Monthly Archives: December 2017

Penn Serves LA 2016 – 2017 Year in Review

Penn Serves LA logo volunteering with Penn Alumni in Los Angeles

Since 2012, Penn Serves LA has been dedicated to the mission of providing Penn alumni with vetted opportunities for meaningful community service in the Los Angeles area. We work with a diverse mix of community organizations, with hands-on programs in a variety of locations throughout the city, all under our motto of SERVE, LEARN and HAVE FUN too. In some cases, Penn alumni become involved with the organizations we serve on an ongoing basis.

The projects and the impact of Penn Serves LA, along with the engagement of our participants, during 2016-2017 are described below. This past year, Penn Alumni, along with their families and friends, participated in a broad array of service activities across a wide swath of the LA region. Our projects included home building, fruit picking, blanket crocheting, food re-purposing, fluorescent painting, and literacy celebrating.

We have already kicked off our 2017 – 2018 year of activities with several events:

A calendar of impactful activities and projects for the year ahead is scheduled, and we look forward to working alongside Penn alumni, families and friends in 2018. Confirmed events for 2018 include:

We welcome all Penn alumni and their families and friends to participate at our events and are deeply grateful to the many people who participated in our projects last year, whether one time or frequently.  Through active engagement, Penn Serves LA builds bonds among our alumni, across all years and schools, while contributing to the strength of our great city.

Please Email us to be added to our Penn Serves email list. And Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Penn Serves LA 2016 – 2017 Year in Review

Read about all the people and animals that have benefited from the efforts of our Penn Serves LA volunteers during the last academic year (click on the date to read about our event and on the organization name to learn more about the organizations we helped).

October 2016: Got Books? Led by CEO and Penn alumnus Parker Hudnut, ICEF Public Schools is a Los Angeles based charter operator that oversees nine inner-city charter schools serving over 3,500 K-12 students. Penn volunteers staffed a wonderful literacy day, helping with craft projects, reading to kids, and generally sharing their love of books with the eager young students and their families.

Penn Serves LA volunteers at ICEF public schools

Penn Serves LA volunteers and ICEF staff with books

November 2016: Alumni made a visit to LA Kitchen, an organization working to empower, nourish and engage our community by reclaiming and repurposing healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded. Alumni donned aprons and wielded large knives to convert bruised fruits and vegetables into healthy meals for seniors and the disadvantaged.

Penn Serves LA volunteers with L.A. Kitchen after food prep

Penn Serves LA volunteers pose with members of L.A. Kitchen after a morning spent chopping, slicing and dicing food.

January 2017: Penn Serves volunteers were trained in the art of crocheting with the lofty goal of creating soft, cheerful handmade blankets. Blankets of Love donates these works of love to bring some sense of security and joy to babies leaving Martin Luther King, and other area hospitals, with mothers and families who have little or no means, or who are living on the street.


January 2017: We toasted Ben Franklin’s birthday and the New Year at a festive cocktail party. Our attendees took a moment to share a bit of their Penn story and their motivation for engaging with Penn Serves LA. As is true at all events, a wonderful cross-section of Penn schools and years were represented and hearing the stories about people choosing to commit time and energy to improve our city was most inspiring.

A great crowd of alumni of all ages and backgrounds coming to learn about Penn Serves LA

A great crowd of alumni of all ages and backgrounds coming to learn about Penn Serves LA

April 2017: For the second time, Penn alumni partnered with Habitat for Humanity for a lengthy, exhausting and most memorable day of working on a new home side by side with the family that will live there. People caulked, sawed, framed, installed siding and generally felt terrific about learning new skills and contributing to creating a lovely home for a family in need.

