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Celebrate!—then Move Forward

On April 19, Penn will celebrate the conclusion of the campaign here on campus with a party at Penn Park and other events, and that will be followed by gatherings to mark the success of Making History in cities across the country and internationally.

But nobody’s slowing down.

“We will celebrate, largely to thank the people who have made all of these meaningful differences possible,” says Gutmann. “But that will be a fraction of the time that will be spent over the next year in moving Penn forward. The whole point of this campaign is to continue Penn’s momentum, making a difference in scholarship, teaching, and clinical practice, which are the three things that are the engine of opportunity and advancement in our world.”

“We can’t afford to rest on our laurels,” Cohen agrees. “We still have to continue to fundraise, and make sure that we continue to engage the thousands and thousands of alumni who have either become engaged with Penn for the first time or reengaged with Penn.”

The end of the campaign provides a moment to “pause and take stock and to set certain objectives for the next five years or the next 10 years,” he says. “While that may not involve a new capital campaign denominated like the Making History campaign was, it does enable us to identify a new set of priorities, both to fundraise against and to attempt to move the University’s objectives in a positive direction.”

In George Weiss’s view, Penn’s has achieved the goal of moving the University “from excellence to eminence,” in Gutmann’s formulation. “You can almost use the word catapult because this campaign has catapulted us into a new stratosphere,” he says. “To maintain that and get even better, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Both men express satisfaction that the next phase of that work, like the last one, will be accomplished under the leadership of Amy Gutmann, who last spring agreed to extend her contract as Penn’s president through 2019.

“To give us a total of 15 years with Amy, that was absolutely huge, and that generated a lot of excitement,” says Weiss.

“There is no better evidence of the work that there is to do—and the commitment that Amy has to do that work—than her decision to sign on so early and to commit herself” for an additional five years in College Hall, Cohen says.

Before she could accept the trustees’ “generous invitation to continue as president,” Gutmann says she had to determine whether she could develop a “set of goals with my team—I have a fabulous team—that would enable me to be as busy, as well as excited about the future, as I’ve been about my time—my nine years now—as president” and that would be as “challenging and inspiring as the original ones that the whole team and the Penn community adopted under the Penn Compact.”

As she did at the start of her presidency, Gutmann began this process “by talking to people who were an important part of enabling the Penn Compact to move forward, trying out my ideas on them and saying, ‘Is this something that you think, A, would make a big difference to Penn; and, B, you would want to be part of the team that drives it forward?’”

Ultimately, she put together a list of 10 strategic priorities—a mix of what she calls “evergreen goals” and new initiatives—for the University’s next phase.

Among the “evergreens” is the need to “continue to build financial aid,” she says. While Penn’s position has improved enormously in this area, “we’re still relatively underendowed compared to the peers we compete with on financial aid.” Similarly, fundraising for faculty support will continue to be emphasized—more PIK professorships, more endowed and term professorships (designed to last for a limited time)—as will maintaining Penn’s leadership in key fields of scholarship and research.

Among the new goals is to “do more to improve our undergraduate housing at Penn,” says Gutmann. The new College House slated for Hill Field is just the beginning. “We’re going to have to continue to improve all of our undergraduate college housing.”

Penn will also seek to accelerate and expand initiatives to bring “discoveries to the world with translational research, making Philadelphia more and more of a place where entrepreneurs gravitate.” Key to this effort will be Penn South Bank, the 23-acre property in Grays Ferry that the University purchased in 2010 and hopes to transform into “a tech transfer center for our campus and the city,” Gutmann says.

Still other new priorities have to do with expanding Penn’s global presence, in China, for example, and exploring the rapidly developing world of online education through the University’s involvement with Coursera. (For more on that, see this article.)

As the Making History campaign becomes, well, history, Gutmann describes herself as “at least as excited about the future as I am about the past.”

“Nobody gave to Penn to make us sit back on our haunches and be satisfied. We are not a complacent university, and we’re not going to declare victory and retire,” she says. “We’re going to declare victory and show how much of a difference this makes, not just for the University, but for our community and the world. And that means more work. There’s a lot more work ahead.”

The purpose of the Penn Compact was to create a framework to “take Penn from excellence to eminence,” Gutmann says. “And now we’re on the road from eminence to preeminence.”

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