Although hundreds of students walk by it almost every day, few have set foot inside the Sweeten Alumni House off College Green, and even fewer know the full extent of its secrets.
Built in 1914, the house on Locust Walk was originally home to the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. It served as the fraternity’s house for almost 50 years until a fire killed three people and damaged the interior, leading one sophomore who may have played a roll in the spark to be tried and found guilty for three counts of involuntary manslaughter. The house was then used by the Office of the Dean.
By 1981, the gothic house became the alumni house. The alumni house was originally housed in Eisenlohr Hall, which has since become home of the University president.
The Sweeten Alumni House was named for 1937 Wharton graduate E. Craig Sweeten, who served as the Senior Vice President for Development and Public Relations. After his retirement, Penn’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution to name the center after Sweeten.
Today, the Sweeten Alumni House is home to alumni-focused initiatives such as Penn Alumni Relations, Undergraduate Classes and Reunions, the Penn Alumni Interview Program and the Regional Alumni network, including the Penn Club of South New Jersey and Philadelphia.
The Sweeten Alumni House is used for a wide variety of events, from the New Student Scholarship Orientation held every fall to Feb Club in the spring. “People have even gotten married here. We have held weddings here,” said Kristina Clark, Director of Operations and Special Programs for Alumni Relations.
Few students may know that the Alumni House is home to the campus carillon, an instrument consisting of many bells, that chimes every hour from noon until 6 p.m. The bells were originally donated by 1953 Wharton graduate, 1961 Masters of Communication recipient and former Director of Alumni Relations Michel T. Huber, in memory of his daughter and her fiancee, two Penn alumni who died in a car accident shortly after graduating.
The house itself features a living room and conference room, with the latter available to student groups, as long as someone is around to supervise the house, Clark said. “Someone has to stay late, secure the building, that kind of thing,” she added. The space houses a baby grand Steinway piano donated in 2012 in honor of Alumni Award of Merit recipient, former Penn Alumni president, Trustee emeritus and 1967 Wharton graduate Paul Williams.
“People come back here and ask for information, what changed ... it’s a nice place to reminisce,” said Brian Anders, administrative assistant for the Penn Alumni Interview Program and Sweeten Alumni House Building Manager. Anders considers the house a “hidden gem,” noting its attached terrace that the staff uses to host various events.
Generally, the house is quiet and serene. In the living room area, a collection of sofas sit within feet of what is probably the most treasured aspect for Penn students: the Alumni House’s Keurig machine. Throughout an entire Friday afternoon, fewer than ten individuals entered the Alumni House — one student used the bathroom, made a cup of coffee and was on his way. An alum stopped by to ask for directions at one point and picked up some “Proud Penn Alumni” buttons. Another took a tour through the house and flipped through an old yearbook.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.