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With Enthusiasm

To hear others tell it, Penn’s president had quite a bit to do with that success as well.

When Amy Gutmann, previously Princeton’s provost, took office as Penn’s eighth president in 2004, it was widely assumed that the University would be embarking on its first comprehensive capital campaign since 1994 (which raised $1.47 billion, a record at the time).

Gutmann’s predecessor in College Hall, Judith Rodin CW’66 Hon’04, had called her strategic plan the “Agenda for Excellence.” Gutmann launched her presidency with the announcement of the “Penn Compact,” a guide to advance the University “from excellence to eminence,” built around the goals of increasing access, integrating knowledge by fostering interdisciplinary teaching and research, and engaging locally and globally. Those principles, in turn, helped shape many of the priorities identified in Making History, which got its public launch in October 2007.

David L. Cohen L’81, chair of the trustees, says that Gutmann’s “extraordinary leadership” has been essential to the success of the campaign and to Penn’s progress throughout her presidency. “She has articulated an ambitious vision for the University. And she has an almost unique way of communicating that vision and of generating excitement for it.”

George Weiss W’65, the longtime trustee who chaired the Making History campaign and was also among its most generous donors, describes Gutmann as “the best college president in the land.”

For her part, Gutmann returns the compliments, praising Cohen and former Trustee Chair James Riepe W’65 WG’67 Hon’10 for their commitment and support. She calls Weiss “the heart and soul of the campaign,” recalling the moment when he handed her an envelope—addressed To Amy and sporting a smiley face—that contained a $14 million check for financial aid. (Among Weiss’s other contributions to the campaign was a $20 million gift to endow four PIK professorships.)

Gutmann also singles out as key alumni volunteer leaders the campaign’s co-chairs—Andrea Mitchell CW’67, Rosemary Mazanet Gr’81 M’86, Robert M. Levy WG’74, and “the late, alas, Henry Jordan [M’62 GM’67] and Chris Browne [C’69]”—and the members of the Major Gifts Committee. And she calls Penn Alumni President Lee Spelman Doty W’76 “ubiquitous” for her frequent presence on campus and at alumni gatherings elsewhere. “Lee gives of her time like nobody I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of George Weiss and David Cohen.”

Penn’s 12 deans and six center directors first led the development of priorities for their institutions, and then the fundraising efforts to achieve them, Gutmann notes, and their success has “been at the heart of the campaign” as well, she says. “The deans have been phenomenal partners,” from those—like Engineering Dean Eduardo Glandt GCh’75 Gr’77 and Michael Fitts, dean of the Law School—who “signed on for extended tours of duty,” to relative newcomers like Penn Medicine’s J. Larry Jameson and Dental School Dean Denis Kinane, who have “come on board and hit the ground running and been so dedicated to moving our priorities forward.”

Besides praising Gutmann and Weiss—“an amazing individual philanthropist for the University, [and] an amazing leader of this campaign”—Cohen expresses special gratitude toward Riepe, who chaired the trustees from 1999 to 2009, and John Zeller, vice president for development and alumni relations. “I get to be chair at the end, but Jim led the effort in designing the campaign and in launching it, and was the leader of the trustees for a majority of the time of the campaign,” he says. As for Zeller, “We knew we hired the right head of development when we hired John, but there’s nothing like seeing him in action during the course of the campaign.”

But when it comes to listing those responsible, “you almost don’t want to stop,” says Cohen. “You cannot have a campaign as successful as this was without an army of leaders and supporters. You have the mega-gifts, which attract headlines. But there are so many first-time million-dollar donors. There are so many first-time donors. There was so much outreach and so much engagement.”

“It really takes a whole university to make a campaign that’s as comprehensive as ours,” Gutmann says. “The amount of passion, as well as generosity, and the delight that all of those people had in being part of this—that’s what made it move forward. I like to quote Emerson: ‘Nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm.’ And the enthusiasm of our strongest supporters is unrivaled.”

True Test

That unflagging enthusiasm met its greatest challenge when the bottom fell out of the stock market in the fall of 2008, about a year after the launch of the campaign’s public phase. Gutmann calls the Great Recession “the true test of both our momentum and the dedication, loyalty, and pride of Penn alumni and friends.” Despite the downturn, “we continued apace,” she says. “And all the credit goes to our alumni, parents, and friends who believed in our mission.”

Weiss points out that “people’s net worth dropped precipitously, roughly about 40 percent in that [2008-2009] market decline.” That certainly had an impact on donors’ willingness—and ability—to give, “but what really came through is [that] people love Penn,” he says. “They love the great job that Amy’s done.” Both current students and alumni share this spirit, he adds. “They speak, you know, with great love for the University. So when you sit down with somebody [about supporting Penn] and find out where their passions are, it has actually been a lot easier task than one would think.”

Cohen notes that the campaign’s goal of $3.5 billion—far more than the University had ever tried to raise—was seen as a stretch by many, even without the economic turmoil since 2008. “So you start with a very ambitious goal. Then this enormous recession hits, and we still end up at the end of the day with this record-breaking performance. It helps to underscore the remarkable nature of everyone’s performance in connection with the campaign.”

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