In two weeks, Penn is planning a schoolwide celebration of an upcoming college house on Hill Field, a project that was at the top of President Amy Gutmann’s priority list during the Making History fundraising campaign.
But at that celebration, on Nov. 8, one thing will be missing: a college house name.
The University has still not announced a naming gift for the college house, a donation that it had hoped to have squared away by the close of the campaign in December 2012. The gift, valued at $50 million when the project was announced, is a significant chunk of the estimated $125 million cost of the college house.
The University, said Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations John Zeller, has so far raised $60 million toward the college house, which is slated to open in the fall of 2016. Construction on Hill Field should begin later this semester, according to Facilities and Real Estate Services.
Gutmann told The Daily Pennsylvanian in the fall of 2011 that Penn was in “active discussions with possible donors,” and that she was optimistic that the University would obtain a naming gift within the year.
She clarified some of those comments in an interview this week, saying that the goal during Making History had merely been to get the project moving.
“My goal was to raise enough money to move forward with a new college house on Hill Field, and generally that means raising a naming gift,” Gutmann said. “But we’ve raised a total of $60 million from incredibly generous donors, and that was actually my goal, so we’ve effectively done what we wanted to do, and we’re in a position to move full-steam ahead with this.”
Still, when Gutmann put a public time frame on a naming gift in 2011, some took it as a sign that the University was close to finalizing, and announcing, a major donation. But now, administrators are shying away from pinning down a specific timeline for a naming gift announcement.
“There’s no question that our goal is to be able to announce a naming gift at some point in the future,” said Zeller, who does not expect an announcement to come this semester. “Was our hope that we would have been able to announce a naming gift before the end of the campaign? Sure. Will it prevent us from moving forward with the project? Absolutely not.”
In general, at Penn and elsewhere, naming gifts come as a launchpad for large-scale capital projects like the new college house. For example, when Ronald Perelman gave a $25 million naming gift last semester to create a new center for political science and economics on campus, his donation was the first step in a long process of raising additional funds and starting construction on the new center.
But naming gifts do not always come at the outset of a project. Penn, for example, is moving forward with planning a new Neural-Behavioral Sciences building, a 78,000-square-foot facility near 38th Street and University Avenue, without having announced a naming gift yet.
Zeller described naming gifts in general as “aspirational,” saying that they often evolve over time because of different donors’ interests. “What happens with any gift like this is that sometimes the time frame doesn’t work out the way we originally hoped it was going to,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t robust in moving forward.”
At the Nov. 8 celebration, Zeller added, Penn plans to recognize several donors who have contributed to the $60 million raised overall so far.
When it opens in 2016, the college house is expected to hold 350 beds. Designed around a central courtyard, it will also have in-house dining options, seminar rooms and several lounges.
Until a formal naming gift is announced, the University is calling the project the “New College House.”Comments powered by Disqus
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