As every reader is surely aware but few anticipated, on November 8 Donald J. Trump W’68 was elected the 45th president of the United States and is the first University graduate to reach the office. President-elect Trump—whose children Donald Jr W’00, Ivanka W’04, and Tiffany C’16 are also Penn alumni—came to Penn as a transfer student from Fordham University and spent two years on campus earning his bachelor of science in economics from the Wharton School.
Having noted that milestone, there’s not much more we can say about the 2016 election that readers don’t already know in detail and have their own feelings about. Winning the US presidency may be the only alumni achievement capable of both delighting and bitterly disappointing large segments of the alumni community. (See “Letters” for some early reader responses).
More important, it is the only one where every twist and turn along the way is observed and analyzed by a national and worldwide audience. At various points during the long campaign we’ve all recently lived through, a few alumni—not all necessarily Trump supporters—suggested that the Gazette was remiss in not writing about his candidacy, since it was the “biggest” story out there.
But I think that view misreads our purpose, which is to help alumni keep themselves informed about developments at the University and the activities of their fellow graduates. Given the extensive coverage available elsewhere—everywhere, all the time—I didn’t feel that the Gazette had anything original to add to readers’ understanding of Mr. Trump or the campaign. That continues to be the case in these weeks after his surprise Electoral College victory, as the frenzy of attention has shifted to the president-elect’s transition (just check your Facebook and Twitter feeds).
Going forward we’ll be reporting on the Trump presidency as the forces that shaped the election continue to be analyzed and the new administration’s policies are debated on campus, and as those policies affect the work and lives of the alumni, students, and faculty we write about. That awaits his inauguration later this month and how he proceeds to govern afterward.
Elsewhere in this issue, in “Protecting ‘Negative Heritage’ in Rwanda,” JoAnn Greco reports on a PennPraxis team working to help officials develop plans for preserving a church building (and its contents, including clothing that was worn by victims murdered there) that now serves as a memorial site to the country’s 1994 genocide. One chilling constraint on their work is that the clothing cannot be fully cleaned, since that might destroy DNA evidence of the killings.
Molly Petrilla’s “What Kids Want (to Watch)” traces the career of Linda Simensky C’85 from the early days of Nicktoons and Cartoon Network—where she had a hand in getting some of the most-beloved cartoons of the 1990s on air—to her current position as vice president for children’s programming at PBS. There, she tries to make the shows as funny as ever but also to teach some lessons along the way. Molly also sat in on the history of animation class Simensky teaches at Penn, where a student once told the cartoon veteran: “you are the history of animation”—which, Simensky says, she decided to take as a compliment.
In “Suiting Up,” Robert Strauss tells the stories of several alumni who have found their careers in the business of sports, from a pioneer sports-broadcasting executive to a leader in the sports world’s social-impact movement.
Finally, this is also the issue that includes our annual gallery of Homecoming photos (plus stories on two arts & culture anniversaries this time around), as well as the Alumni Awards of Merit and citations. Congratulations to all the winners!