DEDICATION | Good eating, fond memories, and dumb jokes combined in the March 17 dedication of Riepe College House in the Quad. The food (served to the students and other guests who thronged a tent set up in the lower Quad) ranged from grilled cheese to sushi, the fond memories were prompted by the blown-up photos from the student days of donors Jim W’65 WG’67 and Gail Riepe CW’68, and Mask & Wig supplied the jokes.
The party was the centerpiece of a celebration recognizing the $10 million pledge by the Riepes to fund renovations to the former Spruce College House, whose amenities include two libraries, a computer lab, two music practice rooms, a fitness center, and two seminar rooms for the house’s 487 residents.
Riepe House Faculty Master Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, associate professor of history, cited the “incredible potential” of Penn’s college houses and thanked the Riepes for “choosing this way to share their love for Penn” as well as for “throwing this party.”
Noting that “two generations of the Riepe family have called the Quad home for part of their academic life at Penn,” President Amy Gutmann recognized the presence of the Riepes’ children and grandchildren, as well as Gail Riepe’s mother, in the audience. She described how Jim and Gail met at Penn back in the days when “students got busted when they missed curfew,” and added that, for current students, the relationships they forge here may be just as important “three decades from today.”
Jim Riepe, chair of Penn’s board of trustees, echoed the theme in his remarks, describing the college houses as a way to shrink what can seem an imposingly large institution and “create a comfortable and stimulating environment in which students can grow as individuals and intellectuals.”
Noting that Penn’s college houses were still young, he called his family’s pledge a “vote of confidence” in the system. He also credited fellow alumni Alan Hassenfeld C’70 and Jerome Fisher W’53 for making leading gifts for college houses, and praised Art History Professor and former College House Director David Brownlee as the “heart and soul of the house system when it was really needed,” as well as a fine construction manager.
“The reason people support Penn is you—the students,” Riepe said, in order to make Penn a “a place you want to attend” and “an even better place than when each of us was a student.” In the future, that will be the responsibility of today’s students, he added, calling on them to “give something back.”
After the Riepes had been presented with gifts of appreciation and President Gutmann had unveiled a replica of a stone carving of the Riepe House emblem, Mask & Wig took the stage.
Jim Riepe was the main target of the troupe’s barbs, which included a crack about his being a football star on one of Penn’s losingest teams, though Gail Riepe had to see herself portrayed via some pretty terrible wigs. An overseer of the School of Veterinary Medicine, she also came in for some relatively gentle ribbing about her fondness for animals.
The rest of the show featured several musical numbers (“Tuition,” to the tune of “Tradition,” was a highlight) and what might best be called time-honored student stereotypes—the illiterate Whartonite, females in search of a “Mrs.” degree—as well as some special-to-the-occasion humor, like a skit riffing on “naming opportunities” that included something like the “Poopdepants Study Suite.”
While some administrators may have squirmed a bit, the Riepes seemed to enjoy themselves, and the students laughed and ate, and talked, and maybe met a new friend.
Or, at least, went home with a full stomach and a travel mug commemorating the occasion. —J.P.