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From the record-breaking attendance at the annual Alumni Award of Merit Gala (held this year at the magnificent new National Constitution Center on Independence Mall) to the unprecedented number and variety of events designed to entertain and enlighten alumni and their families to a blowout victory in the football team’s march to its second straight Ivy title and only the eighth perfect season in 127 years of Penn football, Homecoming Weekend on November 7-8, 2003, was definitely, as this year’s theme had it, “something to write home about.”

2003 Award of Merit Recipients & Citations

Susan Frier Danilow CW’74, G’74

As a student at Penn, you selected the most demanding program possible for a history undergraduate, emerging Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude with honors in history, while simultaneously acquiring a master’s degree. After writing your thesis on the Social Reaction to the Oneida Community of 1879, you made a smooth transition from the utopian to the real world, earning a degree in law and rising to the position of Vice President and Counsel at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company.

Although the roster of lawyers in your family includes your parents, brother, and your husband, Greg, you eventually turned your attention back to the realms of history and aesthetics, and to Penn. Your interest in historical architecture led to your contributing to the restoration of the landmark Fisher Fine Arts Building. In recent years you have deepened your knowledge and appreciation of art through trips to Italy, accompanied by your children, Melissa and William.

A charter member and current Vice Chair of the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women, you are described as “being absolutely wonderful to work with, having great ideas, and caring deeply about TCPW.” Your leadership contributed greatly to the success of the Celebration of 125 Years of Women at Penn. 

Elsewhere on campus, you get rave reviews for your performance on The Penn Fund Executive Board, as Co-Chair of The Benjamin Franklin Society, and as Gift Chair for your class’s 15th, 20th, 25th, and 30th reunions. In addition, you are a familiar and welcome presence at Penn events on campus and in New York City. 

The applause continues at the Graduate School of Education, where you serve on the Board of Overseers. As a New York regional Co-Chair for the hugely successful Bill Cosby benefit, you hosted a reception at your home. Your diligence and expertise have led to unprecedented success for GSE’s annual fund program and tripled the size of its database, while your persistence is credited with a first-time-ever 100% participation rate for the Board of Overseers. It is no wonder that you are proclaimed “absolutely fabulous” by your GSE colleagues.

And now, adding to the superlatives with the greatest tribute it is in our power to bestow, Penn Alumni recognizes your outstanding service by gratefully presenting you with the Alumni Award of Merit. 

Nadine Landis HUP’46, Ed’50, GNu’65

An ardent documenter of the history of nursing, you have contributed mightily to that legacy yourself. With three Penn degrees, a distinguished career in nursing, and a life of outstanding service to the community, you are a source of facts and stories recalled at a moment’s notice.

Your own Penn story began when you were an undergraduate in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, where you served in the Cadet Nursing Corps. After graduating, you continued with the Corps as head nurse in the Neuro-Surgical Operating Room at HUP. Going on to earn another degree from the School of Education and a master’s in Nursing Administration, you began a history of professional leadership at HUP, culminating in the position of Director of Nursing Administration.

A long-time resident of University City, you are Secretary of the University City Historical Society and past President of the now-dissolved Community Nursing Bureau. A great fan of yours, Dean of Nursing Afaf Meleis, has said that you bring to all of your activities “a vision of the value of historical understanding as a foundation for continuing progress.” At Penn this is demonstrated by your leadership of the HUP Alumni Association and its Archives Committee and your work on the Advisory Board of the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing. Your efforts have resulted in exhibitions, resource materials for researchers, an award-winning video, “Our Legacy,” and a book documenting the first 50 years of the HUP School of Nursing, which closed in 1978. With the materials and oral histories you are presently gathering for the second volume, the story will continue. In addition to reinforcing a sense of continuity and cooperation at Penn, these chronicles have a broader educational value; when the Discovery Channel was doing a film about HUP, they turned to you. 

You were also a driving force in the creation of the Nursing School’s Alumni Hall, designed to recognize the shared legacies of the Nursing School and the HUP School. As a graduate of both programs, you have been able, against odds, to preserve and even strengthen the relationship between the HUP Alumni Association, the Society of the Alumni of the School of Nursing, and the School of Nursing itself, a feat which many regard as among your most important accomplishments.

