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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.

Josiah Harmar Penniman, c. 1939
Josiah H. Penniman
Provost: as chief executive officer, 1923-1930; as chief academic officer, 1930-1939
Thomas Sovereign Gates, c. 1930
Thomas Sovereign Gates
President from 1930-1944
George William McClelland, 1929
George William McClelland
President from 1944-1948
Harold Edward Stassen, c. 1950
Harold Edward Stassen
President from 1948-1953
William Hagan DuBarry, c. 1950
William Hagan DuBarry
Acting President, 1950-1951, 1952, 1953
Gaylord Probasco Harnwell, c. 1955
Gaylord Probasco Harnwell
President from 1953-1970
Martin Meyerson, 1970
Martin Meyerson
President from 1970-1981
Sheldon Hackney, c. 1985
Francis Sheldon Hackney
President from 1981-1993
Claire Muriel Mintzer Fagin, 1993
Claire Muriel Mintzer Fagin
Interim President from 1993-1994
Judith Seitz Rodin, 1994
Judith Seitz Rodin
President from 1994-2004