Category Archives: Alumni Perspective

Locust Walk Talk: Renewing the dreams of past glories

Author: Casey Ryan, C’95

Many of you may remember my blog entry over a year ago where I shared with you the story of my rugby team, Philadelphia Gryphons, working on going to Australia, (Locust Walk Talk: What Penn’s Taught Me After Graduation). The anniversary party was only the beginning of this trek. We were able to reinvigorate our alumni and our current players to work together to create that important network of support to bolster the team and to implement new programs.

Good Game

Good Game

The club has implemented seasonal boot camps for new and interested players to learn some basic rugby skills in order to introduce them to a scrimmage with the veteran players at the end of the two hour camp. The board has institutionalized our first Saturday socials, which typically are social gatherings at our sponsor bars to increase the team’s visibility among the community and city; we supplement bar nights with outings to rugby tournaments, marching in Philadelphia’s Pride Parade, and hosting viewing parties for European matches to flesh out our calendar for the year. The fall season will be the Gryphons’ inaugural season for our new recruit/veteran mentorship program. We have initiated Alumni Days, for the first match of the season, to increase attendance at our games. Finally, the Gryphons are working to establish both a day to give back to urban youth and to regularize a Founder’s Day celebration to commemorate the team’s anniversary.

joe and tony

Gryphons at the Anniversary: Joe, GEd’14; Tony, Gr’13; and Marc.

Due to this diligent work, we were successful in getting ourselves off to Sydney – raising over $15,000 to help defray some of the costs of the trip.  Starting yesterday, twenty-one Gryphons, supporters, partners and spouses will start making their way down to Australia for the Bingham Cup. With Anthony Chieco, Gr’17; Joe Ciesielski, GEd’14; Phil Cochetti, C’06; Joe Cruz, C’97, CGS’04, GEX’12; Chris Hatfield, CGS’02; Ted Panczyszyn, Penn staff; Dan Stringer, NU’13, GNU’16; and myself, over a quarter of the team and support staff going to the tournament has a Penn connection. In short, very little of the Gryphons’ success would have been possible without the team’s collective Penn experience.

phil

More Gryphons at the Anniversary: Phil, C’06, and Ken signing the team ball for the raffle

Personally, the Gryphons have been a huge labor of love for me – helping me maintain the work/life balance that we strive for. The team has taught me leadership, patience and perseverance. Most importantly, it’s been the source of several amazing friends over the years – especially during the times in life when it’s typically more difficult to make new ones.

Marching in Philadelphia Pride

Marching in Philadelphia Pride

And speaking of new, you also may know that I am leaving Penn. I’m graduating from my tenure at Penn to go over to University of the Sciences, about 9 blocks southwest of Sweeten House, as Director of Alumni Relations. Founded in 1821, University of the Sciences is a leading science and top pharmacy college in Philadelphia. In fact, it is America’s first pharmacy school. While I’m leaving Penn, I won’t be too far and, as an added bonus, USciences’ president is a proud Penn alumna, Helen Giles-Gee, CW’72, GEd’73, Gr’83. In addition, another teammate of mine, Greg Wallace, PCP’14, is USciences alumnus and I’ve already been cultivating him to return to reunion weekend this year.

Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 rules social media. Anthony, Gr’17, was the 1000th person to LIKE Bingham Cup Sydney 2014. From the Facebook page, “From the looks of it Anthony plays hard! An official Bingham Cup ”Play Hard” T-shirt is coming your way mate!”

It’s been a pleasure sharing my Penn experiences with you as a staffer over the last two and half years. I have already promised to work on my reunion as my 20th comes up in 2015 and I will be joining the Penn Club of Philadelphia. When I settle into my role at USciences, I will approach the interview program about helping out. Lastly, I have promised our communications staff that I will post quarterly on the blog as an alumnus.

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#tbt, Sydney 2005

In the meantime, feel free to check up on my trek through Australia – Perth to Syndey – via stops in Hong Kong and Bangkok at https://tagboard.com/CJinOZ/183930#featured.

This tournament is getting major media attention in Australia. Here are two South Sydney Rabbitohs, brothers Sam and Tom Burgess, who have backed the Bingham Cup and have called for an end to homophobia in sport in Australia. The Rabbitohs are partially owned by Russell Crowe.

