Our cover line, “ Bob’s Place,” and the title of this issue’s cover story, “At the Center of It All,” together pretty much sum up the role that Robert Schoenberg GrS’89 has played in the counseling and support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students at Penn and in the development of the LGBT Center on campus. Schoenberg, who retired as the Center’s director in September, has been the indispensable figure at Penn for advancing LGBT issues for the past 35 years.
Frequent contributor Dave Zeitlin C’03 spoke with Schoenberg about his own personal and professional journey and the many changes he’s been a part of at Penn, and interviewed a number of alumni who were there when the Center was getting its start and who have supported it over the years. He also talked with Erin Cross—the Center’s senior associate director, who was named to succeed Schoenberg—about its future and possible new directions for LGBT support and activities. (Also, please visit our website, thepenngazette.com, for a report from Dave on the ceremony renaming the Carriage House in Schoenberg’s honor, which took place on October 14 as the print magazine was going to press.)
Everyone Dave interviewed spoke warmly of their association with Bob, but a current freshman, one of the last students Schoenberg counseled before his retirement, may have offered the best tribute: “I like him. He’s genuine. He’s friendly. And he has a personality.”
A century ago this year, the career of another significant figure at Penn came to an end under considerably less happy circumstances. Economist and visionary thinker Simon Patten led the Wharton School in the Progressive Era, presiding over enormous growth in the number of students and faculty and putting the school on the map intellectually—before being pushed out of his position by an increasingly conservative Penn leadership, and ultimately falling into obscurity.
In “Prophet of Prosperity,” associate editor Trey Popp tells how Patten’s economic ideas were formed from his experiences growing up on his family’s farm and details his role as a champion of protectionist trade policy (in line with the views of industrialist Joseph Wharton, who termed free trade economics a “fungus”). Patten anticipated future developments as various as the consumer society, feminism, the obesity epidemic, and many aspects of the New Deal. Among other innovations, he apparently coined the term social work and instituted the first recognizable program of training in the field at Wharton.
But the reformist impulse became unwelcome at Penn as the 20th century got going. The notorious dismissal of Patten protégé Scott Nearing C1906 Gr1909 in 1915 was evidence of the changed climate and a foreshadowing of Patten’s own, less dramatic fate a couple of years later: when he reached retirement age “the trustees broke with custom and declined to extend his tenure—even as they extended that of one of his colleagues,” Trey writes.
But Patten was a beloved teacher, and his influence lived on in the students he inspired—called “Patten’s men,” even though one of them was Frances Perkins, FDR’s secretary of labor and the first woman to serve in a Cabinet post. And today, as economic orthodoxies are being broadly questioned, his ideas about trade are being taken up again—in our own country and most especially in China.
Another anniversary: 75 years ago this month—specifically, on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942—a film called Casablanca had its world premiere in New York. It would go into nationwide release in 1943, win the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1944, and ultimately become “Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie,” as the subtitle of film scholar Noah Isenberg C’89’s recent book, We’ll Always Have Casablanca, puts it.
Isenberg, a professor of culture and media at the New School, is profiled in “Everybody Comes to Casablanca.” His book offers a comprehensive, entertaining overview of the film’s casting, writing, and production; its reception around the world; and the ways it has maintained its hold on audiences ever since. But it is especially eye-opening in its portrayal of the many émigré actors whose roles as refugees languishing in Casablanca reflected their precarious existence in Hollywood.
Finally, a few months ago I happened to see an article about a “new trend” of college dormitories designed to draw students to common spaces that would help them make friends. Shockingly, it didn’t mention Hill House, which had been doing that for decades before being closed for renovation in May 2016. We wrote about the goals of the $80 million project when it was announced [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2016]. The building reopened this fall, and Greg Benson’s photos in “Hill Rises” show just how successful the effort was.