On June 18, the Penn community received an email from Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett, which many students expected to contain Penn's decision on the fall semester. Instead, the message read that Dean of Admissions Eric Furda will step down from his role at the end of this year.
Students, including Kite and Key Society president and Rising Engineering senior Sofia Gonzalez, said they were shocked and saddened by Furda's decision to leave the University after leading the Admissions Office for 12 years.
As the leader of the student-run tour guide society, Gonzalez worked closely with Penn's Admissions Office and at times, with Furda himself. She said she had no idea that Furda, a 1987 College graduate, was planning to leave the University and found it odd that Penn notified students of Furda’s decision to leave Penn more than six months before his actual departure.
Rising College sophomore and Class Board 2023 Executive Vice President Dylan Conrad said he was deeply saddened to read about Furda’s impending departure.
“The guy's a legend on campus,” Conrad said. “I mean, he helps everyone stay happy.”
After the 2019 Convocation ceremony last fall, Conrad said Furda shook his hand and gave him the copy of his Convocation speech enclosed in a folder. Conrad said he still has the folder and speech as a souvenir.
“If there was one person on campus I was going to grab a beer with, it would be Dean Furda,” Conrad said.
Rising College junior Gillian Broome said she began reading page217, Furda’s college advice blog, in high school. After reading the blog for years, she said she still remembers how excited she was after seeing Furda in person for the first time at ConnectED Quaker Day in 2018, a full-day program offered to accepted students through Penn's Early Decision admissions process.
Broome, who works at the front desk of Penn’s Admissions Visitor Center, said she always looked forward to the genuine conversations she and her coworkers had with Furda whenever he walked by.
Rising College senior and Kite and Key Society Visit Coordinator for Daily Programs, Zoe Osborne, who also works at the Center's front desk, said Furda's positivity was a regular highlight of her days on campus.
Gonzalez said she finds Furda's ability to bring his own unique personality to his leadership role at the University remarkable, and believes it is a clear reason as to why many students appreciated him as more than just the person who signed their acceptance letter to Penn.
Furda's contagious energy is something that set the tone for the admissions office as a whole, Osborne said.
"When you are in high school, admissions officers and the whole college process in general are the scariest things in the world," Osborne said. "But, by working in the [Admissions Visitor Center] and just being around, it's so clear how welcoming, open, and real these people are, and Furda really embodies that to the max."
As Penn begins its search for a new Dean of Admissions, Broome and Conrad said they hope the person who fills Furda's role will share his deep understanding of Penn's campus culture.
"[Furda] went to school here. He saw the struggles that students have, [and] he overcame them. He knows what the average student is [like], and he knows [what] people are looking for. And I think that's a lot of what made Dean Furda, Dean Furda.”
Gonzalez and Osborne said they hope the administration will pick someone who clearly reflects the diverse nature of Penn’s student body, who they said would ideally be a person of color or a woman.
“I think now is the perfect time to revisit a lot of those conversations [on representation] and talk more about how Penn can both talk the talk and also walk the walk,” Gonzalez said.
After his departure from Penn at the end of the fall semester, Furda will join the college counseling team at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, where his two children will be enrolled in the fall, the University's announcement email read. An advisory committee will be created to search for his successor.
"The University of Pennsylvania changed the course of my life three times," Furda wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian on June 18, outlining his undergraduate admission to the University, his time working in the admissions office from 1987 to 1991, and returning as Dean of Admissions in 2008. "I truly bleed Red and Blue," he wrote.
In his years of leading the University's admissions office, Furda has prioritized the admission of more low-income, first-generation students to the University and has led Penn through the 2018 Jerome Allen admissions bribery scandal in light of admissions scandals across the country. He received the A. Phillip Randolph Award for Diversity and Inclusion in 2017, and has served on various committees dedicated to efforts in higher education.