Monthly Archives: September 2011

Resurrect Dead

Author: Lisa Marie Patzer

I recently attended the Philadelphia premiere of Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles at the International House.  I knew very little about the film but was curious to learn more about the odd tiles I had seen scattered throughout the streets of Philadelphia. Here is one located at 43rd and Chester:

Resurrect Dead, a documentary film directed by Jon Foy, follows Justin Duerr a Philadelphia-based artist, on his journey to find the source of the Toynbee Tiles.  Hundreds of these cryptic messages have been found embedded in the streets of major cities across the U.S. and South American and Justin has taken a photo of nearly every one.  The tiles contain some variation on the following inscription:


I would classify the film is a hybrid doc-fiction that attempts to de-code the meaning behind the tiles as well as uncover the identity of the creator.  I will resist including any “spoilers” here, but I will say I was impressed by the film and the audience support.  The attendance at the International House was so overwhelming they added a 5th screening to the program.  

Kendall Whitehouse with the Wharton School at UPenn has a great  photo album of a Q&A session with Jon Foy.

In order to promote the film, the producers of Resurrect Dead gave the audience stickers that look like the Toynbee Tiles.  I have seen several pasted in public places throughout the city.

This Philadelphia based film is receiving a lot of buzz, both locally and nationally.  It has moved on to Chicago, but I am sure it will be back.  For more information, see the official website.


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Filed under Campus Life, Film, Lisa Marie Patzer, Philadelphia, The Arts, The Arts at Penn, Uncategorized

Penn Traditions of the not-so-Distant Past

Before there were skimmers or Hey Day, Penn was home to a number of yearly contests and rituals pitting Freshman students against their Sophomore counterparts. The Push Ball Fight, an athletic event where the two opposing classes carried a six foot high ball around a field in an attempt to score goals, was quickly dismissed as “not very interesting to the spectators, nor to the participants.” With hundreds of participants shoving one another in a bid to move a giant sphere across a line and final scores ranging between upwards of 0 and 2 points (who among us can forget the excitement of the tie 0-0 Push Ball Fight of 1911), Push Ball came to an unceremonious end in 1913.

Proud Penn men preparing to push a ball, 1908.

Dating back to 1867, the rules to the Bowl Fight were relatively straightforward. The freshmen provided a student to serve as “bowl man” and the sophomores provided the bowl. If the elder class succeeded in placing the bowl man into their vessel, they were declared the winners. If the freshmen broke the bowl before this occurred, they were crowned the victors. As time went on the competition became more spirited and bloody, with the Provost himself attempting to intervene in 1873. Finally, in 1916, the fighting had become so fierce that a student was killed during the course of the battle. The Bowl Fight was quickly abolished, however the bowl (along with other awards such as the spade, cane, and spoon) is still awarded to a member of the senior class during Hey Day even today.

Scrambling for the Bowl, 1895.

Perhaps one of the stranger and longest enduring traditions was that of the Sophomore Cremation.  From 1877 to 1930, members of the Sophomore class would don black robes and process from the U.S. Mint in downtown Philadelphia westward to campus. The school band would play a funeral dirge, while the students clutched volumes of their most hated text books in their hands. Upon arriving at Penn, the books, along with effigies of less popular professors, were placed upon a burning funeral pyre and cremated. Afterwards attendees were given the chance to eulogize the incinerated tomes through poems and prose. Of course the freshmen, not wanting to be left out of the festivities, pelted the funeral goers with rotten eggs and other projectiles; an act that often led to escalating violence. Because of these transgressions and clashes with local law enforcement, the Sophomore Cremation was officially abolished in 1930.

Advertisement for the Sophomore Cremation, 1908

You can read more about these and other colorful student traditions from throughout the university’s history at the Penn Archives Website.

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Filed under Historical, Jason S.

My Top Penn List: Ten to Penn

Author: Casey Ryan, C’95

I’m currently on vacation but I wanted to make sure that I still wrote a blog entry on schedule.  In honor of Penn Park’s opening this weekend, I wanted to pay homage to my follow bloggers, Jason and Leigh Ann, with my Top Penn List’s Ten to Penn.


It’s a quiet morning, right outside my apartment door. It’s sunny and a wonderful day to walk to work, snapping pictures on my iPhone for a Ten to Penn blog post. It looks like Roosevelt’s and Wharton MBAs survived another night together.


Walking a mere block west, I see Penn on the horizon. What I didn’t take a picture of was the upcoming traffic on 76 since the trek is limited to 10 pictures and I wanted to focus on pictures with a strong Penn theme. It’s traffic like that which makes me happy I can walk to work.


The Cira Center juts out behind 30th street and the old United States Post Office-Main Branch, the Art Deco building on the National Register of Historic Places that Penn now owns as part of the Postal Lands purchase.