You have already been recognized with both the HUP Distinguished Alumnus Award and the HUP Legacy Award. Now, recognizing your unique history of service as an alumna and a staff member to the Hospital, the School of Nursing, and the University, it is our pleasure to add to the chronicles of your life by presenting you with Penn Alumni’s highest honor, the Alumni Award of Merit.

Robert P. Levy C’52

When asked ‘How do you get to the University of Pennsylvania Tennis Hall of Fame?’ you know the answer. Practice, practice, practice. Equally, you know firsthand what it takes to be an Emeritus Trustee of Penn and a member of two of its overseer boards and one advisory board. Commitment, commitment, commitment. 

Throughout your life three interests have loomed large—your alma mater, sports, and service to the community. Coming to Penn from the Penn Charter School, where you were on the tennis team, you were a natural for Varsity Tennis and the Varsity Club. After graduating with a major in sociology, you organized the Little Quakers, an all-star football team for 14-year old boys, a team that will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. Other charitable and civic groups for which you enthusiastically provide leadership include the Philadelphia Sports Congress and the Police Athletic League.

As a Penn Trustee, you brought your interest in helping young people to the Student Life Committee and your expertise as a corporate executive to the Investment Board. Recently you marked your class’s 50th reunion by serving on the Gift Committee. Active in leadership positions across the campus, you have been a valued member of the Athletics Advisory Board for over 20 years. You have strengthened tennis as a recreational activity at Penn, and it is fitting that our Levy Tennis Pavilion bears your name. The women’s tennis team especially benefits from your dedication as a volunteer assistant, coaching and cheering them on. 

It was your interest in another sport, thoroughbred racing, and your love of animals that led you to your service as an Overseer of the School of Veterinary Medicine. Your work on behalf of New Bolton Center has helped advance sports medicine for racehorses like your own champion stallion, Bet Twice. An Overseer of the School of Dental Medicine for 24 years, you recently helped create there a new student lounge, equipped with state-of-the-art computers and entertainment areas. The lounge, which is the pride and joy of the students (who have the only keys), is named in honor of your mother, Blanche Paley Levy, and your Penn Dental alumnus father, Dr. Leon Levy, D’15, H’73. 

Penn affiliations run in your family. Your wife, Cissie, who also attended Penn, is a former Overseer of the Center for Judaic Studies and ICA. Other alumni include two uncles, two of your five children—Angela, C’87, and Michael, C’90—and a son-in-law, David Feldman, C’68, WG’80. The tradition continues with two undergraduate grandsons, Alexander and Peter Feldman, C’05 and C’07, respectively.

In recognizing your outstanding service to Penn at this ceremony, we note that your father received the same award in 1971. Such a rare circumstance gives added meaning to this tribute. It is with special pride in Penn’s rich history of family legacies, to which your family so notably contributes, that Penn Alumni gratefully presents you with the Alumni Award of Merit. 

Peter C. Nowell M’52

You were 32 years old when you co-discovered the Philadelphia Chromosome, a critical step in showing that cancer has a genetic basis. The breakthrough earned you the American Society of Experimental Pathology’s annual award for “outstanding contribution to the conquest of disease.” Your continuing investigations have led to many more insights into the processes involved in the normal and abnormal growth of cells of the immune system. Other awards have followed, including one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for biomedical research, the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award. 

One of the School of Medicine’s most loyal alumni and distinguished faculty members, you have, with the exception of your internship and a two-year stint in the Navy, remained at Penn since arriving as a medical student in 1948. Now the Gaylord P. and Mary Louise Harnwell Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, you were chair of the department from 1967-1973. Your clinical discoveries brought increased prominence to the basic research group, and the Immunobiology Group in particular was greatly strengthened. You were also the first director of the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center—now known as the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Although your work has brought you many accolades from your colleagues, it is the love of your wife, Helen, and five children that you most prize. Your students, too, have demonstrated their appreciation and affection, and you have received the University’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. In the larger community, you continue to offer your insights on medicine and other disciplines as a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. At Penn, your volunteerism includes serving on the National Alumni Council, an alumni body charged with cultivating support for the School of Medicine, and as chair of the committee that selects Distinguished Graduate Award recipients. You were a member of your Class Reunion Committee and represented the Class of 1952 as its 50th Reunion Commencement Speaker in 2002, delivering, according to Dean Arthur Rubenstein, “an inspiring address filled with clarity and wit.” 

