Langston Hughes Celebration in Chicago, October 14, 2015.

By Max McKenna (C’10)

“What happens to a dream deferred?” This was the question that Penn Alumni pondered at last week’s celebration of Langston Hughes in Wicker Park. A collaboration between the Penn Club of Chicago and Penn’s massive open online course “ModPo,” the event brought members of the greater Penn community together for an in-depth conversation on and collaborative reading of the great Harlem Renaissance poet’s work.

Max McKenna (C’10), a teaching assistant for ModPo and current Chicago resident, led participants in a discussion of Hughes’s 1940 autobiography, “The Big Sea,” the subject of this year’s 25th Annual Penn Reading Project. He also facilitated a “collaborative close reading” of a number of Hughes poems—including the classic “Harlem,” which asks what happens to a dream deferred—assigning each of the nearly twenty participants a different part of the poem to analyze, gloss, and pick apart using their own sets of associations. No corner of the poem was left unexplored: by the end of the robust discussion, the group was left speculating on the uses of the word “it”!

Collaborative close reading is an approach favored in ModPo, short for Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. Taught by Al Filreis, Kelly Professor in English at Penn and the Director of the Kelly Writers House, the ten-week course has been offered each fall since 2012 through the platform Coursera. ModPo is entirely free and open to the public, and enrollment generally numbers in the tens of thousands! More information can be found here:

The celebration was generously hosted by Liane Jackson (’93) at her co-operative workspace, the Free Range Office.

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Penn Serves LA: Harvesting a Garden for Veterans

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16


In the midst of our intense and bustling city of somewhere between 13 and 18 million people, we find a few parks and refuges from the crowds. And for those whose budgets won’t allow for multi-thousand dollar initiation fees, there are also a handful of golf courses where anyone can pay to play. Penn Serves LA enjoyed the convergence of many treats for our recent project in July. We gathered at a wonderful, pastoral spot, which is also a golf course open to the public AND we had a bit of summer rain – a real slice of LA heaven.

With gardening gloves and trowels in hand, thirty-odd alumni, friends and children brought the raised bed gardens at the Veteran Administration’s Heroes Golf Course back to life. No special skills were needed to hoe, weed, trim, harvest, re-plant and re-stake these beds, and it was the most satisfying work. After less than three hours our Quakers had literally transformed the gardens from their sad state of affairs, to flourishing boxes of green glory…and in the process we picked basket after basket of zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, herbs and more.







The Executive Director of the Heroes Golf Course, Bruce Rosen, provided the group with a wonderful history of the VA in Brentwood. The golf facility itself, a 9-hole 3-par course, is most inviting and now all the more so because it is ringed by healthy raised vegetable beds, the produce of which is offered to any veterans who choose to come by and partake.

We are grateful to Bruce and his associate Aviva for providing us with plentiful mulch, plants, tools and enthusiasm …and to the vets who worked alongside of our Penn volunteers. We hope people will support our veterans and this course by coming out to play a round, and meanwhile check out the fruits (and vegetables) of some fine Penn gardening labors…and let’s all hope for a little more rain!

About Penn Serves LA

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

Upcoming Penn Serves LA events:

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Questions? Reach us at Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Denise Winner, W’83 | Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00 | Irene Park, C’05 | Jeff Weston, C’05

Penn Serves LA has many terrific projects for all ages on the calendar for the coming months.

Read about our previous events:


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Penn Serves LA Reads to Kids

By Denise Green Winner, W’83


The kids in Room 207 were misbehaving. Paper planes whizzed across the room, spitballs were stuck to the wall and their good-natured teacher Miss Nelson needed to turn things around. And then entered Miss Viola Swamp. Do you want to read more? 300 inner city kids in the 1st through 5th graders clamored for more.

Penn Serves shared a morning of reading and crafts with Los Angeles Elementary School one Saturday morning in September. We joined forces with other clubs and participants and read, talked, played, inspired, and made crafts with the kids. The kids were curious, engaged and excited for us to read to them. For many of them, English is their second language, and most of their parents did not read English books to them. For these children, Reading to Kids, a monthly service project, provides them with the opportunity to enjoy books and connect with those who love to read.


Each group had six or seven children of the same age and two to three readers. This provided the children with an opportunity to engage with the readers who were prepared with an arsenal of book-related questions. My group had five boys and one girl, all around six years old. One boy had read the book previously, so the challenge was to discourage him from sharing the tale’s twist. Another small boy asked no questions and smiled a lot. To involve him, I asked questions in Spanish and then he happily responded in both English and Spanish. When it was crafts time, the kids were so excited to make puppets which looked like Miss Nelson or the evil teacher Miss Viola Swamp.

