On an overcast October morning in 2004, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff packed into Irvine Auditorium as the University of Pennsylvania formally inaugurated its eighth president, Amy Gutmann. The weather had canceled Gutmann’s planned procession down Locust Walk, but it did not dampen the community's enthusiasm.
"She put me at ease pretty quickly," 2005 College graduate Jason Levine said of his first meeting with Gutmann. "She was less formal than I expected, much more accessible. She wanted to really know what was important to students on campus."
Levine, the then-president of the Undergraduate Assembly, spoke at the inauguration. Nearly a dozen speakers — from 1965 College graduate and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) to then-Board of Trustees Chair James Riepe, who had led the presidential search committee — took the stage to welcome Gutmann before her speech.
Here, she introduced the Penn Compact, outlining her key aspirations for the University: increase access to higher education, promote interdisciplinary knowledge, and prioritize local and global engagement.
“By honoring this Penn Compact, we will make the greatest possible difference in our University, our city, our society, and our world," Gutmann, who now serves as the nation's ambassador to Germany, said to the audience as it greeted her with thunderous applause.
Eighteen years later, The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down to speak with 29 former and current leaders of the Penn community — and Gutmann herself — to chronicle the former president's legacy through the lens of her original aspirations, which have since been rebranded as inclusion, impact, and innovation. These community members shared memories of Gutmann as more than her title, describing her as a Beach Boys enthusiast, avid bicyclist, and lover of her mother's German food.
"My message to the Penn community is that I love you," Gutmann told the DP in early February, just before leaving for Berlin. "I love you, and I will miss you. Stay in touch, and please welcome me back."
“The Penn Compact that I propose encompasses three principles," Gutmann said during her inauguration speech. "The first is increased access."
Gutmann has never shied away from sharing that she was a low-income student herself and was the first in her family to graduate college. She prioritized the increase of Penn’s need-blind admissions and need-based financial aid during her presidency — a mission that former Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said was the "North Star” for the admissions team during Gutmann’s tenure.
One in 20 students identified as first-generation, low-income in 2004, a number which has since grown to one in seven Penn students, Penn First Plus Executive Director Marc Lo said.
“This change [in FGLI admissions] really comes from her coming out and convincing the Board of Trustees that the pathway to making Penn a more academically excellent space is increasing its diversity in all forms,” Lo said.
During the DP’s conversation with Gutmann, she said her proudest achievement was the creation of Penn’s no-loan policy. Proposed in 2008, the policy ensures all dependent undergraduates receive loan-free financial aid packages, regardless of family income. Lo said that the policy began at an extremely opportune time when many American families faced economic hardships due to the global financial crisis.
The University has also seen an increase in the admission of students from a diversity of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Students of color comprised 41% of the admitted Class of 2004, and this percentage has risen to 56% for the Class of 2025.
Community members, like Lo, noted Gutmann's engagement with students and campus offices such as P1P.
“It is really because of the student voices that Gutmann listened to that 'increasing access' is a University priority,” Lo said. “The fact that she has been so open with sharing her own narrative as someone who comes from a humble background, we have really been able to expand the conversation and resources at Penn.”
College sophomores Lynn Larabi and Mohammad Abunimeh, the FGLI Dean’s Advisory Board president and vice president, respectively, similarly noted Gutmann's ability to connect with students.
“I remember thinking [Gutmann] was really intimidating, but actually getting to talk to her was eye-opening because she seemed very human,” Larabi said. “We all take pride in the fact that she was a first-generation student, but it doesn’t seem real until you talk to her.”
Students still noted that the University, despite its efforts to diversify the student body, should recognize the need to allocate extra funding and support toward the FGLI student community.
Abunimeh, a former DP news staffer, suggested that Penn should provide workshops to develop career-related skill sets, distrubute personal protective equipment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide aid for domestic students to travel home.
Wharton junior and United Minorities Council Chair Jessica Liu agreed, calling upon the University to also improve its relationship with minority student groups. Though Gutmann and other top administrators schedule meetings with the 7B to hear their perspectives, Liu said these meetings end in unclear resolutions that often confuse student leaders.
“How do we make sure that these meetings are translated into action?” Liu said. “How do we basically hold the administration accountable? Because we can have a lot of meetings, but, so far, I haven't seen a ton of actual progress.”
College senior and UMOJA Co-Chair Justin Arnold said UMOJA and other organizations within the 7B have met with Gutmann and several administrators regarding their decades-long demand for increased cultural spaces on campus. But the University's responses to this demand have been met with hesitancy by minority student group leaders, who, time and time again, feel a disconnect between their discussions with administrators and what ultimately occurs on campus.
Despite these frustrations, Arnold noted that Gutmann's presidential power is ultimately constrained by the Board of Directors, which controls Penn’s financial decisions. The president is in charge of day-to-day management and makes most strategic, financial, and personnel decisions of the University, according to a written statement from Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok. He said the Board of Trustees formally approves some of these decisions, as required by the statutes of the University.
