University President Amy Gutmann's last big bash at 3812 Walnut St. - the stately "President's Mansion" - turned into a public-relations nightmare after she posed in a photograph with a student dressed as a suicide bomber.
But Gutmann's staff didn't skip a beat, and they're already busy planning the next student soiree, Dec. 12's holiday party.
Because they sort of have to.
Gutmann is contractually obligated to live in the house, according to Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli.
And though she is not technically obligated to host events, Gutmann cannot be a successful president "without doing a fair amount of engaging constituents," Carnaroli said.
It's "part of her job," he added.
There are also financial implications - the house must be used for University purposes, such as events for members of the Penn community, in order to be exempt from real-estate taxes, Carnaroli said.
Now in her third year as president, Gutmann has learned that being a good president means taking on the role of hostess from time to time.
Gutmann agreed that hosting is a critical component of being president.
Living in the house "makes it possible for me to work 24/7," Gutmann said. She estimated that she hosts about 100 events each year, from big bashes like the Halloween party to small, monthly luncheons with various faculty members and alumni.
University Vice President and Chief of Staff Joann Mitchell said having Gutmann "in such close proximity" allows the Penn and Philadelphia community to have constant access to her, and vice versa.
The annual Halloween parties started under Judith Rodin, Penn president before Gutmann. While Rodin said at her first party in 2000 that the fete was just about having fun, students seemed to agree that the open party made her seem much more accessible.
Despite its University-related functions, though, the house is still Gutmann's private residence. Its phone number is unlisted, and its gates are locked most of the time.
But Gutmann prides herself on keeping the doors open when she's hosting.
When Henry Kissinger came to Penn two weeks ago, for instance, Gutmann invited him, as well as members of the Social Planning and Events Committee, over for dinner.
College junior and SPEC Connaissance Director Max Cancre was one of the 17 attendees, and he said it was clear that Gutmann "knows how to put a dinner together."
He added that the house has "insanely good artwork," and that Gutmann was an expert at breaking the ice between the students, herself and Kissinger.
As a resident, Gutmann may take the lead as hostess, but she has the University to thank for the decor - and maintenance.
The house - built in 1912 by noted Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer and his associate, Penn graduate Julian Abele - last underwent renovations in fall 2004, right before Gutmann moved in.
Gutmann is the third president to reside in the house, which is also known as Eisenlohr Hall. According to Mitchell, former president Sheldon Hackney and his wife moved into the house during his tenure in the 1980s "to demonstrate commitment to the community."
University records indicate that the house was originally designed for West Philadelphia cigar manufacturer Otto Eisenlohr. In the years preceding Hackney, it was used for academic purposes, Mitchell said.Comments powered by Disqus
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