With “Boundless Enthusiasm,” Gutmann Becomes President-Elect

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The police crossing-guard with the power-ballet moves shrieked his whistle and halted a SEPTA bus at the intersection of 36th and Walnut with his trademark flair on February 20. But this was no ordinary midday traffic stop.

Crossing the street was Dr. Amy Gutmann, the University’s new president-elect, in a jubilant procession through campus led by the Penn Band. Before the drum cadence began, Gutmann had earned a standing ovation at the Inn at Penn’s Woodlands Ballroom, where the trustees unanimously voted to make her Penn’s eighth president. She assumes office on July 1, succeeding Dr. Judith Rodin CW’66.

Returning the enthusiasm of the crowd at the meeting, Gutmann said, “It is with your welcome support alongside that of my wonderful family and friends, and it is with gratitude toward the remarkable presidents who came before me, that I pledge to do my utmost to lead this vibrant university to ever greater heights of intellectual excellence, societal, and world leadership—not to mention ever more Ivy League basketball, football, and many other Ivy League championships,” she added to hopeful applause. 

“And it is with my utmost appreciation, boundless enthusiasm, and limitless commitment to contribute whatever I can … that I accept your invitation to become the eighth president of the University of Pennsylvania.”

In nominating Gutmann, who is currently provost of Princeton, trustee and search committee member Al Shoemaker W’60 Hon’95 said, “I’m as excited about the prospects for Penn under Dr. Gutmann’s leadership as I was 10 years ago when we nominated Dr. Rodin.”

Shoemaker went on to add, “No resume can communicate the overwhelming sense of Amy Gutmann’s intelligence, integrity, and personal power that was provided by her colleagues in their references. The top tier of leadership in higher education throughout the country unreservedly believe that Amy not only will take Penn to the next level … but also that she is uniquely qualified for that task among a field of remarkable and able scholars and leaders.” 

Shoemaker was seconded by four other trustees who served on the search committee. Dr. Deborah Marrow CW’70 Gr’78 said Gutmann is “well equipped to deal with a new environment at Penn, whether it concerns the medical center or the role of the University within the city of Philadelphia. She is keenly aware of what she knows and what she does not yet know; she knows what questions to ask and when to ask them; she knows how to assemble an excellent team and how to inspire it and lead it forward.”

Egbert Perry CE’76 WG’78 GCE’79 emphasized Gutmann’s strength as an educator and her commitment to undergraduate teaching and programs. “She has written about education as the critical ingredient to democracy itself and, as her Princeton President’s Distinguished Teaching Award attests, she has never wavered in her identification as a teacher,” Perry said. As Penn’s president, he added, Gutmann will “strive to ensure that a Penn education is available to every deserving young person, wherever in the world he or she may be.”

Noting the strong reputation Penn already enjoys, as well as Gutmann’s own commitment to academic excellence, trustees vice-chair Mickey Tarnopol W’58 said her election sends a signal to Penn’s alumni that “the stock in their diplomas can only go up.” He also identified the president-elect as “a top-flight manager [who] will steward Penn’s resources wisely.” 

Paul Williams W’67, president of Penn Alumni, said Gutmann also “recognizes the complexities of the society within which we all live today [and] earnestly believes that the academy represents one of the best forums for open discussion and debate about how to understand and confront those societal challenges.” Under Gutmann’s leadership, he added, Penn will “continue to encourage civil dialogue on some of the most difficult issues of our times.”

After the meeting, Gutmann —accompanied by her family, Rodin, and the trustees—processed through College Green and into the Perelman Quadrangle, waving to well wishers along the way. (Mixing in with the procession and competing with the band’s music were several dozen members of GET-UP, a group seeking graduate-student unionization. See following story.)

The president-elect was further feted at a private luncheon in Houston Hall, which was attended by University administrators, faculty, and staff; Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell C’65 Hon’00; and Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. During that event she got to practice one important task that every Penn president must master: singing “The Red and Blue.”


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