Throughout her tenure, Gutmann has fulfilled her initial goal to increase access to the University, but leaves marginalized students hoping for this access to translate into authentic inclusion. Gutmann has shown that she wants to listen to underrepresented voices, Liu and Arnold said. But they hope future administrators build upon Gutmann's work and actively prioritize student voices at an institutional level, rather than doing what Liu said often feels like the “bare minimum.”
“The second principle of our compact is about knowledge. We must better integrate knowledge from different disciplines and professional perspectives in our research and teaching.”
Gutmann told the DP that she is proud of the innovation agenda, saying "I could never have predicted what it would yield during a pandemic because none of us could have predicted the pandemic.”
Gutmann shaped Penn Medicine's strategic plan with her Compact's commitment to innovation, Executive Vice President and Dean of Penn Medicine J. Larry Jameson wrote in an email to the DP. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn researchers' contributions made national headlines.
BioNTech Senior Vice President Katalin Karikó and professor of infectious diseases at Perelman School of Medicine Drew Weissman published research on modified RNA technology in 2005 that has been instrumental in creating COVID-19 vaccines. With Gutmann's support, Penn Medicine has produced "safe, highly effective, and life saving" breakthroughs, Jameson wrote.
Penn administrators from different disciplines said Gutmann's focus on innovation has also made its way into the classroom. Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science Vijay Kumar said Gutmann ensured that all 12 of Penn's schools would collaborate cohesively with each other, and that her commitment to people allowed her to connect with any academic discipline.
“Gutmann is a social scientist, as far away from engineering as you might imagine, and yet she understands engineering at a fundamental level,” Kumar said.
Wharton Dean Erika James similarly praised Gutmann, writing in an email to the DP that Gutmann was instrumental to Wharton's growth and "set an incredibly high bar as an inclusive and collaborative leader." Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel said working with Gutmann to center innovation pushed Penn Nursing to become a leader in the field.
Months into her presidency, Gutmann launched the Penn Integrates Knowledge program that recruited faculty who would hold appointments in two or more schools, breaking down disciplinary walls. Now, Penn is home to 29 of these professors. Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein wrote to the DP that PIK and and Presidential Professor appointments have both "significantly [advanced] our faculty while furthering its diversity and its interdisciplinary scope."
More recently, in 2011, Gutmann presented the inaugural lecture of Penn’s Integrated Studies Program, which reinforces to students that “bringing together different types of knowledge, insights, and experiences help us more fully understand the world we live in.”
Gutmann's Pennovation Center and the 23-acre Pennovation Works campus also reflect this focus, Executive Director of Facilities and Real Estate Services Ed Datz said. Senior Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate Services Anne Papageorge echoed the importance of these initiatives for encouraging new ideas across the University's schools and centers.
“Under Gutmann’s leadership, we developed a plan to create a place in which the startups of not only Penn’s innovators, but also innovators of the Philadelphia community, can learn how to be successful entrepreneurs and grow their businesses,” Datz said.
“The third principle of the Penn Compact is to engage locally and globally. No one mistakes Penn for an ivory tower. And no one ever will.”
The week of Gutmann’s inauguration began with a day of community service at Sayre Middle School where she and 300 volunteers painted hallways, planted trees, and built sheds and picnic tables.
"There is no better way I could have imagined to kick off my inauguration,” Gutmann told the DP in 2004.
Founding Director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships Ira Harkavy said Gutmann emphasized community engagement from the start of her presidency.
“Under President Gutmann’s leadership, civic and community engagement wasn’t just what Penn does, but it became what Penn is,” Harkavy said.
She created the President’s Engagement Prize in 2014, which awards Penn seniors up to $150,000 for implementing a local, national, or global engagement project post-graduation. This initiative helps teach students the importance of using their resources to positively shape the world around them, Harkavy said.
On the local level, Gutmann aimed to transform Penn's urban campus through Penn Connects, her 16-year vision for a redesigned campus. She played an active role in the Penn Connects design process from the start, according to University architect Mark Kocent, who said Gutmann envisioned a unified campus that would “reconnect and link itself to the community east towards Center City, westward to the local communities."
The plan ultimately led to the construction, renovation, and investment of six strategic projects. Penn Connects has raised over $7 billion in investment in total, and spans 12.3 million square feet of space.
Constructions and renovations during Gutmann's presidency
Penn Sustainability Director Nina Morris said Gutmann has also incorporated sustainability into the University's growth.
In 2007, Gutmann became the first Ivy League president to join the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, and launched Penn’s first Climate Action Plan in 2009. To date, Penn has reduced its carbon footprint by 44.3% since 2009, with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2042.
Student groups such as Fossil Free Penn, however, remain less convinced about Gutmann’s commitment to climate, with the organization calling it “beautiful verbiage” in a statement to the DP.
