PennDesign was officially renamed the Stuart Weitzman School of Design on Oct. 3, with Penn President Amy Gutmann and Weitzman attending the naming ceremony outside Meyerson Hall.
The ceremony took place amid controversy surrounding the University’s decision to rename the school after current design graduate students sharply criticized the renaming.
Students had critiqued Weitzman, a fashion icon and 1963 Wharton graduate, because his profession as a designer is not related to any academic program offered at Penn. They also said they were frustrated over the lack of transparency and student input throughout the process.
During the event, Gutmann spoke about the importance of Weitzman’s contribution and emphasized that the designer would maintain a constant presence at the school in the future. While alumni at the ceremony greeted the renaming and association with Weitzman, current design students expressed opposition.
The ceremony took place on Oct. 3 in the open space in front of Meyerson Hall, which will now be known as the Stuart Weitzman Plaza, Gutmann announced.
“This shared space will be a true homage to the transformative power of design,” Gutmann said. “It will embody Stuart’s connection with the Weitzman School while enriching our campus for the entire Penn community. This is a very central part of our campus.”
Penn trustees approved a resolution marking the transformation of the School of Design in February, Gutmann said.
“With his extraordinary support of Penn and his ongoing, deep engagement with our University, the author of that transformation is Stuart Weitzman,” Gutmann said. “The new signage will prominently display the Weitzman School’s proud new name. And in the months and years to come, we know Stuart will be a frequent visitor to Penn and to the Weitzman School. But in between visits, we still want a version of Stuart with us.”
At the ceremony, Gutmann revealed a bust of Weitzman.
In a speech, Weitzman said design is a fabulous element to incorporate into people’s lives, because design improves people’s imagination — no matter which field people enter.
“It will encourage you to take advantages of risks rather than shy from them, and those risks actually are what moves the world forward,” Weitzman said.
Alumni and students at the ceremony disagreed with each other with regards to the school's new name.
While the name change is positive, the education offered and the enhanced opportunities that students will get from the school are more important, said Jeffrey Fine, a 1978 School of Design graduate and a current member of the Board of Overseers at the School of Design.
Fine Arts graduate student David Johnson said renaming the school to the Stuart Weitzman School of Design is confusing. Johnson said Weitzman is associated with fashion design, but there are no fashion design programs offered at the graduate school.
City Planning and Landscape graduate student Cari Krol said the school should have done a better job at being transparent during the renaming process.
Jill Sablosky, 1979 School of Design graduate and a current member of the Alumni Board of the School of Design, said the money Weitzman donated can provide scholarships for current and future students.
Weitzman is important to Penn in many regards, Sablosky said, because of his prolific career in shoe design.
“Shoes are very important for all of us. All of us in the civilized world wear shoes because we walk on concrete and hardscape,” Sablosky said. “Without good shoes we are in trouble. If we were to live out on the grass or on the dirt, we’d be fine. So creating all the shoes is our foundation as a two-legged creature.”
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