The pièce de résistance of this entry, Penn Park. Originally the asphalt parking lot of the Postal Lands purchase, it is a vibrant, verdant open space for our Penn athletes, students and community to enjoy.


World Café Live is the home of WXPN, member-supported radio from the University of Pennsylvania and two live venues for music. I have been lucky to see my classmate, Gabriel Mann, C’95, of the Rescues, John Forté, Heart, Tori Amos and Carly Simon at shows here.


I love this bold announcement of Penn on the side of the train trestle. “Welcome to University City.”


Here’s the back view of the Cathedral of Basketball, the Palestra. Beyond to the left, you can see some of Franklin Field poking through and to the right, there stands Irvine Auditorium.


Here is the construction site of the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, which promises the future collaboration, exchange, and integration of knowledge in this emerging field.


Known more for designing the Gateway Arch and choosing Jørn Utzon’s winning plans for the Sydney Opera House, Eero Saarinen is the mastermind behind the architecture of Hill College House. I thought that I would take a more pedestrian view of the building since I don’t view the main entrance along my walk to Sweeten.


Finally, I am at campus, stepping onto Locust Walk (though technically it’s Woodland Walk here.) I’m ready to start the workday, and I check in on foursquare to see if I remain the Mayor of the University of Pennsylvania.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Casey R., Philadelphia, Photos, Top Ten

I Bike Philly

Author: Colin Hennessy

Philadelphia is a biker’s city. With more and more Center City streets making room for bike lanes, cyclists are able to traverse our city with increased ease and safety. Despite these advancements, what really excites me as a relatively new biker is the Schuylkill River Heritage Area Trail.

Each morning before work, well most mornings, my colleague and I meet and ride to the trail. Our morning routine includes a 10-mile journey to the Falls Bridge and back to the start of the trail near Spruce Street. The whole excursion takes about one hour (door-to-door). This bike friendly journey includes stunning scenery and views of the river. Long straight-aways provide many opportunities for sprinting, while one or two mild hills give that brief burning sensation in quad muscles. In addition, on the weekends we have extended our journey and ventured to Valley Forge.

The best news is the trail is minutes from Penn’s campus. All members of the Penn community are able to take full advantage of this trail. With the opening of Penn Park (today) the combined outdoor space in and around the Penn campus is extraordinary. Few urban schools can boast the amount of green space so easily accessible by their campus.

As late summer transforms to fall, I hope you will take full advantage of the moderate temperatures and lingering daylight that are made for long bike rides, riverside runs, or casual walks and talks. Philadelphia is a wonderfully accessible city and Penn is right at home here.

Make a plan to visit Penn Park and the Schuylkill River trail – before long your visits might become part of your daily routine, like mine.

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Filed under Colin H., Penn Park, Philadelphia, Sustainability at Penn, The Penn Fund

Time for First September

Author: Nicole Oddo, C’05

There is a sense of beginning with the start of every school year, even when you are not a student (after a few years of grad school, I am happy to not have to think about textbooks, finding my classrooms, writing papers or a required selection of reading).

It’s a chance to start again and continue working on those goals on your to do list. It is also a chance to meet new people. Of course, one of the best things about September as a Penn alumna is First September.  This event happens in cities all over the world. It’s our way of welcoming the newest class of alumni, this year the class of 2011. I particularly like this event because I have participated and planned First Septembers in Phoenix, Chicago, and Philadelphia. When I returned to Philadelphia in 2008, I volunteered to help for that First September.  I worked the registration table and quickly had the chance to meet so many alumni in the area. In Chicago, we did Quizzo, a bar trivia event that we adored in college (and many of us still play!). I also remember setting up the first event in Arizona, at the Ritz Carlton bar. While we didn’t have many young alumni there, we had a great turnout of people new to the club and new to Phoenix.

So, regardless of whether you are the class of 2011, new to the area, or just want to meet new people at the start of another school year, join us at First September!

If you are in Philadelphia, we’ll be touring Yards Brewery and will have a chance to meet over a pint!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, Events, GAN, Nicole O., Penn Clubs, Philadelphia

Three Cheers for Penn Move-In

Author: Stephanie Y., C08

I left home for Penn when my youngest brother was starting 6th grade. During Labor Day Weekend this year, I drove up to Boston to help him move in to college. Kids – they grow up so fast! Just like Penn, my brother’s school is located in the heart of a large urban area. Unlike Penn, his school only offers on-campus housing for 25% of the student population. Even worse, not all freshmen are guaranteed housing. When my brother received the housing brochure in the mail, there was a note attached that said on-campus housing was full. Fortunately, his school set up online forums for students to find off-campus roommates and apartments. Two weeks before my brother moved in, we realized off-campus housing meant unfurnished bedrooms. IKEA, here we come!