“As long as this university is run by people like her, who profit from exploitation, the University will continue to follow suit,” FFP campaign coordinator and Engineering senior Ari Bortman wrote, citing Gutmann’s role on the Board of Directors of Vanguard.
Under Gutmann's tenure, Penn has navigated an increasingly contentious relationship with the city of Philadelphia and its residents. Community members have often called upon the University to distribute funds toward local organizations and toward PILOTs, payments that support the Philadelphia community and school districts. In 2014, students had taken over Gutmann’s annual holiday party demanding that the University make these payments — prompting Gutmann to join the protesters.
Two years ago, in response to the criticism, the University pledged to contribute $100 million to the School District of Philadelphia over the next 10 years. History professor and Penn for PILOTs member Amy C. Offner said, however, that this “falls short” of the resources that local schools need to thrive, and Penn is failing to “fulfill [its] basic civic obligation.”
“Penn took a step in the right direction, but the next president will have further to go,” Offner said.
The University has cited non-monetary, service-based contributions to the city as reasons why Penn does not pay PILOTs, Harkavy said. He believes the solution must ultimately include the entire University community pooling its resources together. He suggested more community involvement through Penn's Academically Based Community Service courses and genuine relationships with local schools.
Building upon years' worth of demands to pay PILOTs, community members have also called for the abolition of Penn's police department.
Gutmann valued Penn's identity as an urban campus, former Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said, adding that Gutmann was always “open to guidance,” loyal, and committed to keeping the University safe. Rush said that even when facing uncomfortable situations, Gutmann did not stand by passively.
“I felt her support when public safety was having people march on us outside of 4040 Chestnut with demands to ‘abolish the Penn Police’ and ‘fire Mo Rush,’” Rush said.
Beyond Gutmann's work to improve relations with the surrounding Philadelphia community, Perry World House Director Michael Horowitz said she also recognized that Penn needed to do more globally, given the University's leadership role in the global policy realm.
She established the Perry World House, the Penn Biden Center, and the Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing. Thes centers helped cement Penn as a "global impact school" among the Ivy League, Penn Wharton China Center Director Z. John Zhang said.
Gutmann's colleagues also commended her fundraising efforts, which provided monetary resources to expand opportunities on Penn's campus and beyond.
Senior Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli visited Gutmann at Princeton University before she began her tenure as Penn president. Carnaroli recalled one of his first conversations with Gutmann, in which she said that her goal was to address Penn’s endowment.
The endowment supports a variety of purposes for the University's budget, with the majority dedicated to instructional use and student financial aid.
In 2004, when Gutmann arrived, Penn’s endowment was valued at $4 billion and supported 6.6% of the University's academic budget, Chief Investment Officer Peter Ammon said. The University has since transformed financially from a bottom quartile performing institution to a top quartile, now boasting an endowment that is worth $20.5 billion and supports 16.4% of Penn's budget.
No other peer institution had seen such a dramatic change in endowment as Penn’s five-fold increase during Gutmann's presidency, he added.
Gutmann’s acumen for fundraising and engaging alumni also drew praise from Senior Vice President of Alumni Relations and Development John Zeller, who wrote to the DP that Alumni Weekend saw an increase in 10,000 attendees from 2005 to 2018.
"[This increase] is the result of a concerted focus on outreach, and reminding alumni that we all have a part to play in Penn’s future," Zeller said.
The Making History campaign launched in 2007 and the Power of Penn launched in 2018, which raised $4.3 and $5.4 billion dollars, respectively. These efforts financed P1P's founding in 2018, the physical transformation of the University, and numerous programs across all 12 schools.
Looking back and moving forward
The night before Gutmann headed for Berlin, several leaders in higher education — former Penn Provosts Ron Daniels and Vince Price, and former Law School Dean Michael Fitts — visited Philadelphia to take the ambassador out to dinner. Daniels, Price, and Fitts, who served under Gutmann, are now presidents of Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, and Tulane University, respectively.
“All of us felt very, very strongly that we wanted to have a moment to acknowledge the debt that we and higher education owed to her,” Daniels shared. "[Gutmann] makes institutions and the people who are around her better."
Several community members familiar with Gutmann feel similarly.
Athletics and Recreation Director Alanna Shanahan recalled Gutmann's "high-fives and smiles" on the sidelines during sporting events. Kocent, the University's architect, found Gutmann had an extremely keen eye for good design. Furda, the former admissions director, remains grateful for Gutmann’s personal notes and cards, recalling a handwritten letter Gutmann had sent more than a decade ago congratulating Furda and his wife on the birth of their son.
Reminiscing on her time as president, Gutmann told the DP that it is the individual people at Penn that make the University as strong as it is. While she said there will always be room for improvement, Gutmann emphasized her trust in her successor, M. Elizabeth Magill, to take over the reins.
"There has certainly never been a day of my Penn presidency where I said, 'Mission accomplished. We did it all. I can go back to bed and not think about any of this,'" Gutmann said. "No — it is just the opposite."
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