Truly Red and Blue,
Casey

Me and Lex Ruby Howe, C’07, WEV’09, WEV’10, GEd’12, my favorite Aussie at Penn. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Casey R., Leaving Penn, Lex. H., Locust Walk Talk, Penn Club of Philadelphia

Penn Alumni Travel: ANTARCTICA: FEBRUARY 9-23 2010

Author: Martha Barron Barrett, G ‘68

[The following are memories from a Penn Alumni Travel trip Ms. Barrett took in 2010 to Antarctica.]

These excerpts are adapted from my recently published travel memoir: Slow Travel: Two Women of a Certain Age-and Modest Means-Leave Home.

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 11, 2010  Marriott Plaza Hotel, Buenos Aires

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The bus tour of the city was fine. We used our room service privileges again–just like the movies of my youth.

(Sandy Lawson, my partner and the photographer, and I had been in Argentina since January 1. After selling our winter home in 2007, we had spent each January, February, and March traveling independently: New Zealand, South Africa, now Argentina. This would be our first tour.  The Penn brochure with a sleek ship, the Deluxe M.S. Le Diamant, floating in an ice-littered sea had arrived Memorial Day weekend.  Monday after our guests left Sandy and I agreed this tour had everything we ever dreamed of.  Tuesday morning I was on the phone to Thomas Gohagan Tours reserving a stateroom to Antarctica.)

We are to be downstairs at 5 a.m. to grab coffee and a snack, then it’s into the air southward. To the ends of the earth, as I wrote to the family. Indeed. High Adventure. At seventy-seven.

FRIDAY M.S. Diamant Room #303

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I strode between rows of white-suited sailors toward an open door. A tall, handsome young man with sufficient braid to be the captain shook my hand and said, Welcome. Inside someone pressed a warm washcloth into my hand–which I found still there when I entered our cabin. A queen bed under two big portholes. I was delighted.

Others had informed us that the passenger lists had only three from Penn and one of those had canceled because their flight was caught up in the Philadelphia snowstorm. So much for the notion of “alumni groupies.” The economy is worse than anyone is letting on.

Outside Le Club, one floor-deck-up, we tried on gift parkas …

At dinner, Sandy and I, the bewildered first-timers, were gently moved toward a partially filled round table of six, to be soon joined by Nicholas, our Russian leader who had told us at the briefing to knock the adjective “soft” off the word “expedition.”

The menu let us know what we would be having for the various courses: soup, salad, fish, meat, dessert. Bottles of wine, French, of course, hovered and we chose either red or white; thereafter our glasses were never empty. Sandy commented on the amazing efficiencies of the huge staff of waiters who presented the food, impeccably, at the perfect temperature, be it hot or cold. …

With a seasickness patch pasted firmly behind my ear, I dropped into a dead sleep.

SUNDAY  Southern Shetland Islands, Sunrise 4 a.m.  Sunset 10:50 p.m.

Noon position Deception Is., where I set foot–both–on the ashy sands of Antarctica, the last or lost, continent.

Wind: Nil force 0

Sea: Calm

Air Temp: 2C (36F)

Water: .5C (33F)

Landings: Baily Head 1:50 p.m. and Whaler’s Bay 4:30 p.m.

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Instructions by the voice of our tour guide drilled through the PA system into our room. At 1:40 he finished with the Green Group and started into the Yellows (us), screwing into our heads the idea that we simultaneously must hurry and suit up yet not arrive in the club lounge too early. I tried to be methodical. Life jacket. How the hell does this thing— Yellow Group! Yellow Group, go to the club. Blue Group, get dressed.

The hall was empty.  Blue group, go to club now.  Dear god. Sandy and I ran down the hall, up two flights of stairs, through the blur of red and out onto the landing. Yellows. We slumped in sweaty relief. No one looked calm. My mouth was dry as a bone.

