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Gwendolyn Gordon served as an Assistant Professor in the Wharton School's Department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics.

Wharton professor Gwendolyn Gordon died this past December at age 41. 

Gordon was an Assistant Professor in the Wharton School's Department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics, and held a secondary appointment in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Penn Almanac reported.

Gordon received her B.A. in 2002 from Cornell University, her J.D. in 2006 from Harvard Law School, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Princeton University in 2014, according to her Wharton faculty profile. 

Prior to joining Penn faculty in 2013, Gordon was a corporate attorney at the global law firm Shearman and Sterling LLP.

“Gwen was a unique scholar, bringing together anthropology, law, and business. She was also a unique person: resolutely brave in standing up for justice, yet always so kind in supporting those around her,” Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department Chair Kevin Werbach wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian in an email.

As an academic, Gordon was a key contributor to a growing body of work on corporate person rights, with her 2019 article “Environmental Personhood" recognized as a seminal work in the field. 

Gordon's scholarship also led her to travel across the world, as she did ethnographic research in New Zealand and examined Black Economic Empowerment legislation in South Africa, according to a Wharton press release.

“She was really incredibly well-read — and not only in her own fields of law and anthropology — but really much more broadly,” Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics and Management Eric Orts said.

Orts, who was Gordon’s faculty mentor in the Legal Studies & Business Ethics Department, added that Gordon had a unique sense of humor. Gordon often gave witty titles to her research, he said, such as her 2016 article “Culture in Corporate Law or: A Black Corporation, a Christian Corporation, and a Māori Corporation Walk into a Bar," Orts said.

Outside the classroom, Gordon was an avid reader and writer. Assistant Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics Nina Strohminger said that Gordon often immersed herself in literature, and hoped to publish children’s books. 

According to Strohminger, Gordon had been in contact with editors about manuscripts she'd written. Diana Robertson — Vice Dean of the Wharton Undergraduate Division and a close friend of Gordon’s — added that Gordon had been writing her own version of "Harry Potter."

Robertson and Orts noted that Gordon was a fierce advocate and a devoted instructor who worked closely with her students on social and racial justice research and took great pride in their achievements.

“As an example, Gwen proudly texted me the video of one senior student’s thesis presentation from her Law and Social Values course,” Robertson said in her remarks at Gordon’s memorial on Jan 18. “The student did an incredible job. You have to think that only Gwen with her creativity and breadth of knowledge that she was the perfect faculty supervisor for this project.”

Tabitha Mustafa, a doctoral student in Business Ethics & Legal Studies, worked closely with Gordon on their master’s thesis on reparations. They described her as a “very supportive, kind, thoughtful, and committed” mentor.

Gordon is survived by her mother, three brothers, cousins, godchildren, and many close friends and colleagues. Funeral services were held in Bradenton Florida on Jan. 5, and a virtual memorial service was also held over Zoom on Jan. 18th.