There’s a lot of R. Greer Cheeseman III EE’77 in this issue.
Here at the Gazette, we’re more familiar with Greer as the dispenser of warnings about software updates and phishing scams, in his role as IT director for Development and Alumni Relations, the University department we’re housed in. But Greer has a whole other life as a leading member—the uncrowned king!—of Penn Band Nation.
As such, he figures prominently in this issue’s cover story by Molly Petrilla C’06, “And the Band Played On.” Molly interviewed Greer on his involvement with the band as a student and alumnus through his long and continuing service as band director, and on what keeps him going nearly 50 years removed from his days as a tuba-playing “olive in the martini glass” in a rendition of “Drink a Highball” (see page 31 for an explanation).
Molly also recounts the band’s origins and eventual evolution into what’s known as a “scramble band,” to distinguish it from the more traditional marching formations that most high school and college bands go in for. (Penn’s is one of only about 10 in the country, according to another band lifer, Kushol Gupta C’97 Gr’03, assistant director and historian, who also helped out by providing archival photos.) And she talked with current students and other alumni—including now married band couples, and even multigenerational families linked by their participation. As one alum put it, the band “is the longest and most successful relationship of my life.”
Also in this issue, Julia M. Klein profiles Andy Slavitt C’88 W’88 in “The Outsider’s Insider.” The title references the various roles Slavitt has played in championing ways to improve the quality and availability of healthcare for neglected populations in the US—and the formidable Rolodex he has accumulated along the way, which has provided him with exceptional access to policymakers, industry leaders, and experts inside and outside government.
Slavitt first came to wide public notice for his high-stakes rescue of the Affordable Care Act website, HealthCare.gov, after its disastrous launch. He went on to serve in the Obama administration heading the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and to advocate for and invest in innovative approaches to healthcare.
As the pandemic hit in 2020, at the suggestion of his son Zach (now a Penn junior), he started his own podcast, In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt, which has turned out to be much more than a lockdown hobby. Though healthcare remains a major focus, the conversations have broadened to include other political and social issues as well.
Julia also reports, in the “Arts” section, on the opening in November of the Penn Museum’s new Eastern Mediterranean Gallery, which focuses on the interaction among ancient cultures in the region and is the latest milestone in an ongoing major renovation project. Earlier phases included the relocation of the museum’s famed Sphinx and the refurbishing of Harrison Auditorium—which coincidentally was the venue for this year’s Alumni Award of Merit Gala as it returned to an in-person format after being cancelled in 2020 and presented virtually in 2021.
The class and individual award citations, along with our gallery of photos from the football game and festivities, can be found in “Homecoming 2022.” Congratulations to all the winners!
—John Prendergast C’80