHS. She received a lifetime achievement award from the American College Health Association for her national work with student health.
Wiener was also very receptive of student ideas. College sophomore Julie Bittar, who chairs the Penn Undergraduate Health Coalition, remembers pitching the idea for the coalition to Wiener. Wiener became its first supporter.
“When PUHC came to fruition and the mental health crises came to light, she came and sat in on one of our meetings in a hot, cramped room in Houston, and without a single complaint she listened to any and all concerns, asking and answering questions,” Bittar recalled in an email, calling her one of the “sharpest,” “brightest” and “most caring individuals.”
Wiener was always very open about her cancer and treatment, Gross said.
“She never hid it from people, she was very forthcoming and talked very openly about it — it’s just the kind of person she was” Gross remembered.
Gross explained that Wiener was great with students, parents and faculty alike and that she was able to simplify medicine in a way that everyone understood without dumbing it down.
“She was very clear on the medicine side of it, and she never tried to sugarcoat anything,” Gross said. “It was very important for her that people understood what the health concerns were.”
Many in the Penn community will miss her.
“She definitely had more vision than you could possibly imagine and knew what she wanted student health to look like,” Gross said. “She was pretty incredible.”