Our Remarkable University is Strong

Thank you, Mr. Chair. In these early weeks, I have taken every opportunity to be with our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Here’s what I have seen and heard.

People work very hard to get to Penn, and they’re exhilarated to be here. They thrive on the preeminent academics, research, and work that improves the world around us. It’s thrilling to be at Penn. It is a privilege.

This reaffirms what I’ve always known: Penn does amazing things. We are anchored, interwoven, inventive, and engaged. Our remarkable University is strong – as assessed by any number of metrics.

I have also heard questions and concerns about our challenges – which we take very seriously and are addressing urgently and thoughtfully.

A narrative of crisis, however, can distort our sense of Penn, the true Penn that we experience on campus every day. That is the University I have been seeing and hearing most.

I heard it in the laughter, music, and conversations at our Seniors’ First Toast event. The Palestra “rocked” at last month’s Quakers-Crimson game – we lost but the Penn community turned out. When we recently celebrated the Paideia Program, the deep commitment to civic duty and civil discourse was on full display.

Penn support for one another was evident among our faculty and staff, in our commemorations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and in this year’s tremendous Penn’s Way Campaign – with $2.2 million raised for charity by our employees and matched by the University and Penn Medicine.

I have also seen the true Penn in our alumni. I am grateful to those who have reached out to me to share ideas and support. Academy Weekend had a record turnout to hear directly from our amazing faculty.

When we remember Penn’s strengths, it is not hard to see why.

For the Class of 2028, we received 65,230 applications – an all-time high and nearly 10% more than last year.

Penn was also recently named one of the top 5 universities for producing Fulbright scholars – a bellwether for our commitment to excellence and deepening connections with the world.

Last month, we celebrated Penn Medicine’s Breakthrough Prize winners: Drs. Virginia Lee, Carl June, Kati Karikó, and Drew Weissman. Penn faculty have received this prestigious prize every other year.

Penn also has incredible momentum, fueled by gifts like the most recent from Roy and Diana Vagelos to support energy science. Their leadership enables Penn to lead on great challenges of our time, and it’s the largest single gift ever made to the School of Arts and Sciences and among the largest in Penn’s history. The new Center for Autoimmunity, supported last year by Judy and Stewart Colton, is up and running, and is already treating patients with novel therapies.

Another great challenge we’ve identified is data and AI. With the generosity of Raj and Neera Singh and the leadership of Penn Engineering, we recently announced an Ivy League first: an undergraduate degree program in Artificial Intelligence.

Focused on the future, we are now implementing In Principle and Practice, our bold framework for tackling grand challenges. The world is rapidly changing, and Penn is called—as we’ve always been—to bring our missions to bear for humanity. We are fortunate to have 12 world-class Schools and a strategic plan that gives us great flexibility to adapt and do remarkable things. 

Penn’s strength also means upholding our commitments to combat hate and ensure safety and wellbeing. We are moving with speed and care to ensure that Penn is a higher education leader on these issues in the short and long term.

I am grateful to the members of the University Task Force on Antisemitism, the Presidential Commission on Countering Hate and Building Community, and our Student Advisory Groups for their time, dedication, and recommendations for concrete actions. I am also grateful to the Provost’s Office, Perry World House, the Katz Center, and many others for strengthening community through grassroots action and sponsoring programs focused on difficult conversations.

Of course, the one thing driving all our strength, all our goals, all the good we do in the world – the force behind the true Penn: That is our people. All Penn faculty, staff, and students, Trustees, University leadership, and our global alumni community. I am grateful to you and to be counted among you.

A president alone cannot move Penn forward. But all of us, together—we can make Penn soar! We have, and we will. Thank you.