The line shuffled forward. ID swiped. A flight of perhaps twenty-five white metal steps, railing on both sides, so many things to consider: steepness in these untried boots, grip of silk gloves on railing, plastic tub of disinfectant at the bottom step, rope guide across to the outdoors, and another flight down to the Zodiac. I could see there were two men helping people step up on the side of it and two more inside helping them down. Don’t make a fool of yourself. Okay. Down. Too slow-keep up. Now. Step up. Grab those strong wrists. Down and in. Sit. I reached back and gripped the rope looped along the side. Takeoff might be rough.

Nothing was rough. Not the trip over, not getting out with two competent arms on the other side to steady me. Not walking up the rise. I planted myself like a flag and gazed around at the largest rookery of chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula: some 200,000 who stood like small figurines arranged from the black sand beach to the high ridge. …

Boots in hand I entered Le Club and was handed a cup of hot beef bouillion.

MONDAY off Gourdin Islan

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I suspect my remaining life will be divided into pre- and post-Antarctica segments.

Our evening expedition took us out into the ice pack where I actually disembarked the Zodiac to stand on the flat surface of a “table” ice floe. It was moving with the sea and rotating, and the ice pack was thickening; the horizon resembled a city of white and gray block buildings, a nature city. But we are not residents, merely red penguins tromping about on this temporary bit of real estate, taking photos for alumni magazines, driving snow golf balls, shouting like kids at recess. Like the sea the ice will bear no memory of our passing: wind and snow will quickly cover every trace.

TUESDAY Noon Livingston Is.

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Mountains tower beyond a shingle beach. The sky’s responsibility is special effects and it puts on a great show. I could have sat there for hours.

The walk this afternoon (single file) was probably a mile in black sand along the side of a two-thousand-foot high dune. I could not raise my eyes for fear of slipping. We met a line of Greens marching our way and I happened to be first in line. Should I take a step up or take a step down?  I stepped up; at least someone would have a chance to grab me on the way by. I made it without falling, but also without grace.

WEDNESDAY    Wilhelmina Bay 

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Zodiacs. These sturdy, inflatable hard-floored boats have become my favorite way of seeing the shore, up close where my aging eyes could catch the details without having to watch my footing every second. We happily putted along the shore, the guide giving fascinating details about the snow algae and birds and seals. We were riding across the surface of their dining table that held their live eats: fish, krill …

Just finished a room service dinner American style. Our earlier lunch had been a surprise! What a scene for a “barbeque” of sirloin with twenty other dishes. I had two glasses of wine and one of our pastry chef’s beyond-this-world desserts.

THURSDAY Port Charcot 

I feel like a molting penguin today, helpless until my protective coat is restored.  It is about nine-thirty and the ship is deserted. I crave the familiar and silence. This hour up here in the little library surrounded by books, lulled by the orderly passage of time, is untangling knots and loops.

Outside icebergs roam. A small one with the head of a seahorse rides like a forgotten toy in a fancy pool. Inside, a jolt when I see on the stairs men of color on their knees furiously polishing every inch of brass. For me an unresolved enigma. Shouldn’t I be helping?

LATER. Probably overload happens on tours of art, architecture, and poets-of-the-lake-district too-and not only to the elderly. And maybe us older folk have a viewpoint on all this stark and ancient scenery that surpasses the value of what a forty- or fifty-year-old sees and feels. More kinship with the eternity presented by this vast and ageless land.

FRIDAY  Neko Harbor

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A nook of perfection stashed off to one side of a fjord lined with sheer ice-covered mountain ridges.  Everyone (including Sandy) trudged on up the slope. Penguins, as idled by the sun as I, stood silent on ice patches or in run-off streams like retirees cooling their feet on a too hot Florida day. Creaks and groans issued from deep inside the glacier.  A penguin came and stood beside me.

SUNDAY  Beagle Channel 

Placid seas allowed us to land on Cape Horn and I stood atop this storied island gazing toward Antarctica: a fitting exclamation point to a journey to the bottom of the globe. The trip had not been about the ship, the food, the people we met, but what lay over the horizon. Even when I was actually looking at it, or walking on it, a sense of disbelief hovered. What mind can conceive of the earth’s rotation slowing and slowing until it disappears? Who believes in zero?

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[For more information about Penn Alumni Travel and our entire 2015 schedule, click here. Although we will not be traveling to Antarctica in 2015, we will be journeying to Patagonia and Cape Horn, January 21-February 7, 2015. Click here for more details.]

