"Hi, I'm Liz Magill!"
Magill introduces herself to everyone in the same humble manner, whether it be faculty, staff, students, or community members.
The Daily Pennsylvanian spent extensive time with Magill over the first 100 days of her budding presidency, watching her get to know students, preside over various meetings, and define herself in the Penn community and beyond.
Magill officially took office on July 1, when she ascended the steps of College Hall as Penn president for the first time. During one of her first days in office, she introduced herself to the Penn community at an ice cream social event on College Green.
The atmosphere of the event was a complicated tapestry: some teeming with anticipation, hoping to catch a glimpse of Penn’s new president, while others were acutely cognizant of the burden of the job and the challenges ahead of her.
On Aug. 23, Penn welcomed the Class of 2026 as they moved on campus for the first time. Magill spent several hours moving across campus, greeting new students, parents, and faculty and staff.
Throughout the day, Magill did not shy away from a handshake from anyone who wanted to meet her. Mother of a goldendoodle named Olive, Magill also greeted many pets — including the dog of Lauder College House, Hank.
As Magill was preparing to speak to a local news outlet, a first year ran past her yelling “Mom!” Magill immediately turned around and browsed her surroundings, thinking that it was one of her own children calling for her. When she realized that she was mistaken, she laughed and joked about her own motherly instincts.
A notepad never left Magill’s hand during the day. She gathered bucket list items for her to complete in Philadelphia from students, faculty, and parents. These suggestions ranged from pulling an all-nighter in Van Pelt Library to trying out Clarkville Pizza, a staple of the West Philadelphia dining scene for Penn students.
Magill told the DP in late July that she wants to "get to know Penn and get to know everything and everyone who’s important to our success," a goal she continues to work to achieve.
Convocation began as any prior ceremony would have — excited first years hustling to secure a seat on College Green, proud parents taking selfies as the evening fell, and the academic procession filing onto the platform in front of College Hall.
After an invocation by University Chaplain Charles Howard and an address from Dean of Admissions Whitney Soule, Magill took the stage and began her first-ever Convocation speech at Penn. Minutes into her address, several students stood up in the crowd with a megaphone chanting “Save UC Townhomes” and “Stop Penn-trification.”
Chatter in the crowd and chanting by the protestors all morphed into silence on the stage. Magill’s words, or the lack thereof, revealed something that many on College Green — perhaps even including Magill herself — soon realized: Just short of two months in, she was being tested as a president and a leader.
A week later on Sept. 7, the ARCH building reopened as Penn’s designated cultural resources center after years of advocacy by minority student groups and coalitions. At its grand reopening ceremony, Magill said that “we should be working on anything and everything we can do to strengthen ties, to build support, and to improve spaces and services for Penn students and the wider community."
Magill threw out the first pitch at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies on Sept. 10. “Now you know, this is what I do every Saturday night,” Magill said to spectators on the sidelines.
Magill is known to crack a joke on occasion. At the kickoff event for GradFest, a 12-day festival to welcome all graduate and professional students to Penn, Magill evoked her own experience in law school.
“I admit to a certain ironic satisfaction to see this event called ‘Chill with Magill.’ I have pretty distinct memories of my time in law school, especially as a first-year student, and I would not say the word ‘chill’ comes to mind regarding my approach to the first year of law school: sleep-deprived and over-caffeinated might be the event we could have had together."
On National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 20, Magill visited Penn Leads the Vote’s table on Locust Walk and asked volunteers “what’s your most persuasive argument to people about registering?” In response, Penn Leads the Vote Director Nicholas Williams said that “registering to vote is such a great way to have an impact in your community. And also voting is a collaborative discussion in the community, the government, and what all the people want.”
Magill cheered on Penn’s women’s soccer team on Sept. 24, where she was accidentally hit in the chest by a flying ball as players practiced on the sidelines. As Magill laughed the incident off and told two very apologetic players she was fine, Magill’s husband, Leon Szeptycki, reassured the players, “Don’t worry about it. She’s tough.”
Fossil Free Penn held a press conference at their encampment on College Green on Sept. 26 where they alleged intimidation from University administrators, including Magill. Fossil Free Penn set up the encampment on Sept. 14 and vowed to stay until a series of their demands have been met by the University, including divestment from fossil fuel companies and financial assistance to the UC Townhomes residents. Penn and Yale University are the two Ivy League universities who have yet to divest, as Princeton University’s Board of Trustees voted to divest in September.
As part of her visits with all 12 of Penn’s schools, Magill met with faculty members in the School of Arts and Sciences on Oct. 10 to share her focus in academia as well as learn about their goals. Magill also met with the the College Dean's advisory board, consisting of students, on Oct. 14 to learn about their past initiatives and current agenda.
In an announcement on Oct. 11, Magill shared with the Penn community that her administration will be launching the Red and Blue Advisory Committee to set strategic goals for the University over the next century. She kicked off its first meeting the next day with chairman of the committee and Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication John L. Jackson Jr., College and Wharton senior and Undergraduate Assembly President Carson Sheumaker, and a dozen more students and faculty members.
Magill visited the Andrew Hamilton School, a University-Assisted Community School at 56th and Spruce streets, on Oct. 13. UACS is part of the Netter Center for Community Parnerships’ initiative to advance civic and community engagement at Penn. During the visit, Magill met with Netter Center staff, Hamilton School faculty, and community members.
Penn celebrated its faculty and staff on Oct. 15 with various programming, including a carnival on Shoemaker Green. Magill met with many University employees as well as their families. Upon seeing the high striker and being encouraged to try it, Magill stepped aside, joking that she already risked embarrassment when she threw out the first pitch for the Phillies.
Penn football emerged victorious against the Columbia Lions and moved to 5-0 at a game on Oct. 15, where Magill mingled with students, the football board, and the Quaker mascot. A member of the football board noted the recent successes of Philadelphia sports teams, crediting it in jest to the new energy that Magill's new presidency is bringing.
Magill will be offically inaugurated on Oct. 21 as the ninth president of Penn. Her inauguration ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. in Irvine Auditorium followed by a celebration on College Green at 12 p.m. with performances from two of Magill’s favorite musical artists: Jeff Tweedy and Sheryl Crow. Magill will also be joined by United States Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan — the colleague of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who Magill clerked for — in an academic symposium later in the afternoon.
Magill is now only slightly over 100 days into her tenure. While a lot has transpired in the months since she has taken office, there is still a great deal the Penn community has yet to learn about Magill. Her rendition of the Penn presidency — which historically has featured marathons rather than lightning sprints — has only just begun.
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