While many of you were away for the summer, something extraordinary happened. On a sunny day in June, the Penn Museum’s 13-ton sphinx went outside for a stroll.
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Penn summers are a whir of camps, conferences, and construction. Yet that flurry of activity cannot compare to the energy and excitement that come in the fall when everyone returns to campus. It’s good to have you back and to welcome you to another exciting year at Penn!
The following email was sent to the Penn community on February 1, 2018.
At the start of Penn’s 278th academic year, I want to offer a special welcome back to all our students. I especially welcome those who are settling into the beautifully reborn Hill College House, a landmark building on Penn’s campus for more than half a century. Noted modernist architect Eero Saarinen expressed many important ideas through his buildings during the course of his too-short career. Hill House — his only work in Philadelphia — in particular promotes the importance of community in university life.
I vividly remember the first time I voted in a presidential election, as a sophomore at Harvard. I also remember the candidates and the issues, but what I recall most strongly was the feeling of enfranchisement. Here I was, the child of an immigrant father, the first generation in my family on my way toward a college degree, being recognized by my country as an adult citizen, deciding for myself who to vote for, and casting my very own ballot. I had voted in a mock election in sixth grade, but this one was for real.
A warm welcome to all at the start of a new academic year. This week marks the landfall 10 years ago of Hurricane Katrina. Entire communities were destroyed and more than 1,800 people died, underlining the urgent need for better understanding of issues ranging from climate change to civil engineering, public health preparedness to crisis communications. When we both remember back and look forward, we see that the legacy of Hurricane Katrina highlights the fact that higher education is called upon to understand humanity’s greatest challenges and serve as an educational force for public good.
A warm welcome to the brand new Class of 2018, just beginning their journey of a lifetime at Penn. Welcome back as well to the great Classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017. May you all make the most of the semester to come!
To the Editor:
For the people of Bome Valley in northwestern Cameroon, reliably clean water has long been an uncertain thing. But this summer, students of Penn Engineers Without Borders and their alumni mentors greatly increased its certainty by partnering with local communities to boost the purity and efficiency of their water supply systems. Another Penn EWB team undertook similar efforts in Pajomel, Guatemala. Working at the junction of engineering, intercultural exchange and public health, Penn students made a dramatic difference.
Increasing diversity and inclusion at every level — student, faculty and staff — is one of Penn’s highest institutional priorities. Make no mistake: By working together effectively to achieve diversity and inclusion, our great University will become ever more innovative and eminent.
Increasing diversity at every level of our university has always been and remains one of my highest priorities. I have charged every dean and senior administrator at Penn to make diversity their priority as well. As a result, we have made significant progress in many areas of campus life, as well as our volunteer leadership. And as I have said repeatedly, we still have much work to do.
Hurricane Sandy wasn’t the only windstorm that Penn has had to endure in recent weeks. The hot air and destructive rhetoric that have filled airwaves and crashed across the internet during this campaign season have left many feeling battered in their wake.
What a summer we’ve had. We cheered 2004 School of Arts and Sciences graduate Susan Francia and the U.S. women’s eight as they dominated the 2,000-meter rowing finals at the Olympics in London. We felt special pride as fellow 1977 Law School graduate Anita DeFrantz — captain of the women’s eight bronze medalists at the 1976 Olympics and later the first female vice president of the International Olympic Committee — draped the champion’s gold medal around Susan’s neck.
This weekend there will be a conference on our campus sponsored by Penn BDS that has caused great concern to many in the Penn community. We feel it is important to address the issues around this conference and thus write today to affirm the University’s perspective.
I am thrilled to invite you to join me, Chairman David Cohen, alumni, friends and colleagues as we officially open Penn Park.
A decade has passed since the sadness of that terrible September day in New York, yet the images of 9/11 remain seared in the memory of all who experienced it. And along with the images, there linger the questions: How could people be so filled with hate? How could they and why would they do this?
Being Penn’s President is a 24/7 job, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. At the beginning of each successive academic year, my Red and Blue pride reaches an all-time high. Not only am I constantly meeting passionate and talented students from around the world, I’m also surrounded by eminent faculty and dedicated staff members — links in a long and distinguished chain that stretches back to Penn’s famous founder.
I often hear Penn called a “hot” school because we attract highly talented students who work with eminent faculty in our 12 schools and collaborate with local and global communities to put knowledge to work in the world. This summer, however, Penn’s “hotness” transcended the colloquial. Punishing temperatures made many a flower along Locust Walk droop. In late June, a thunderstorm that promised welcome relief from the humidity felled the mammoth American elm that had shaded the front of College Hall since 1896.
In the summertime, Penn feels like a different place. Locust Walk and College Green are quiet. It’s easy to find a seat for lunch in Houston Hall or on Perelman Quad. There are shorter lines everywhere — at the Bookstore, the PennCard Center, and, yes, Magic Carpet. It’s even possible to get a table at Smokes on Friday night — or so I’ve heard.
I am pleased to report we have taken the first step toward reinventing the eastern edge of Penn’s campus.