My brother lives on the 5th floor of his building. Luckily, there is an elevator, but we still had to carry everything from the car up to his apartment. After only a few trips back and forth, I started to wish we had move-in volunteers and PHINS to help us. Thank you, Penn, for providing those services for new and returning students. As I was building IKEA furniture in my brother’s unfurnished bedroom, I felt grateful that I didn’t have to buy any furniture until I graduated from Penn. At the time, a twin bed, a desk, a desk organizer, and a dresser did not seem like much, but you don’t realize how much easier it is to have all those items until you walk into an empty bedroom. I spent the whole weekend feeling grateful that Penn has enough on-campus housing for freshmen and a great move-in process. Even though my brother’s apartment is awesome and is in an amazing location (his building is literally next to Fenway!), I can’t imagine finding my own apartment before moving to Penn, spending NSO buying and building furniture, and then living off-campus during freshman year. I give my brother a lot of credit.

While most of the weekend consisted of driving on I-95 and going to every major store for back-to-school shopping, I did get to go to a Boston Red Sox game (they lost miserably to the Texas Rangers), try a few new restaurants, and enjoy some family time. Boston is a great city, and I am looking forward to visiting more often now that my brother lives there. You will definitely see me at the Penn vs. Harvard basketball game on Saturday, February 25, 2012. Go Quakers!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Stephanie Y., Student Perspective

Where Were You?

Author: Leigh Ann P.

Everyone remembers where he or she was on September 11, 2001.  People love to share their stories, no matter how boring or insignificant, and I am no different:  I was a sophomore at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, and I remember my roommate, Jenn, coming in to our room from her 8 AM class and telling me a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.  I remember still being in bed at 8:46 AM when the first plane hit, so this memory means two things to me:

1. First, this is my JFK-assassination memory moment, and I will never forget it, because like Kennedy’s assassination, it changed everything for a generation of people.  My entire life is now divided into pre-9/11 and post-9/11 memories, and I sometimes make these associations without even realizing it.  (Spice Girls?  Monica Lewinsky?  “Legally Blonde”?  Pre-9/11.  “The Forgotten”?  Justin Timberlake as a solo artist?  “Lost”?  Post-9/11).  The innocence of the last century and the nostalgia I have for it are not simply coincidental.   My entire adult life has been and will always be post-9/11, defined by that most terrifying day; naïveté must be replaced by paranoia out of sheer necessity – not just because I’m now an adult, but because I’m an adult in a post-9/11 world.

2. Second, there was a time in my life when I was able to sleep past 9 AM on a weekday. 

The Daily Pennsylvanian has a great interactive piece with “Where Were You?” stories from current Penn students.  I write as someone who was 19 on the day of the attacks, but many of these men and women were merely 7 or 8 years old on that day.  It is interesting to read about that day from a child’s perspective, and how the situation took on new meanings as they matured.

The DP also profiles five of Penn’s 16 fallen alumni in a touching piece found here.

Tell us in the comments where you were on 9/11/01.

President Obama surveys the 9/11 memorial site at Ground Zero.


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Filed under Historical, Leigh Ann P., Student Perspective

Travels to Vietnam

Author: Kiera Reilly, C’93

I am on vacation in Spain as I write this, but during my trip I am finally reading a book that was suggested for the Penn Alumni Travel trip to Vietnam last November. It provides insight into the feeling of the country as an American journalist who was in Vietnam during the war returns as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. It brings back wonderful memories of the trip I took with a group of Penn travelers, and as we are offering this program again in February 2012, I thought I would do a quick review and mention some of the trip highlights.

Our first stop was in Hanoi and a visit to Ho Chi Minh´s mausoleum. We stood in a long line that moved at regular intervals, and then solemnly entered the building two by two, with many Vietnamese guards watching us, hushing us, as the lighting was dark. Then we slowly circled the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh.

From Hanoi, we took a full day drive (there and back) to beautiful Ha Long Bay. The scenery was gorgeous, and we all enjoyed the fresh air on the top deck of our ship and a delicious lunch of seafood.

We also visited Hue, the former royal city of Vietnam. We toured the imperial palaces, beautiful old ancient buildings. Not quite as grand or as well preserved as the Imperial City in Beijing, but with lots of greenery around, they were peaceful and beautiful in their own way. We took a boat ride on the Pearl River, right across the street from our hotel, and visited an important temple. One morning we crossed the river to walk around the local market, always a fascinating and fun part of most trips, as you see local citizens going about their business as well as the colorful and diverse fruits, vegetables and meats on display for sale.