For more information about Reading to Kids visit their website.

About Penn Serves LA

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, help us Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

Upcoming Penn Serves LA events:

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Questions? Reach us at Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Denise Winner, W’83 | Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00 | Irene Park, C’05 | Jeff Weston, C’05

Penn Serves LA has many terrific projects for all ages on the calendar for the coming months.

Read about our previous events:

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TCPW Summer Networking Events

TCPW celebrated the 10th Anniversary of our Summer Networking Event series with great events around the country and in China.  We would like to sincerely thank all of the TCPW members who worked on these successful events in any way. Read on for an overview of each event.


beijingby Loretta Evans
TCPW co-hosted a Beijing Networking event featuring Angelica Cheung, Editor of Vogue China.  The event was Co-hosted with MIT’s Beijing Alumni Club in the brand new Penn Wharton China Center, and also featured in an article from The Guardian about a day in the life of Angelica.


bostonby Karen Quigley
TCPW held its Boston summer networking event on July 22nd at the University Club.  Our speaker was Dorothy Puhy, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who was a Penn undergrad and also holds a Wharton MBA – CW73, WG’75.  Dorothy spoke to an enthusiastic audience of summer interns and young alumnae (which included her two daughters, also Penn alums) about her career, what she learned in the process, and strategies for both advancing and balancing work and family.  We had 90 people register for the event and although actual attendance was lower, there was clearly a lot of interest.

We received many compliments on the program and requests for more chances to network.  As part of the planning process, we reached out to the local Penn and Wharton clubs and will be talking with them about co-sponsoring meetings in the future.  Many thanks to the entire Boston TCPW cohort – this was a real team effort.  Special thanks to Liz Silverman and Leslie Hughes Smith for arranging the venue, Helen Peters for reaching out to the speaker, and Marjorie Patkin for managing the logistics.


chicagoby Nancy Rothstein
The Sixth Annual TCPW Summer Networking Event in Chicago was held on July 15th.  Over 35 Penn alumnae, current students and TCPW members attended. In addition to networking and the valuable insights of our guest speaker, the evening offered a great opportunity to raise awareness about TCPW and its support for women at Penn. Event Co-Chairs and TCPW members Nancy Rothstein and Tonia Arrington expressed to guests that TCPW’s summer networking events held across the country reflect its ongoing support for recent graduates as they acclimate to life and careers after Penn.

Guest speaker Meredith Daw, addressed the attendees with Steps to Success. Meredith is a Penn alumna, having graduated Penn GSE Master’s Program in 2003. She is currently Director of Career Advancement at the University of Chicago and a recognized expert in the field. Her remarks about how to make your career thrive included managing, enriching and developing your career path.  Engaging and insightful, Meredith led a series of small group sessions designed to spark thought and dialogue for guests, followed by the full group sharing observations and providing examples, such as how to support your manager and compose an elevator pitch.

Young alum, as well as current students, are enthusiastic about nurturing their Penn relationships as they embark on their careers and navigate the many aspects of their lives.  They quickly see TCPW as a resource for events, networking , mentorship…and a welcome link to Penn in Chicago, as well as in other cities where TCPW hosts Summer Networking Events.

Thank you to Liane Jackson, C’93, who provided her Free Range Offices for our event.

New York City

newyork2by Lisa Aldisert
Over 250 Penn junior and senior women and recent grads attended TCPW’s 10th annual Career Networking Event in New York City on July 14th. TCPW member and Career Networking co-chair, Lisa Aldisert, interviewed Carly Zakin (C’08) and Danielle Weisberg (Tufts ’08), co-founders of

Both women, self-described “news junkies”, worked in the media prior to creating theSkimm on their living room couch three years ago, with the goal of making it easier to be smarter. Since then it has grown into a robust daily e-newsletter targeted to Millennial women.

The interview explored milestones and challenges they faced starting and growing a business, including raising money and growing a staff. Zakin and Weisberg’s contagious optimism and enthusiasm created a great buzz and spirited networking discussions for the rest of the evening.


philadelphiaby Joanne Soslow
On June 23rd, a torrential rain and lightning storm did not deter over 50 young alumna and rising junior and senior Penn women from gathering at the offices of Morgan Lewis for the Sixth Annual Philadelphia Networking Event.

Farah Jimenez, C’90, L’96, Commissioner of the School Reform Commission of the School District of Philadelphia, spoke to guests about her career and the inflection points that led to career changes along the way. TCPW members, Donna Gerson, Marjorie Shiekman and Joanne Soslow, also attended to network with guests who stayed to talk long after Farah’s presentation.