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Penn Serves LA Strikes Again; This Time With Paint

By Leanne Huebner, W’90

Over thirty Penn Alumni and their children joined together for a fun beautification project for El Nido Family Centers in Mission Hills.  We were thrilled that Elizabeth Fields, Julie Gutowski and Kiera Reilly from the Penn Western Regional Office joined us. And we welcomed special guests in town from campus Penn Professor David Grossman, Ph.D., Director, Civic House and Civic Scholars Program, and Katie McCarthy from the Penn Development Office, both lending their painting skills for good.

All in all, the team completed the center’s foyer, a key event room, as well as a hallway in bright white.  The highlight for many participants was contributing to a full wall-sized canvas mural alongside the Pacoima mural artist.  Volunteers brought together her vision for a grand-scale masterpiece to add cheer and interest in the center’s main lobby area.

Stuart Berton, El Nido Board President and Wharton ’61 graduate, thanked the team and provided a great overview of the important work of El Nido, a nonprofit that has served Los Angeles for 89 years.  Each year, the centers reach over 11,000 Los Angelenos  through its community outreach, early education and teen pregnancy initiatives, and gang-prevention programming.  While many individuals come to the center, El Nido social workers are also in the field meeting individuals and assessing families in their homes and schools.

Penn Serves LA's Jane Gutman with El Nido's Stuart Berton

Penn Serves LA’s Jane Gutman with El Nido’s Stuart Berton

A few highlights of their work were shared.  For instance, their GRYD program for gang-prevention has experienced success rates of up to 98% working with at-risk youth.  Their teen pregnancy recidivism rate is 80% lower than the national average, with only 4% of teenage mothers they serve having a second child before they turn twenty years old.

Penn Serves LA's Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

Penn Serves LA’s Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

“We are excited to help El Nido with such a great, enthusiastic group of volunteers,” shares Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16, one of the Penn Serves LA Directors and coordinator of this event.  “And to have David and Katie here from Penn lending a hand makes our day of brightening the facility with fresh paint all the better.”

View all the photos from the day here.

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The next Penn Serves’ event will be Saturday, August 9th from 9 a.m. to noon and you can reserve your spot here.  Penn will be serving LA Waterkeepers in an effort to help identify the impact of debris on our area’s water supply.  “It’s a great opportunity for your science-minded side as we will be surveying and collecting valuable data,” shares Christine Belgrad, W’87, PAR’15, PAR’17, event coordinator.
Many of the past Penn Serves sell out, so please reserve your spot quickly.

Read about our past events:

December, 2013 – Holidays are a Time for Giving

November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Family Programming, Guest blogger, Penn Serves LA, Photos, Uncategorized, Volunteering, West Coast Regional Office

Penn Club of San Diego Goes South of the Border for Street Eats

By B. Bea Rajsombath, C’99, club president

There are a lot of great things about living in sunny San Diego, including over 70 miles of beautiful coastline, the nice Mediterranean climate, pockets of diverse neighborhoods with their own vibe, mountains or beaches within miles of each other, great restaurants and bars, its proximity to Tijuana, and so much more.

The Penn Club of San Diego works on creating events and activities that feature the neighborhood gems and life in San Diego; events any of our alumni can appreciate, whether they recently moved here or are returning natives.

In November 2013, the Club joined Turista Libre for a wine tour in Valle de Guadalupe. Based on that successful and fun adventure, we had requests to organize another event south of the border. As Turista Libre (TL) focuses on organizing tours highlighting the local aspects of Tijuana and surrounding areas, we worked with them to deliver another event for our alumni. Passports in hand on March 22, Penn alumni and friends met up with TL at San Ysidro, the last US stop before reaching Mexico, about 15 miles south of San Diego. We were joined by a few other TL guests to walk across the border to board a small school bus operated by TL to start our adventure tour: TJ Street Eats.

Penn Alumni and friends

Penn Alumni and friends

We started our day with a birria taco from a busy food truck stationed on a non-descript street by a Staples. It was simple, yet bursting with flavor. A cheese quesadilla was offered to our vegetarian guests. The tacos were so delicious most of us wanted more, but we were advised by TL to limit ourselves to the one because we had a number of stops to make. A few of us couldn’t hold out though and had to try a second taco.

