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Penn History

A History of Institutional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania

By Amanda K. Klemas, C '06, University Archives Summer Research Fellow, 2004
Under the direction of Mark Frazier Lloyd, Director


Prior to 1930 the Provost was Penn’s chief executive officer. He was expected to shape the educational program of the University and also to shepherd its financial affairs. In 1925, however, the Trustees launched Penn’s first modern fundraising campaign, one that was based on a major academic planning initiative undertaken the year before. This campaign – the General Program of the University of Pennsylvania Fund – was to extend from its public announcement, in May 1925, to the celebration of the University’s Bicentennial, in 1940. It soon became clear that the chairman of the campaign was the chief public spokesman for the image and vision of the University, duties that were quite distinct from those of the chief academic officer.

In November 1930 the Trustees therefore created the modern presidency at Penn and named the campaign chair, fellow Trustee Thomas Sovereign Gates, the first president. The Provost, Josiah H. Penniman, who had led the Educational Survey of 1924 and helped formulate the campaign goals, was freed to focus on the academic mission of the University and direct its research and teaching.

Over the next seventy-five years eight successive presidents set out to make the University of Pennsylvania the world renowned institution that it now is. They did this by carrying out both bold educational initiatives and ambitious fund raising campaigns. Interestingly, while each president served as the leader of the university during different eras, they shared many of the same hopes for the future of the institution.