In the past five weeks, dozens of donors have announced that they will halt funding to Penn due to the University’s response regarding the Israel-Hamas war, recent antisemitic incidents, and the Palestine Writes Literature Festival.
The first to announce their withdrawal publicly was Apollo Management, Inc. CEO and 1984 Wharton graduate Marc Rowan, who argued that Penn was “a bastion of preferred speech” and signed an open letter regarding the Palestine Writes Literature Festival in late September.
Rowan called for donors to reduce their donations to a single dollar, and to forgo future donations until President Liz Magill and Trustee Scott Bok resign from their positions. Some donors have followed through with this suggestion, such as Jonathan Jacobson, who in a letter to Magill states that his $1 check “represents the first installment of a multi-year pledge.”
To better understand the scope of the backlash, the DP researched some of the most notable donors to understand their backgrounds, Penn leadership roles, and level of generosity to Penn during their time as alumni.
The analysis found that many donors who have halted donations are Wharton alumni or have served in Penn leadership roles. The most notable example is Rowan, who currently serves as Chair of the Board of advisors to the Wharton School; however, other past donors who currently serve in high roles include the chairman of the Board of Advisors of the Stuart Weitzman School of Design and the chair of the Advisory Board of Jacobs for the Levy Equity Management Center for Quantitative Financial Research.
Multiple higher education experts told the DP that it is unclear how the donor backlash will affect the financial and academic long-term functioning of the University.
The graphic below presents some of the most prominent donors who are withdrawing their support, as well as information regarding their connection to Penn, donation history, and their own messages regarding why they are withdrawing support.
Staff reporter Jin Kwon contributed reporting.