It is no wonder that you have already been given the School of Medicine’s highest honor, the Distinguished Graduate Award. Now, for your extraordinary service to Penn and indeed to the world, Penn Alumni gratefully presents you with our highest accolade, the Alumni Award of Merit.

Marjorie Osterlund Rendell CW’69

Balancing the scales of justice is precision work. Finding the balance in a life as complicated as yours requires the legerdemain and joie de vivre of a Cirque du Soleil juggler. Fortunately, you speak the language.

As an undergraduate you were a French major, a student-teacher of French, and a member of the French National Honor Society. Already an accomplished pianist, you sang in the Choral Society, excelled at tennis and swimming, served as Social Chair and then President of your sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and stayed on the Dean’s List. Through your work with the local Red Cross, you demonstrated what would be a continuing concern for the health and well being of others. Graduating Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude, you received the award for the senior with the highest cumulative average.

You were a junior at a Penn party when you met Ed Rendell, who was then in law school. A few years later, after working for Penn’s Annual Giving office, and while you were in law school, you decided to make it a pas de deux. As a result, you have gracefully blended the obligations of your own demanding profession—first as a partner in a major Philadelphia law firm, and currently as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit—with those of the wife of Philadelphia’s district attorney and then mayor, and now governor of Pennsylvania. It has been quite a dance.

While living the life of judge, civic and cultural leader, wife of a public figure, and mother of Penn student Jesse, (your father, too, was a Penn alumnus), you have remained an enthusiastic supporter of your alma mater. Once a persuasive advocate for The Campaign for Penn, you continue to demonstrate your convictions by supporting a scholarship. You were Chair of the Penn AlumniNominations Committee and liaison with the Trustees’ Nominating Committee. In addition you served as an Overseer of the School of Arts and Sciences. Now Chair of the Board of Overseers of the School of Nursing, you are not only indispensable to the Dean, but your leadership, strategic vision, tireless energy, and deeply felt commitment have led the nursing community to consider you one of their own. You are also a valued member of the Athletics Advisory Board. A committed member of the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women, you have volunteered for its shadowing program and participated in panels, and you were a featured speaker at the Celebration of125 Years of Women at Penn

Across campus you are known for being as warm and friendly as you are thoughtful and discerning. Some call you Honorable. Some call you lovable. Many call you both. Penn Alumni is proud to call you a recipient of the Alumni Award of Merit.

Creativity and Community

Public Discourse in America, the new book co-edited by Penn president Judith Rodin CW’66 and Dr. Stephen Steinberg Gr’89, is full of surprising discoveries about the way we communicate with each other. But the most interesting finding had to do with community.

As Steinberg told his audience, gathered in a Van Pelt Library classroom on Homecoming Weekend, he went into his research with an idea about community that was eventually disproved. A community isn’t comprised of people with similar backgrounds and values, as he had thought. What its members actually have in common is a shared situation, a vested interest in helping each other and making things work.

Steinberg lectured as part of “Penn in Print,” a series of events celebrating Penn authors at this year’s Homecoming. Under the circumstances, his comments were especially fitting: all the events of the weekend served as reminders of the role community plays in creativity.

The new Homecoming tradition was developed to draw more and different alumni to campus. “We wanted to think of something that was very Penn but not just about football,” said Amy Garawitz, director of alumni education. In collaboration with Van Pelt Library and Kelly Writers House, Garawitz invited writers to participate in a variety of programs.

One of the bigger events, also held in Van Pelt Library, featured three alumni authors—Dan Rottenberg C’64, Leslie Esdaile-Banks W’80, and Caroline Hwang C’91—all of whom had new books out.

In Hwang’s case, it’s also her first book. The former English major—she wanted to spend her junior year in England, so it was either that field of study, or history, she joked—is the author of In Full Bloom, the story of a young fashion editor trying to make a success of herself while thwarting her Korean-born mother’s attempts to marry her off [“All Things Ornamental,” September/October].

Hwang was recently hailed by the Los Angeles Times as part of a new wave of Asian American fiction writers, and she has her own idea about what that means: “I’m trying to be the hyphen in Korean-American.”

