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Look in Any Direction

From the middle of College Green, Gutmann says, “no matter what direction you look in, there’s an important facility” that has been built or renovated, is under way, or in the planning stages, thanks to the Making History campaign.

South of Spruce Street, for example, there has been an explosion of construction related to medical research and patient care. In the area where the old Civic Center once fell into decline, now stand the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, and the Smilow Translational Research Center. “These are facilities and programs that have transformed Penn Medicine and will continue to bear fruits for decades to come after the campaign,” says David Cohen.

“The lives we save and the quality of our patient care” at Penn’s clinical practices and hospitals “is something we measure day in and day out,” says Gutmann. The new medical and research facilities “are making a huge difference, both in giving hope to families, and through discoveries that are making a difference in the lives of people today.”

At the School of Nursing, phased renovations to Claire M. Fagin Hall, named for the professor and dean emerita who also served as Penn’s interim president in 1993-94, are updating classroom and laboratory spaces to accommodate advances in the nursing curriculum and making the building more useful and welcoming to students, faculty, and alumni visitors.

On 34th Street between Spruce and Walnut, the Music Building, once an eyesore, has been “beautifully restored and renovated.” Repointing and cleaning made the “gorgeous brickwork” visible again; that, combined with a well-received addition behind the original structure, made it something that passersby “smile [at] rather than ignore.”

Another important renovation project is the soon-to-be-completed Special Collections Center in Van Pelt Library, occupying parts of the fifth and sixth floors, which will be the new home of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and other collections. In one dramatic feature, the library renovation will create a top-floor outdoor terrace with “views of [College Green] and Center City that are really to die for,” Gutmann says.

Further up Locust Walk, work to restore and modernize the old Christian Association building—now the Arts, Research, and Culture House (ARCH)—is under way, and next door on 36th Street is the home of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, completed in 2009. Golkin Hall, which opened in 2012 on Sansom Street between 34th and 36th, strengthened the Law School’s facilities for classrooms, offices, and lectures and other events.

Other new projects are still under construction—like the Singh Center for Nanotechnology, set to open its doors this year—or in the planning stages—like the Neurobehavioral Science building, for which the necessary funding has been secured. And while no gift announcement can yet be made, “we’re moving full steam ahead with the College House on Hill Square” included among the campaign’s goals, Gutmann says.

But the most striking physical transformation lies at the eastern edge of campus. That’s where the green space and state-of-the-art athletic fields of Penn Park have replaced the weedy, cracked asphalt expanse of the former “postal lands,” and Weiss Pavilion and Shoemaker Green have remade the area around those historic Penn athletics icons, Franklin Field and the Palestra.

Besides the benefits to Penn students, faculty, and staff, Penn Park also relates powerfully to the engagement goals of the Penn Compact, says Cohen. “Penn Park and the investment that that represented for the east end of the Penn campus provides green space and recreational space for the Penn community, but it also represents a huge investment in the [larger] community in providing this amazing green link between the University and Center City Philadelphia.”

“The whole vision of Penn Park is transformational. It’s like heaven out there,” Weiss says, calling it a “great signature of the work that Dr. Gutmann has done for dear old Pennsylvania.”

Weiss admits that initially he was lukewarm about Weiss Pavilion, the training facility ingeniously tucked under the North Arches of Franklin Field, but says he is now “delighted with it,” if only because it puts his name next to emeritus trustee and former trustee chair Al Shoemaker W’60 Hon’95—for whom Shoemaker Green, which replaced the old tennis courts in front of the Palestra, is named. “[Al] is a dear friend and dedicated to Penn in so many different ways. Having us juxtaposed forever, overlooking Franklin Field, really gives me great personal pleasure,” Weiss says. “And I kid him that my football players are going to throw beer cans on his lawn.”

Home Away from Home

The campaign’s non-financial goals came out of a recognition that “for the health of the institution going forward, it’s not just what dollars you bring in in a given year,” says Penn Alumni President Lee Doty. “It’s creating that connection so that alums really feel that Penn is their home away from home for the rest of their lives. It’s their intellectual home. It’s their social home. It’s something that they really feel tied to forever.”

Since the start of the campaign, the level of alumni engagement “has soared,” she says, rising by some 66 percent since 2007. “That can be measured in lots of different ways, but basically in terms of touch-points with our alums.”

First, attendance at Homecoming and Alumni Weekend “has gone way up,” she says. “In part it’s because I like to think that we’ve made it a lot more compelling for alumni to come back.” At Homecoming, for example, the traditional attraction of the football game—still an important one, Doty is quick to note—has been augmented with an arts & culture theme, including gallery tours, panel discussions, and performance events.

“I think we’ve done a lot over the last several years to recognize that Penn alums are not homogeneous, just the way Penn students aren’t homogeneous,” she says. “There are lots of different constituencies, lots of different areas of focus. And we’ve tried to create programs that appeal to as many people as possible.”

Doty calls “Engaging Minds,” which sends PIK professors and other topflight scholars to share their work with alumni audiences, “the signature event” in these efforts. What she values most, she adds, are the exchanges between the professors and the alumni in the audience, who are often leaders in the relevant fields as well. “To see that interaction has been great.”

A push to engage younger alumni, called yPenn, has paid off in increased attendance at the five-year reunions, Doty says, which have been setting records. “I think last year we had close to a thousand people come. We’d never had anywhere near that kind of attendance.” And keeping the alumni connection strong from the beginning tends to make continuing involvement more likely.

Another initiative Doty highlights is Penn Spectrum, targeted to minority, LGBT, and other diverse groups, which was first offered in October 2010 and will return this fall. “In many cases there are alums who had been out of school for decades who had never been back on campus until they responded to the outreach for Penn Spectrum,” she says.

Attendance at events isn’t the only measure of outreach. These days, Penn is just a click away, so visits to the University’s website; Penn-related activity on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks; and alumni subscriptions to email newsletters like Penn News Today and Red & Blue Online are additional measures of engagement (not to mention the Gazette’s reach in our print, web, and iPad platforms).

Alumni education efforts, like webinars where professors offer “office hours” to discuss their research and answer questions, and participation in Penn Alumni Travel are other potential “touch-points” Doty cites. The latter program, which used to be “sort of a random collection of trips,” has been revamped to be “much more connected with Penn professors” providing relevant expertise along the way.

“We have 300,000 alums, so there are lots of ways that we can get out and reach them,” says Doty. “There’s always more we can do, but I feel really good about what we’ve done so far.”

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