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University President Amy Gutmann holds up a note symbolizing her $150,000 gift for financial aid at a scholarship dinner at the Inn at Penn last night.

University President Amy Gutmann put her money where her mouth is last night.

Gutmann made a surprise announcement that she and her husband were endowing a $150,000 scholarship for Penn students - out of their own pockets.

The move came as Gutmann is seeking to build support for the biggest fundraising effort in University history, which is now in its second year. Improving financial aid is one of the goals of the campaign.

"I have so much support here that I wanted to give back to Penn," she said. "I hope this inspires people to give what they can."

Gutmann's gift will be added to the University's endowment.

"Financial aid made a big difference in my life," Gutmann said to an audience of scholarship donors and recipients. "That financial-aid scholarship based on need undoubtedly made it possible for me to be here and lead this great university."

A vocal proponent of better financial aid from the day she took office in 2004, Gutmann made the announcement at the Scholarship Donor Celebration Dinner at the Inn at Penn.

But a University president donating to her own campaign is not an entirely new concept.

Zeller said other top administrators have made own their personal donations to various University causes in the past.

For example, Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid Joanne Hanna said, former Penn President Judith Rodin donated her own money to the Perelman Quadrangle restoration project, and a room in Houston Hall is named in memory of her father.

Hanna added that she did not know of any other Penn presidents who had personally contributed to financial aid.

Gutmann said she was inspired by Penn Trustee George Weiss, who delivered a surprise $14 million check for financial aid at the same dinner last year. She and her husband - Columbia professor Michael Doyle - decided over the summer to make their own "personal pledge" with an endowed scholarship.

She presented Weiss, who was in attendance last night, with a note that wished him a nice day, a reference to the message he attached to his $14 million gift last year.

Weiss stressed the University's commitment to financial aid, saying that over the last year Penn had raised more than $63 million for scholarships.

Gutmann made need-based scholarships to the University one of the three goals of her Penn Compact - her vision for the University's future - upon arriving at Penn.

Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations John Zeller commended Gutmann's gift.

"It obviously was very important to her as a center of the campaign," he said. "It doesn't surprise me that she would do that."

Hanna said that the donation will make an impression on potential donors.

"To make a commitment like this herself really shows her leadership and commitment when she's asking other people," she said.

The Scholarship Dinner was first held in 1996, Hanna said. Her office invites scholarship donors from across the world to the dinner to meet scholarship recipients. The first year, 16 people endowed scholarships.

Now, 1,100 endowed scholarships go to undergraduates, including more than one quarter of the 4,000 students on financial aid. The total amount of need-based scholarships adds up to about $86 million a year.

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