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NEW YORK, N.Y. - He may not look it, but Penn Trustee George Weiss is akin to a fairy godmother - well, almost.

Weiss wears a suit and tie instead of a wand and wings, but he and other supporters of undergraduate financial aid at the University make wishes come true by providing scholarships for hundreds of Penn students each year.

On Thursday night, some 160 such students traveled to New York City's Gotham Hall to meet and mingle with their benefactors. A similar event is held each fall at the Inn at Penn.

"It's a great opportunity for students to meet their donors," Penn President Amy Gutmann said.

A crowd of about 400 students and donors ate hors d'oeuvres and sipped drinks as they listened to speeches by Gutmann, Weiss and two student scholarship awardees, College senior Stephen Danley and Engineering senior Angelina Benson-Glanz.

The University, like its Ivy League peers, offers only need-based aid. It also operates under a need-blind admissions policy, meaning that it does not consider applicants' ability to pay tuition when making admissions decisions.

Those who are awarded endowed scholarships receive them as a part of their total need-based financial aid package, which can also include loans and work-study allotment.

About 40 percent of the University's undergraduates receive need-based grants, but a smaller proportion receive an endowed scholarship as part of their package.

Endowed scholarships are often undertaken by Penn alumni and sometimes include specifications that the student recipient must meet. Some, for example, are intended for students interested in law, while others go to students on particular sports teams.

College and Wharton alumnus Patrick Hackett and his wife, Engineering alumna Janienne Hackett, created the Elizabeth High School Academic Fellowship, to be awarded yearly to a student attending Penn after graduating from Mr. Hackett's high school.

At Thursday's event, the Hacketts met College freshman Brandon Baker, this year's recipient of their scholarship.

"I wouldn't have been able to attend Penn if it weren't for financial aid," Patrick Hackett said.

"We're able to do that because we went to Penn," said Janienne Hackett, who said helping an individual student like Brandon was a more personal way of staying active in the Penn community.

Endowed scholarships have been on the rise at Penn, with 187 new ones created in 2006, part of the University's broader effort to improve its overall undergraduate financial aid program.

In the fall, the program's budget will increase by $7 million to $90 million total, and the University will officially expand its no-loan policy to apply to all students whose families earn less than $60,000 annually.

As an added perk, events like this one may have the residual effect of spurring further donations.

"I'm sure it encourages more people to do the same," Gutmann said, noting that development is not the event's chief purpose.

"It's one of my favorite occasions in the year," she said. "Everyone there takes note of the combination of talent and generosity gathered in the room."

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