San Francisco

sf2by Ashley Mohan
On July 17th, TCPW was thrilled to host Padmasree Warrior, the former Chief Technology Officer and Chief Strategy Officer for Cisco at Google headquarters in Mountain View. Our own Stacy Brown-Philpot played the role of moderator and Padmasree held the audience rapt with her insightful and approachable advice for managing your career.  The highlights included advice on:
1) Making Great Career Choices
– Use the 70%/30% rule for evaluating a new role – 70% of the role requires skills you already have; 30% challenges you in a new way
– Timing matters – stay long enough to recognize contributions and consider overall market conditions
 2) Leading – Create a follower ship
– Speak from a place of credibility
– Present a compelling vision
– Be approachable – power does not = influence
3) Managing People
Think about managing Up, Down, and Sideways – When you manage up, focus on the bigger picture; managing down is all about motivation; Don’t neglect managing sideways – your peers are key to getting promoted.

Approximately 30 Penn students, alumni, Penn Googlers and friends attended.  Folks stuck around for over an hour after the event ended and we received a number of emails after the event thanking us and providing very positive feedback on the intimate format and how inspirational and applicable Padmasree was to women at all stages of their career.

Washington DC

dcby Kathy Sklar
They say everyone leaves DC in the summer, but those who were in town on July 22nd were treated to a fascinating and exhilarating talk by Samantha Tubman. Sam is the Assistant Chief of Protocol for Visits at The United States State Department, and she is the former White House Assistant Social Secretary.

Samantha graduated from Penn with an MBA from the Fels School in 2006, and thought she was headed to a policy job in the Pennsylvania legislature, when she got involved with the burgeoning campaign of Barack Obama. What followed were whirlwind years of constant traveling, mind-boggling logistics, never ending problem solving and some historical celebrations. By the time she landed her job in the White House, we were exhausted from listening to her tale, but her work had only just begun.

Sam spoke honestly of being thrown into unknown situations with strangers who soon became her colleagues and friends. She offered a window into a world of politics and government that few of us get to experience. Sam was generous with her time that evening, and stayed long after the formal program to chat and answer questions.

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Back to school – for the rest of my life!

adammHello! My name is Anna, and I am the Graduate Assistant for Penn Alumni for the 2015-2016 school year. I recently started the Higher Education program in the Graduate School of Education and am beginning my third week as a Penn student! Let me tell you something – Penn is the real deal, and so is graduate school. I am standing on my tip-toes peeking over my piles of reading, but not losing sight of the reason I’m here.

So, why did I come back to school to pursue a career in…working at a school? The honest and most accurate answer is, because I love it. I love college – everything about it.

I love the Freshman experience; the constant need to make new friends, figure out where classes are held, find groups to be involved with, and perhaps even do laundry for the first time. Freshman year is terrifying, and yet, the pure emotion of it all is something special.

Sophomores spend time making new friends, too, because inevitably some friends made in desperate times during orientation last year didn’t amount to much. Some may have even ended in disaster – studies show that people don’t show their real personalities until three months into a new friendship.* Sophomores aren’t weighed down, or lifted up, by the newness of it all. This has a name, which you all know, the Sophomore Slump. But, it’s not all bad! Sophomores have the luxury of being integrated into college without the workload of Juniors or the imminent endpoint and “mustfindajobmustfindajob” stress of Seniors. Sophomores really have it made.

Juniors and Seniors can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which is exciting and mind-boggling. Popular phrases uttered among Juniors and Seniors include, “Weren’t we just Freshmen?” “Freshmen are so little!” “What are we supposed to wear to the career fair?” “I can’t believe this is our last [first day of school, football game, bid day, club meeting, etc. etc.]! “ “I’m so ready to get out of here and into the real world!” “I’m so not ready to get out of here and into the real world…”

Much of how I described the college experience above is cliché – did you notice? I think the notion of the “college experience” is murky. Personally, I spent the majority of my first two years at the University of Colorado (2000 miles from my home outside of Philadelphia) dealing with homesickness, uncertainty, and frustration that my experience wasn’t turning out to be “all fun, all the time.” Junior year was when college began to click for me. It was then that I learned to let go of a lot of the expectations I had for what college was “meant” to look like. I could go on about this topic for hours – perhaps in a future post. The point is, that even with my initial dislike of my college experience, I look back at my time as an undergraduate with overwhelming love and nostalgia. I wouldn’t do anything differently.