The food in Vietnam was fresh and delicious – trying all the different courses at dinner each night was a highlight of the trip. One of my favorite dishes was the simplest – Pho – a broth with beef, chicken or pork, noodles, basil, mint, onions and as much spices as you wished. I couldn’t get enough of this simple but filling dish. Pictured here is Pho from a cafe in Saigon with cafe with milk (sweetened condensed milk). As it´s quite hot and humid in Vietnam, I preferred mine over ice.

The main form of transportation in Vietnam is the motorbike. Our guide told us all about the specific models that were the most popular, and it was fun to see everyone carting just about anything you can imagine on them – sometimes several people, groceries, and packages. The largest item I saw transported was a mattress! Even though there were motorbikes everywhere, and it seemed very disorganized and chaotic, traffic seemed to have a rhythm and moved in an orderly fashion. The big challenge for us was crossing the street. We were instructed to start out slowly and move in a straight line, not darting or changing course and the motorbikes would move around you. It took some courage, but I finally crossed the street without incident – some of the other travelers were impressed with my bravery.

We were treated to a group cooking class, and while I thought it might not appeal to everyone, it seemed that we all enjoyed chopping and cutting and making different parts of a several course meal. It was fun and there were many laughs as we judged our individual spring roll folding capabilities.

There are many more special moments and sights from the trip to share – visiting the ancient town of Hoi An and the small village surrounded by rice fields just outside it, driving by China Beach and staying in a luxurious resort just down the road, seeing the floating markets outside of Can Tho and taking a boat up the Mekong River, and the Cu Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon). Many in our group also took the extension program to Cambodia, the highlight being the temples of Angkor. We were fortunate that three Vietnam veterans were in our group, and it was interesting for all of us to hear about their war experiences as well as their wonder at how much the country had changed since they left.

I encourage you to consider joining our Penn Alumni Travel program back to Vietnam n February – there has been much interest in the trip since our brochure mailed, and I can personally recommend it! More details can be found here.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Kiera R., Penn Alumni Travel, Photos, Travel

Welcome to New Students

Author: Jeanne Leong, University Communications

This past Tuesday, the University held Convocation ceremonies for the new Class of 2015.   Over 2,500 of the incoming class attended, alongside 129 transfer students.

Photograph by Peter Tobia

President Amy Gutmann gave the students their first University test by asking them to show their school spirit by cheering after she called out the names of the four undergraduate schools. “College of Arts and Sciences!” “Nursing!” “Engineering!” “Wharton!”

After the raucous cheers, Gutmann encouraged the freshmen to be open to new experiences.  “You make your journey alongside an amazing group of classmates. You will challenge each other to broaden your horizons, to think in new ways and to see controversial issues from different perspectives, including on such fundamental matters as which food truck offers the best fare.”

Provost Vincent Price quoted Benjamin Franklin, saying, “Don’t squander time.” He advised students, “Spend time off line. Go ahead and follow someone, but do it on a bike or on a hike.”

In encouraging them to become well-rounded, Price recommended exploring interests outside of academics.

“Make room for new experiences. Go see a play. Or better yet, try acting,” he said.

The members of the Class of 2015 hail from 49 states, and the class includes 370 international students from 66 countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, Ghana and India.

You can view the full Flckr stream of photos here.

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Filed under Campus Life, Events, Guest blogger, Traditions

Penn Honors Lenape Land of New Penn Park

Author: Cecilia Ramirez, C’05, SP2’10

If you haven’t heard, Penn has been working on a beautiful new 24-acre park on the east side of campus and the official grand opening is scheduled to take place from Sept. 15-17, 2011. There is an amazing celebratory line-up for this big occasion including live music, free food and refreshments, field activities (including human foosball) and even fireworks! If you haven’t been back to Penn in a while, you will definitely be blown away by this.

During Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture at Penn (when we will crush Princeton,) you can also attend a special pre-game tribute ceremony to commemorate the land upon which this new park was built- land home to the Lenape people of our region. Both Penn and Princeton reside on Lenape soil, so we will pay tribute to the ancestors who cradled both of the schools that will be present for the Homecoming Football game. The Association of Native Alumni and Natives at Penn will be hosting this historic event and all are welcome to attend.

Penn Park stretches along 31st Street from Walnut Street to South Street and includes 12 tennis courts, a multi-purpose stadium for 400 spectators, 520 trees, a softball stadium and a multi-level elevated walk. The new space actually increases Penn’s green space by 20%!

Penn Park Event Rundown

  • Grand Opening Picnic: Thursday, September 15, 2011 (5:00 pm to 7:30 pm)
  • Field Day: Saturday, September 17, 2011 (4:00 pm to 6:00 pm)
  • Lenape Land Pre-Game Land Tribute: Saturday, November 5, 2011 (10:00am to 11:00am)

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Cecilia R., Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Penn Park, Philadelphia