A birria taco

A birria taco

Our second stop was at Kokopelli’s food truck, for black Harder ceviche de lenguado tostada. Our vegetarian guests feasted on grilled Portobello mushroom tacos. At this point, more guests were losing their willpower to hold off on just one item and explored some other offerings from Kokopelli’s. A few also ventured to try a seemingly, innocent pink-colored salsa…and suffered through the burning from a habanero-beet mixture. TL also offered up some Tecate beer for refreshments before we headed to our third stop.

A tostada

A tostada

Before we reached Tio Pepe, a wonderful bottle of tequila was shared. Some of us are still searching for the bottle on this side of the border. Tio Pepe is a neighborhood gem with plastic tables and chairs, friendly staff and a bustling lunch crowd. I would love to go back…if I can find my way there! Here, we sat down to enjoy Guadalajara-style torta ahogadas, a few rounds of Corona and some ventured off to order additional tacos. I don’t know where they found room.

Torta Ahogada

Torta Ahogada

After indulging ourselves, we still had two more stops! The next was at Tepoznieves, an artisan ice cream parlor with more than 100 flavors. Unfortunately, I was too busy sampling the flavors and enjoying my selection of three small scoops to capture any photos to share. On the way to our last stop, another bottle of tequila was brought you to be shared. Finally, we made it to Baja Craft Beers for a sampling of house brews. We essentially had the place to ourselves so early in the afternoon. The brewery had great space and a long list of local and international beers available.

Baja Craft Brewery

Baja Craft Brewery

Alas, our great little adventure came to an end by 5pm and TL returned us to the border to make our way back across to the US. We definitely enjoyed our TJ Street Eats tour and working with Turista Libre again. We already have requests to repeat both the wine tour and the TJ Street eats.

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

These are just a few of the activities and events the Penn Club of San Diego organizes for local alumni in the greater San Diego area. If you are interested in learning about these and other events, please contact us via email, join our email listserv, like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

Our next event is a yPenn Happy Hour on July 10th. We hope to see you there!

 

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, Food Fiends, GAN, Guest blogger, Penn Clubs, Photos

Seattle Alumni Put on Aprons for an Evening to Help Alleviate Poverty

By: Haley Shapley, C’06

Thanks to a little help from the Penn Club of Seattle, at least one person will be able to transition from the streets to a job in the hospitality industry.

It was all part of Guest Chef Night at FareStart, a culinary job training and placement program for homeless individuals in Seattle. Since 1992, FareStart has provided opportunities for nearly 7,000 people to transform their lives, while also serving more than 6 million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children.

The tables are set for FareStart's Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

The tables are set for FareStart’s Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

Each Thursday evening, prominent guest chefs come to work with the students as part of their 16-week food-service program. The three-course meal is served by volunteers, which is where Penn alumni came in.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening's menu.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening’s menu.

Although none in the group had any restaurant experience to speak of, on April 24 we got a crash course in the art of serving, learning the importance of checking back within two bites, refilling waters regularly (and not touching the rim of the glass!), and how to properly carry a tray. Chef Sam Hassan of Maple Falls Cafe provided a tasting of the Mandioca Frita, NW by SE Pasta, and Mango Raspberry Cobbler beforehand so that we’d be able to answer questions about the ingredients when guests inquired (Just what is yuca? Ask us; we know!).

The featured servers tonight - the Penn Club of Seattle!

The featured servers tonight – the Penn Club of Seattle!

Penn Alumni getting trained

Penn Alumni getting trained

Six hours, countless pitchers of water, and a few cramped fingers later, we’d served 169 diners, raising a total of $7,116 for FareStart’s training programs, including donations of $181 and tips of $1,327. All in all, it’s more than enough to give one student safe housing, the full 16-week culinary program, and comprehensive wrap-around services.

It's a full house.

It’s a full house.