I learned about Higher Education and Student Affairs through my involvement around campus in a number of organizations, committees, boards, etc. As a Senior, I completed my undergraduate thesis on theories of student leadership and student organizations. I had become supremely interested in student life, and all the ways it may contradict the popular concept of the “college experience.” Since graduation, I have known that I wanted to return to Higher Education as a practitioner. I want to aid in undergraduate students’ development as they navigate the wonderful, scary, unique road that is college.

*Studies conducted by Anna Damm.

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A Medical Journey


By Howard Freedlander

Col’67 and PAR’02

I began an unplanned medical journey more than three months ago. Consequently, I joined a men’s club, to which I had no intention of applying.

On April 30, I received a diagnosis of prostate cancer. By June 16, I underwent robotic-assisted surgery to remove my prostate. I am recovering well and quickly, with no surprises or complications.

On June 24, I learned from my Johns Hopkins Hospital doctor that the surgery successfully extracted all the cancer. I am cancer-free.

I thought long and hard about whether to share this information on a public stage like Frankly Penn. I’m doing so because fortunately I suffered a form of cancer more common than I ever knew among men—and considered mostly curable.

My description so far betrays none of the fear and anxiety I felt—and obsessed about on a daily basis—beginning with the brief phone conversation with an Annapolis urologist, who told me the awful truth. The difficulty continued as I told family members and close friends. Even as I sat two months ago early in the hectic pre-operation area, I worried about life after major surgery.

Cancer no longer was someone else’s problem.

As if studying for final exams 48 years ago at Penn, I read exhaustively about prostate cancer. I spoke with survivors, not only in Talbot County, Maryland, where I live, but throughout the country. I realized the membership of this club was larger than I ever imagined. While comforted to some extent by the survival rate, at least measured anecdotally, I could think of nothing else.

Peace of mind was elusive.

I learned that fighting cancer—or any other life-threatening disease—generates a level of self-absorption and self-centerness that I typically abhor. I talked of little else. I felt distracted, prone to mistakes. The metaphor, “emotional roller coaster,” comes to mind.

And I found out, as do others, I’m sure, the grace and comfort willingly offered by family and friends.

Despite the option of radiation, I chose surgery because it suited me personally; I simply wanted to rid myself of cancer as quickly and effectively as I could. Through a referral from a doctor in my hometown of Easton, MD, I found a physician at the renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital, well-experienced and well-respected in conducting robotic-assisted surgery. He not only was highly skilled, but just as importantly, a person with a nice human touch and incredible responsiveness to my questions and concerns.

I alluded to the inestimable value of support, both professional and friend-and family-based. You expect the medical professionals to respond with expertise and compassion, and that generally happened. You lean on your family, and again I was the beneficiary of tremendous care and concern. My wife Liz was a great nurse and wonderful friend.

Everyone deals differently with personal calamity. I like to do personal research, using both the written and spoken word. And so I spoke with people to whom friends referred me, people whom I did not know, such as an attorney in Chicago and a real estate developer in Washington, DC; they unselfishly spent time explaining their experience with prostate cancer. I spoke with a Penn classmate, whose name I saw as a donor to the Brady Urological Institute at Hopkins. Also, I constantly sought counsel and comfort from an Easton friend who had undergone prostate surgery in 1999 at Hopkins.

So, what have I have done since my wrenching medical odyssey ended?

I have found other subjects of conversation that exclude personal medical problems. I will continue retirement activities that have no connection to the medical system. Life as a patient is grueling.

I have reached out to others, including a friend in Washington State, trying to help him navigate treatment options for prostate cancer. He seems disinclined to take the surgery route.

And, finally, I will remain ever thankful for a dose of good luck, renewal of good health and the ability to continue praying for those who endure life-threatening medical situations far more complex than early-detected prostate cancer.

Life looks brighter now. It’s time to move on. It’s time to laugh again.

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Penn Alumni Travel: California National Parks, June 2015

Author: Lucy Fowler Williams, Associate Curator/Sabloff Keeper, American Collections, Penn Museum

In June I had the amazing opportunity to participate on a Penn Alumni Travel tour to the northern California National Parks including Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia.  We saw and learned so much that, among other things, the trip altered my thoughts about guided tours. If you want real R&R, expert insight into nature, history, and the cultural aspects of what you are seeing, and to cover a lot of ground getting to amazing places, this kind of trip is for you.

