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Penn President Amy Gutmann answered questions on bioethics at the British Library on Tuesday night.

Photo: Courtesy of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics

President Amy Gutmann has been in high demand this week.

On March 17, Gutmann received the 2015 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award from the American Council on Education. The award was given at ACE’s 97th annual meeting at the Washington Hilton in Washington D.C. — Gutmann, however, was in London during the meeting, delivering the prestigious annual lecture of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Gutmann’s honor was first announced in an ACE press release on March 11. The council cited Gutmann’s Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence launched in 2011, as well as her continued advocacy for increased access to higher education as examples of her commitment to diversity at Penn and peer schools.

“It is a privilege to present the 2015 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award to Amy Gutmann, whose vision and leadership at the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere has shown her dedication to increasing access to higher education to all students,” ACE President Molly Corbett Broad said in the press release. “She has worked tirelessly to assist students in pursuing their dream of a college degree.”

Since Gutmann was unable to attend the event in the nation’s capital, she asked the Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice, John L. Jackson, Jr., to accept the award on her behalf.

“I think that this award was a wonderful example of the wide recognition Penn and President Gutmann receive from other academic institutions for the substantial and innovative investments the University has made in inclusion and access,” Jackson said. “I was encouraged to see so many University representatives there to acknowledge the significance of efforts being made to make academia more inclusive.”

Gutmann also prepared a video for the event in which she shared the story of Nursing sophomore Elizabeth Bautista, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant who had barely left her hometown of Santa Ana, Calif. before flying cross-country to attend Penn. Gutmann explained that among her “proudest achievements” as Penn’s president has been providing significant financial aid for the thousands of students like Elizabeth who otherwise would have never been able to come to Penn.

“Elizabeth had everything it takes to be admitted into Penn and we needed to make sure she could afford it — and we did,” Gutmann said. “She says coming to Penn was the best thing that could have happened to her, to which I could only add it was the best thing that could happen to Penn as well.”

In addition to thanking the ACE for honoring her, Gutmann applauded the Penn faculty for their efforts to make a Penn education more accessible for all those who qualify.

“I’m so grateful to be recognized for my part in this effort [to advance diversity in higher education] and I humbly accept on behalf of my wonderful colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania who join me in making access Penn’s highest priority.”

Across the Atlantic Ocean, several hours before the video played at the Washington Hilton, Gutmann was on stage at the British Library in London to discuss issues related to bioethics in a global context. As the Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues since 2009 and the Founding Director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, she is a leading voice on the subject in the United States.

The Nuffield lecture was presented as a conversation between Gutmann and medical and science writer Geoff Watts, a member of the Nuffield Council. They discussed issues like responding to public health emergencies, bioethics across borders and whether mitochondrial DNA donors should be considered a third parent (Gutmann says no).

Gutmann was asked to elaborate on the role of the Bioethics Commission and what influence President Obama has over it.

“Although we serve at the pleasure of the president and have charges from him, our reports are in our own voice,” Gutmann said, according to British nonprofit, BioNews.

A video of the event is expected to soon appear on the Nuffield Council’s website.

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