The program has a 90 percent job placement rate within three months for students after graduation, and each Guest Chef Night includes a graduation ceremony with those who’ve completed the 16-week program successfully. On our night, we watched two grads get ready to move on to the next stage of their lives, including Tina, who didn’t miss a single day. “It’s made me stay focused instead of every day wondering what’s going to happen,” she said.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Bob, who moved to Seattle in July with a big plan that fell apart, was equally grateful. “I thank this program; it really rescued me,” he said. “I learned a lot and I appreciate it. This program is ingenious to solve the problem of homelessness and poverty.”

Bellies full of delectable ingredients like shaved Parmigiano, smoked fish, and Chantilly cream, we scattered into the night back to our respective homes — energized by the experience and humbled by the fact that we made a contribution, however small, to the students being able to have homes to return to as well.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, GAN, Guest blogger, Penn Clubs, Photos, Volunteering

70 Years Since Graduating and He’s Still Got the “Hurrah!” for Penn

By Kiera Reilly, C’93 @KieraReilly

I always tell people that Commencement Day at Penn is the happiest day on campus, and this year, on May 19 as Penn celebrated its 258th Commencement, was no exception. In Alumni Relations, we help with the alumni processional portion of the event – alumni from every undergraduate class at Penn carry flags from their graduating year and march into Franklin Field after the graduates.

We arrive early in the morning, so we can “get robed” in our caps and gowns, and then wait for the alumni to arrive. The alumni robing is near the academic processional staging area, and I happened to be looking at President Gutmann and commencement speaker John Legend’s, C’99, chairs when the University Mace was delivered. Leslie Kruhly, the Secretary of the University, leads the academic procession carrying the mace.

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The staging area for the academic procession. The University’s mace was just delivered.

Me and my colleague Casey Ryan, C'95. We lead the alumni procession down Locust Walk and into Franklin Field.

My colleague Casey Ryan, C’95, and I are robed and ready to go. We led the alumni procession down Locust Walk and into Franklin Field.

After everyone is robed, we wait a bit before we get the cue to begin. Here everyone is lined up waiting for the academic procession to pass.

The alumni procession waiting for the academic procession.

The alumni procession waiting for the academic procession.

 

Then we march down Locust Walk to the front of the Sweeten Alumni House. It was a beautiful day and everyone on campus was lining the walk cheering and clapping for the alumni.

Alumni flag bearers line Locust Walk to congratulate the newest Penn Alumni!

Alumni flag bearers line Locust Walk to congratulate the newest Penn Alumni!

The alumni flag bearers then line Locust Walk and wait for the graduates. The graduates march down Locust Walk through our line of alumni flags, and the alumni cheer, clap and congratulate the newest members of Penn Alumni.

Some graduates casually walk by, others pose for pictures with their friends, or their parents and family try to capture a candid moment of them walking to graduate. And in the midst of the several thousand graduates passing us by, at the front of the alumni flag line, was Harry Gross, W’44. Harry graduated in 1944, that’s seventy years ago for those of you having a bit of trouble with the math. He wore a fun Red and Blue hat, and as he sat in his chair holding the Class of 1944 flag, he was arguably the most popular man on Locust Walk. Yes, everyone wanted to wave to President Gutmann and take a selfie with John Legend, but Harry was the star.

Graduates thanked him for coming. They shook his hand, they said wow. And when they said congratulations, Harry simply replied, “Congratulations to YOU!” And then he told them that they’d be in his same spot in seventy years!

Me and Harry

Posing with Harry

Congratulations to Penn’s Class of 2014! We’ll see you in 2084 (and we hope every year in between).

Hurrah, Hurrah, for the Red and the Blue!

Commencement from the alumni flag bearer's view.

Commencement from the alumni flag bearer’s view.

Here’s Harry leading the alumni processional into Franklin Field.

Watch videos of President Gutmann’s commencement speech and John Legend’s address here (and also photos of the day).

See all the Penn Commencement tweets #PennGrad.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Class of 1993, Commencement, Kiera R., Notable Alumni, Photos

My 25 Year Penn Reunion: Living an “As Is” life in a world that only wants “So Perfect!”