Yosemite Trees

Yosemite Trees

The group included two tour guides and 42! university alumni representing Penn, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Perdue, the University of Texas, Columbia, and Boston University. After our first happy-hour we were all old friends, and it stayed that way for the full nine days! We started out in San Francisco, but beat feet to Sonoma Valley’s wine country where we toured the Kunde Family Winery, a five-generation vineyard. After sampling the Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, AND the Cabernet, we entered the underground wine caves and sipped from an unfinished barrel of red while listening to legends of the family business. Though my personal preferences tend toward gin, tequila, or aqvavit, this visit definitely rekindled my interest in California wines.  Just yesterday I found Kunde Estate wines in the Pennsylvania liquor store.

From Sonoma we headed east into the Sierra Nevada, and eventually climbed 6,225 feet to Lake Tahoe, the highest and largest alpine lake in the United States.   I’ve wanted to see Tahoe for a long time and in fact it is what inspired me to sign onto the trip.  Though there in the wrong season, and without my skies, I was not disappointed. An incredible blue, Tahoe is 21 miles long and an impressive 1,600 feet deep, surrounded by snow-covered peaks.

Lake Tahoe 2

Lake Tahoe

As a specialist in Native American material culture, it was my pleasure to fill the group in on the fact that while a vacation retreat and tourist destination for many, Lake Tahoe is also the spiritual center and place of origin of the Washoe Indian people, and remains as such today. Through my lectures, I introduced the weaving traditions of Washoe and northern California Indian tribes, some of the finest basketry in the world.  In the late 1800s, weavers skillfully adapted their work to meet the demands of the burgeoning tourist industry in California.  The American Craftsman Movement (1895-1920) celebrated handmade Indian weaving and encouraged a collecting obsession of Indian art across the country.  This was also the Golden Age of Museums, and it is no surprise that the Penn Museum houses exceptional California baskets, of which I shared many examples.  The tragic irony of saving Indian art while killing off Indian people was not lost on my audience.  Later in the trip I introduced NAGPRA and the repatriation movement with a special focus on issues important to California tribes today.

A Mono Lake Paiute basket at the Yosemite Museum

A Mono Lake Paiute basket at the Yosemite Museum

From Tahoe we traveled east over the Sierras and into Nevada’s Mono and Paiute Indian country, back into California, past Mono Lake (one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen), and entered Yosemite National Park from the east.   We spent two days in Yosemite, taking in all of the sites along the Valley floor (Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, the Ahwhannee Hotel named after the Chief of the tribe that inhabited the Valley), and had free time for hiking on ones own or for group tours. My son took off on the 7 mile hike to Nevada Falls, and I spent the afternoon with Barbara Beroza, the Curator of the Yosemite Museum, looking behind the scenes at Washoe, Paiute, and Miwok Indian baskets, and with Phil Johnson, a Miwok/Paiute interpreter in the gallery. Phil showed me a clever and rarely collected woodpecker trap, a long and skinny twinned basket that is tied to a tree over a hole where the ubiquitous woodpeckers are nesting!

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

From Yosemite we spent two more gorgeous days in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Sequoia is less travelled and incredibly vast and wild. In addition to much welcomed snow and rain, we saw an abundance of woodpeckers and blue Steller’s Jays, and a total of seven black bears eating grass in open meadows.

But the highlight of the trip was the magnificent Giant Sequoia trees, Sequoiadendron giganteum, the world’s largest living trees that are well protected and cared for in these parks. The General Sherman and General Grant trees standing 275 and 268 feet tall, respectively, were massive and incredibly impressive. While taking them in, I revisited John Muir’s writings and the early history and struggle to secure these incredible parks.  I was continually awed by the grandeur of the woods and reminded of the difference a single person’s actions can make.  And it was a pleasure to be traveling with so many like-minded enthusiasts of nature and of our National Parks.

Sherman Tree

Sherman Tree

With reluctance, we descended west from the cool, quiet, and lush seclusion of Sequoia and across the northern edge of the Central Valley, aka “the Salad bowl.” Impressively, this region grows a staggering one half of the produce in the United States! and we passed mile after mile of thriving walnut, pistachio, almond, peach, pear, nectarine, plum, cherry, and date trees, acres of lettuce, miles of artichokes, and on and on.  After a private tour and elegant dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we ended our trip at Carmel By the Sea with a tour of the still active Carmel Mission Church, established by Spanish Jesuits in 1793.

The trip gave me the opportunity to experience some of the United State’s most incredible natural beauty, where some of Penn Museum’s California collections were made and used, and time to reflect on the importance of our mission to steward and share those collections broadly.

[Interested in traveling with Penn Alumni Travel? Visit our 2016 schedule here. We will be visiting the Southwest National Parks in September 2016.]

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