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Penn Notables

University Leaders Provosts, 1755-Present

This history was inspired by the chronology found in Martin Meyerson's and Dilys Pegler Winegrad's Gladly Learn and Gladly Teach (1978) but has now been substantially enlarged and interpreted by Mark Frazier Lloyd and Mary D. McConaghy, with the assistance of Michael T. Woods

The following chronological list of University of Pennsylvania Provosts includes some account of the Provosts’ authority over time.

All Provosts, from William Smith to Charles Janeway Stillé, had oversight of the College faculty. None, however, had oversight of the Medical and Law faculties until the administration of William Pepper.

In several steps, over the course of Provost Pepper’s tenure, all faculties began to report to the Provost.

Penniman first served as Acting Provost in 1921 and 1922, before being named Provost in January 1923.

In January 1931 the Trustees amended the Statutes of the University to provide for a President and four Vice Presidents: a Vice President in Charge of Undergraduate Schools; a Vice President in Charge of Medical Affairs; a Vice President in Charge of the Law School; and a Vice President for Administration. The Provost remained in charge of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University Library, and Research. This action greatly reduced the Provost’s sphere of authority and only over six decades did the Office of the Provost regain full administrative oversight of all faculties at the University.

When McClelland was elected Provost, the Trustees also merged his former position – Vice President in Charge of Undergraduate Schools – into the Office of the Provost. This action restored the College, the Towne Scientific School, the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, the Wharton School, the School of Education, the School of Fine Arts, and the College for Women to the Office of the Provost.

When the Dean of the Law School, Herbert F. Goodrich, left the University in 1940, the Trustees abolished the position of Vice President in Charge of the Law School. The Dean of the Law School thereafter reported to the Provost, not the President.

When Vice President Chambers retired in 1972, his successor was named Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and reported to the Provost.

  • Eliot Stellar (January 1973 – December 1978)
  • Vartan Gregorian (January 1979 – October 1980)
  • Benjamin S. Shen (October 1980 – February 1981), Acting Provost
  • Louis A. Girafalco (February 1981 – August 1981), Acting Provost
  • Thomas Ehrlich (September 1981 – June 1987)

In 1986 the Hackney administration created the position of Executive Vice President of the Medical Center, which combined in one place responsibility and authority for the School of Medicine, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), and the Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania (CPUP). The Dean of the School of Medicine, Edward J. Stemmler, became the first person to hold this position. When Vice President Thomas Langfitt left the University in March 1987, the last of the old academic vice presidencies was permitted to lapse.

  • Michael Thomas Aiken (September 1987 – June 1993)
  • Marvin S. Lazerson (July 1993 – June 1994), Interim Provost
  • Stanley A. Chodorow (July 1994 – December 1997)
  • Michael L. Wachter (January 1998 – January 1999), Interim Provost
  • Robert L. Barchi (February 1999 – July 2004)
  • Peter J. Conn (August 2004 – June 2005), Interim Provost
  • Ronald J. Daniels (July 2005 – February 2009)
  • Vincent Price (July 2009 – July 2017)
  • Wendell Pritchett (July 2017 – July 2021)
  • Beth Winkelstein (July 2021 – present), Interim Provost