Author:  Lisa Niver Rajna, C’89

Wandering on Madison Ave in Manhattan last week, I noticed paparazzi everywhere. After asking, a woman told us, with tears in her eyes, that JLo was eating lunch. I would have missed her. She did not look “So Perfect” but she is stunning. As I left New York City for Philadelphia for my twenty-five year college reunion, I have been thinking about what have I done and what do I want for the next twenty-five years!

In a life filled with product placement where JLo is lifting her Coca-Cola glass so many times per hour on American Idol, our lives have been given a structure that we might not purchase if it were not so insidious.

In As Is by Rachel Michael Arends, the story is told through several narrators and Arends is able to share deep perspectives about how people with different lifestyles lock themselves into their own cage about money, sexuality, and professions of what they think that want and should own and should do.

Through Arends’ intriguing characters, we are able to wonder and wander. Is it a good choice to be an artist? Is it okay to defer your dream to care for your father? Most of the interactions and characters would have accepted the decisions of their friend or family member if they had only been told. Fear made nearly every character in this book withhold their personal truth.

Hiding themselves made them seem like a cheap imitation of what they could have brought to the table. Choosing to be courageous and wish for what they really wanted and reach out to receive it often only comes after tragedy and hardship but hopefully Rachel Michael Arends’ novel gives you the hope to share your story and live a life painted fully without regrets.

Early in the novel, Gwendolyn says: “On television it can look glamorous, and perhaps some people would love this lifestyle. But I don’t,” I wondered what didn’t she like? And who was she really?

Wandering the parade and picnic at the University of Pennsylvania, I thought what would life be like if we did not pretend. Gwendolyn believes that Armand “actually enjoys being So Perfect all the time,” it gave me pause to think about who do I know who resembles that remark and do they feel like Gwendolyn that “it just seems wrong, incongruous, and unnatural,” and more of a cage than a life.

There were many buttons to wear at Reunion: “I met my wife at Penn,” “<3 Penn,” and “Don’t worry, I don’t remember you either!” Maybe several alums felt like Gwendolyn: “I find it scary and unnerving when strangers approach me as if we’re old friends. I don’t like to worry about what I wear, if my hair and makeup look good enough (according to Armand they never do), what I say, or how I say it. I prefer to stay at home behind our high fences, inside our security system.”

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey

 

She has been told by Trey, her producer, “I’m lucky to have this job, that anyone in her right mind would want it.” At an Ivy League institution, in marriage or in many other settings, we are sold that line about being lucky. I went to medical school because I was smart in science. Like Gwendolyn I felt, “I don’t want to let anyone down…[but] I’m beginning to fear that I’ll be trapped in this mansion forever.” We sometimes become embroiled in a labyrinth or career and we seem to be stuck. Breaking out of the mold and consciously taking a different path can be a struggle but isn’t the freedom, to be who we really are, worth it?

When we become lost from our selves, we often need someone like Gwendolyn’s sister, Megan, to ask us: “What’s your plan? Are you going back there?” We all want to have someone in our life that we can tell as Gwendolyn does, “You’re like an island of sanity in the craziest day I’ve ever had.” It is possible we have those people already if we would only be honest with them about how we feel and what we need. Most of us keep our wounds and concerns a secret only sharing what we think looks “So Perfect” to the constant measuring up on Instagram and Pinterest.

When one character with a cane walks on a floor above Gwendolyn with a sliding sound, she muses, “It’s strange to think of carrying your damage on the outside where everyone can see it.” What if we shared our fears and foibles on Facebook and not just our fairytales that come true? Carrie, a character who is a fan of Gwendolyn on television but becomes a true friend in the story, shares, “The biggest thing I’ve learned over the course of this year is that life is one big surprise after another, and maybe I should loosen up and try my best to roll with it.” As I walked the parade on Saturday standing in between the two wonderful women who were my college roommates, I realized that I am so lucky in both an “as is” and “so perfect” way to have walked this road surrounded by people who know what I look life in real life and want to be friends anyway! Whether there are tears of joy or sadness, they have always run to my side, whenever I am ready to share this rollercoaster of life.

Arends’ character, Armand, realizes that “As Is,” could be his “motto for acceptance. Not an excuse to settle necessarily, but a reminder that at a certain point, you just need to say, OK, enough is enough! I’m sick of chasing the dream of perfection and that’s not a failure.”