Rottenberg talked about bringing 40 years of journalism experience to his nonfiction books. “The basic challenge of a journalist is to ask, ‘Why is the world so screwed up?’” he said. “The irony is that the most unimportant things are the most sexy, but people often overlook the things that really make society move—you know, things like financial markets, common law, indoor plumbing.”

And coal, as it turns out. In the Kingdom of Coal, Rottenberg’s latest book, is a cultural history of the fuel that the author humanized by weaving together the stories of two families in West Virginia—one that ran the mines, and one that worked them.

After hearing Rottenberg speak, Leslie Esdaile-Banks noted that the book sounded like a perfect basis for a mini-series—and she knows a good story when she hears it, having written, at last count, some 16 popular novels herself.

Most of her works have been romances featuring African-American and other minority characters, which Esdaile-Banks, a marketing major at Wharton, recognized as an underserved audience for fiction [“Profiles,” November/December 2002]. Her latest work, Minion, is something different—the first in a projected series of vampire novels featuring Damali Richards, an African-American “Spoken Word artist” who, come nightfall, “hunts vampires and the other night demons that others dismiss as myth or fantasy,” according to the book jacket.

Esdaile-Banks’s discovery of the writing profession has a touch of the fairy tale about it. After graduation from Penn, she entered a career as a marketing manager in the high-tech industry. But her climb up the corporate ladder was interrupted when her six-month-old daughter was badly injured in an accident. As she kept a round-the-clock vigil over her daughter—who is now 13 years old, happy and healthy—Banks decided to enter a fiction contest on a lark. “Writing kept me awake at night as I watched my daughter, and it was inexpensive therapy. It kept me sane.”

While the Penn in Print events were designed with alumni in mind, turnout wasn’t limited to the University’s graduates. “There were even students at some events, which I loved,” said Garawitz.

She was referring specifically to Dr. Tukufu Zuberi’s stirring lecture about race in America. The sociology professor and director of Penn’s Center for Africana Studies discussed his book, Thicker Than Blood: How Racial Statistics Lie. His forthcoming collection of essays will also break down the myths inherent in the way we understand race. “Race is not about shared biological features, but about shared situations,” he told a packed room in Van Pelt Library.

Another goal of Homecoming planning was to do more to include families. That’s where Shakespeare fanatic Diane Herr CW’67 GEd’68 entered the picture. Her unique program, “Much Ado About Something,” brings the language of Shakespeare’s plays to kids many teachers consider too young to understand him [“Profiles,” May/June]. After her event at the Penn Bookstore Saturday morning, Herr said it was “amazing” to see how easily kids as young as six can absorb the information.

And they did seem to grasp the finer points. When Herr asked the group why a painting of Shakespeare showed him holding a quill pen, one small voice offered: “’cause he had to write some stuff down!”

The weekend’s writerly events concluded in the warm atmosphere of Kelly Writers House, where four generations of Penn authors shared their work. House director Jennifer Snead C’94 said the program was easy to put together: “The readers were all such obvious choices.”

As the most recent grad, poet Allie D’Augustine C’02 had the good fortune to spend all four of her undergraduate years soaking up the atmosphere of the Writers House; her poems had the startling insight of someone who’s hit the ground running. Four students in the theater arts program brought to life two scenes from playwright Suzanne Maynard Miller C’89’s delightful comedy, Flirting With the Deep End. And Dr. Paul Fussell, the Regan Emeritus Professor of English, read from a humor piece on what he called one of the 20th century’s two inventions in short prose: letters to the editor by disgruntled authors whose books got lousy reviews. (The other invention? The equally self-aggrandizing classified sex-ad.)

But there was also a bit of serendipity that made the evening sparkle. Director of the creative writing program Greg Djanikian C’71 was slated to read from his book of poems Years Later, but was unable to make it at the last minute. 

Snead, who majored in English with a concentration in creative writing, had invited her former poetry professor, Daniel Hoffman, to the event months ago. Hoffman, the Felix Schelling Emeritus Professor of English, assured her he wouldn’t miss it—had inscribed the date on “tablets of jade.” The first professor to teach poetry workshops at the University, Hoffman volunteered to do the reading himself. Later, he said he was delighted to read the poems of Djanikian, one of the very first students he taught at Penn, as a favor to Snead, one of his very last.

How’s that for community?

Katie Haegele C’98 last wrote for the Gazette on her love of linguistics in “Alumni Voices” in the March/April 2003 issue.

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