On Friday, October 15, 2004, former Princeton Provost Amy Gutmann was formally inaugurated as Penn’s eighth president. Beginning on page 30, we devote a considerable portion of this issue to reporting on the inaugural events, which included the ceremony itself in Irvine Auditorium; a concert aimed primarily at students; assorted dinners, luncheons, and receptions; and an ambitious series of panel discussions organized around the theme of “Rising to the Challenges of a Diverse Democracy.”
But before the pomp and circumstance of the inaugural ceremony, the intellectual weight of the symposium, or even the music of The Roots and the Pat McGee Band at Hill Field, in the very first event of her inaugural week, Dr. Gutmann traded academic regalia for jeans and a T-shirt to join other volunteers at the “Penn-West Philadelphia Community Celebration Day and Health Fair” at Sayre High School at 58th and Walnut on Saturday, October 9.
The fair included free health screenings by students and faculty from Penn’s medical, nursing and dental schools, food and drinks, and clean-up and improvement of the school and surrounding area. Gutmann and other volunteers did some interior painting and scrubbing and planted shrubs and trees, among other activities.
Gutmann told the gathered participants that “there is no better way I could have imagined to kick off my inauguration than to have this community partnership put into action at the Sayre School.” Citing the “old and wise African saying” that it takes a village to raise a child, she emphasized that a community-wide effort is needed to keep West Philadelphia and the University moving forward. “This is our community. This is my community, and this is only the beginning of a great thing,” she said. “So let’s roll up our sleeves [and] get to work.”
Also in this issue, in “Strange Labyrinth,” senior editor Samuel Hughes tells the story—both a romance and a tragedy—of graduate alumni Jo Roberts Gr’75 and Jim Gaines Gr’77 and how it led to the gift to Penn’s library of an extraordinarily rare 17th-century book. Only 29 original copies of The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania exist today, and the one at Penn is the only copy to include handwritten annotations by the author, Lady Mary Wroth. Jim Gaines donated it as a memorial to his beloved wife Jo whose groundbreaking scholarship helped establish Wroth in the literary canon before her own life was cut short.
When Nancy Davidson C’84 decided to try her hand at writing about food, she quickly discovered that a number of her Penn contemporaries were also working in the field. Curious about the paths that had led them there, she went and asked them. In “Taste Quakers,” she tells what she found out. (Several of the people she talked to shared a house as students, and our illustration puts them together at the table again, with a pioneer in the food-writing genre—Alan Richman C’65—looking down from a portrait on the wall.)
Finally, this issue also includes our annual coverage of Homecoming and the Alumi Awards of Merit. This was Dr. Gutmann’s first Homecoming Weekend as Penn’s president, and, following immediately upon her inauguration festivities, provided ample proof that she surely possesses one key trait for a leader of this University—stamina.
—John Prendergast C’80