Gwendolyn does believe in fate, as she says, “You have to. I just saw a falling star out the window and I wished for you. When I looked up, there you were!” In some ways like the movies, we want to say, “I wished for you” and for the person to appear. What if you are really wishing for yourself to stand up, take up space and live your dreams? I wish for you that you are inspired to pause and think about your own parade and find a path that leads you to yourself and the fulfillment of your best dreams.

w/Barbara Yorke

w/Barbara Yorke

About the Author: Lisa Niver Rajna (CAS 1989) was honored to walk in graduation on May 19, 2014 with her classmates from twenty-five years ago! Learn more about her journeys at WeSaidGoTravel.com and ScienceisntScary.net.

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Filed under 25th Reunion, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Commencement, Lisa N.R., Memories of Penn, Penn Alumni Travel, Penn Park, Reunions, Traditions

I’m Interviewing Because…

Author: Liz PinnieLiz Blog

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Interview Program, Liz P., Volunteering

Penn Traditions: The Good, The Bad, and THE RED & THE BLUE!

Author: Nicole Svonavec GEd ‘09

Every college student takes part in traditions on their campus as part of a unifying undergraduate experience.  I’ve attended and worked at several colleges so far, and Penn’s traditions stand out for their uniqueness, mass appeal, and staying power.  Experiences like Hey Day, Spring Fling, and taking a photo with your boo at the LOVE statue, have stood the test of time.  Creative Class Boards, Penn Traditions students, and other student leaders are forming new traditions (shout out to Holifest!) every year.

On the other hand, some traditions have faded into history.  And let’s be real, I’m feeling okay about that.  While I love reminiscing with our Old Guard alumni about retired traditions from their Penn days, I see a few good reasons to keep these in the archives:

“The Bowl Fight”

Although these strapping young lads look quite happy in the photo (from 1905), The Bowl Fight stands as one of Penn’s most historic, but also most sketchy traditions.  I’m not sure which one of these students was elected to be shoved INSIDE that bowl by his peers, but I would cry seeing our fabulous freshmen and sophomore duking-it-out on College Green in present-day.  Final verdict: This tradition is one of Penn’s best (craziest) stories, but a happily retired one.

Photo courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

Photo courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

“The Poster Fight”

(Note how many of these old traditions include the word “fight.”  Thankfully the advent of Pottruck Gymnasium seems to have given students a more productive outlet for their pent-up energy).  1905 was a busy year for traditions, and The Poster Fight stands as another fine example of class rivalries at their best/most intense.  The poster below (located in Sweeten Alumni House – come visit!) shows how “no blow was too low” when asserting your eminence over other classes.  Hopefully they all hugged it out at the end of the day.

poster fight3

“Kissing the Boot”
Everyone loves a good freshman rite-of-passage, but the 1940s-50s tradition of kissing Ben Franklin’s boot outside of Weightman Hall strikes me as a bit unsanitary.  Good thing freshman carried this out in early fall, because kissing a metal boot in the winter seems like it could cause the same nightmare as getting your tongue stuck to the flagpole in elementary school (Note: this did NOT happen to me, whew).

Photo and facts courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

Photo and facts courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

The Penn Traditions program is currently working on a new event (to launch in fall 2014) aiming to teach current students about some of these hilarious/spirited/dangerous traditions of the past.  If you took part in a really fun tradition on campus during your time at Penn, email svonavec@upenn.edu so we can include it in our event!

*Thanks to the Penn Archives and Under the Button for inspiring this post!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Historical, Memories of Penn, Nicole S., Traditions, Uncategorized, yPenn

A Palestra Proposal

Author: Stephanie Yee, C’08

The Penn Band always knows how to keep things interesting at The Palestra. On Saturday, Penn Men’s Basketball fans witnessed a Penn Band marriage proposal during a media timeout. Hurrah for Penn love, and congratulations to the newly engaged couple!

A Penn Band proposal at The Palestra on Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Penn Band proposal at The Palestra on Saturday, March 1, 2014

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Athletics, Campus Life, Events, Penn Basketball, Philadelphia, Stephanie Y., Uncategorized, Volunteering