1982 College graduate Daniel Greenstein, newly elected chancellor of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education, said his interest in higher education started when he was a history major at Penn. He was officially sworn in last week and now oversees and develops policies for the state's public universities.
“I went to college and never left,” Greenstein said.
After teaching at the University of Glasgow, Greenstein moved on to administrative roles at the University of California system as vice provost for academic planning and programs, ultimately earning a leadership position directing the post-secondary success strategy division at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Greenstein said studying history at Penn helped him step outside of his worldview, leaving him with an interest in social justice and equity. He added that higher education, which he sees as “probably the most reliable pathway into the middle class and beyond,” is less accessible to students of color and low-income students.
Greenstein said PASSHE also faces many financial challenges, including lagging public investment, tuition increases, and enrollment decreases. He is now working on a state system redesign that balances both access and financial sustainability to help combat this.
“What do you do to maintain a kind of viable, affordable, high-quality public education in the state of Pennsylvania — recognizing that if that’s gone, then [you’re] potentially disenfranchising from higher education a whole important sector of the population?” Greenstein said.
His former classmates also remember him as a hardworking, positive person.
"[Greenstein] had an intellectual bent that sort of seemed almost out of character with the rest of his very gregarious sort of personality," 1982 Wharton graduate Andrew Lipetz, who was Greenstein's freshman roommate in Kings Court English House, said.
“I don't want to call him a plainclothes philosopher, but he was just really a down-to-earth guy who was always thinking about the bigger picture even as a freshman,” said 1982 College graduate Peggy Gyulai, who lived in the same hall as Lipetz and Greenstein freshman year.
Emeritus History professor Michael Zuckerman said although Greenstein may have taken on the challenge of his life at PASSHE, he has always had a gift for leadership. During his time at Penn, Greenstein won the prestigious Thouron Award to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
“He was always up for challenges,” Zuckerman said. “I think nobody would leave [the] Gates [Foundation] for the Pennsylvania higher educational system who wasn’t up for challenges.”