When 1996 Penn alumnus Peter Kuperman decided to throw financial support at Penn, he knew exactly how to gauge support for his philanthropic impulse.
His goal: Get 5,000 students to join his Facebook group in support of putting new elevators in the high-rise dorms.
But Kuperman's plan is not just a test of Facebook's potential. If the group - which has 668 members to date - reaches his goal, he has pledged to put up $50,000 of his own money to fund a study about the elevators, the first step toward their replacement.
Kuperman still faces a lengthy administrative process before his proposed study is approved, and Penn facilities officials will not comment on whether or not they will accept the donation and go through with the evaluation.
But Kuperman did say he received an encouraging push forward yesterday - a representative from the Penn Fund, which oversees alumni donations, said that, should Kuperman complete his study, the Penn Fund would review it and consider promoting the project to alumni.
The idea to fix the elevators stemmed from an unlikely merging of Kuperman's two passions: Penn and swing dancing.
In mid-October, Kuperman ran into two fellow swing-dancing aficionados - Penn senior Robert Allen and junior Julia Onorato - at an event in New Hampshire. Kuperman said he was struck when Allen and Onorato told him that if there was one thing he should give to Penn, it should be Manhattan-style elevators in the high rises.
It was such an "obvious solution" to a problem - slow elevators - that affects students every day, he said. And, as a self-described "wealthy alum," Kuperman, who runs his own hedge fund in San Francisco, wanted to be the one to make it happen.
He told alumni-relations officials that he wanted to donate whatever it took to make the elevators faster. But, when he found the actual cost - millions of dollars worth - he decided to limit his personal contribution to the $50,000 study.
Kuperman's enthusiasm and potentially open checkbook, however, are no guarantees that the elevators will be replaced.
The process for giving money for major construction projects is "very formal," Penn Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations John Zeller said.
University support "depends on what the timing is [and] whether or not this is something we would want to focus philanthropy on," Zeller said.
Penn is already in the midst of a multi-million-dollar project to renovate the high rises, but Facilities spokesman Tony Sorrentino said Kuperman's proposal does not pose any conflict.
"It's a sign of his dedication to" Penn, Sorrentino said.
Kuperman's next steps involve expanding his presence on the Web and getting students to spread the word about his Facebook group however they can.
Failing to meet his Facebook goal is "not an option," Kuperman said. He is recruiting students to hand out informational flyers on Locust Walk and throughout the high rises.
A video for YouTube.com, featuring Kuperman explaining the plan, is also in the works.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.