Penn Serves LA helps Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles - volunteering Penn Alumni with Habitat LA

The Penn Serves LA group – proudly wearing the Red and the Blue – after helping Habitat LA

May 2017: On a very hot day, alumni drove great distances to Orcutt Farm to work with Food Forward, an organization that has “rescued” over 100 million servings of fresh local produce in the past eight years. We spent the afternoon in an orange grove with other volunteers and picked 6500 pounds of fresh oranges, which would be delivered that very day to some of the 300 shelters, senior centers, and agencies Food Forward serves.

Penn Serves LA at Food Forward

Penn Serves LA ready to help pick fruit for Food Forward

July 2017: It was a happy day when Penn Serves volunteers spent an afternoon using fantastic fluorescent colors to paint flowers on enormous disks. Portraits of Hope was started in 1995 to develop motivational art projects to provide creative therapy for children with special needs, and civic education for students, by producing dynamic public artworks. The 1000 disks we helped to create will be distributed to adorn and brighten animal shelters throughout the city.

Penn Serves LA Paints at Portraits of Hope in El Segundo

Penn Serves LA at Portraits of Hope

August 2017: For our final project of the academic year, our volunteers assisted LA Works, an umbrella organization that, like Penn Serves, strives to empower Angelenos to address pressing social issues through volunteerism and community collaborations. The activities this day were focused entirely on the pressing issue of family and youth homelessness, and we listened to first-hand stories, created fleece blankets, packed necessity kits and the like.

9.8.17 photo 1



About Penn Serves LA

Penn Serves LA logo volunteering with Penn Alumni in Los Angeles

Penn Serves LA impacts the Los Angeles community by engaging University of Pennsylvania alumni, parents and families in meaningful community service activities.

Since our founding in 2012, we have done everything from serving meals to the homeless to restoring the environment to fixing homes. Six times annually, we find another great opportunity to learn about interesting nonprofits, lend a hand and enjoy a fun experience with fellow alumni.

Join Us

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!

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.

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Michal Clements, W’84 | Justin Gordon, W’05 | Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Jamie Kendall, W’04 | Irene Park, C’05 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Michelle Wattana, C’09 | Denise Winner, W’83, PAR’21

Read about our previous events:





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Filed under Alumni Programming, Jane G., Kiera R., Los Angeles, Michal Clements, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

The Origin of the Split Button: Separating Fact From Fiction

By: Nina McManus, W’21, Work Study Student, Sweeten Alumni House 

Constructed in 1981 by Swedish sculptor Claes Oldenburg, the “Split Button” is seated in front of Van Pelt Library. The aluminum sculpture weighs 5,000 lbs. and is sixteen feet in diameter. The total cost of the sculpture, including transportation and installation, was $100,000. The funds were generated by the University, private donors and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It has become one of the most popular landmarks on Penn’s campus and is a common meeting point for students. However, the sculpture has not always been so beloved.  

At the time of its creation, there was much controversy surrounding it. At the unveiling, the Button created controversy on campus, with critics calling it “a poor addition to College Green.” Students felt that the sculpture was intrusive and out of place with its surroundings. Others couldn’t find the significance of the button and where it was placed. Today, however, it serves as a landmark and a focal point of Penn’s campus. 

There is also a popular myth surrounding the Button. It is said that when Ben Franklin sat down in his chair atop the statue in front of College Green, his button popped off his vest, rolled away, and split in two where it landed in front of Van Pelt Library. However, Oldenburg, the sculptor’s creator, gave an interview to The Philadelphia Inquirer on June 9, 1981, in which he said that the crack in the button represents the Schuylkill River and it divides the button into four regions: a nod to William Penn’s original design of Philadelphia as centering around four symmetrically placed parks. Whichever interpretation you prefer, the Button is an important part of Penn’s campus culture. 



The Split Button after its 2017 restoration. Photo: Rebecca Elias Abboud. 


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Who You Gonna Call? (35 Weeks To Go)

By Kiera Reilly, C’93

The Penn Student Directory was a printed listing of all the students at Penn – their campus address and phone numbers. It was published every academic year by Penn Student Agencies.

We managed to track down three of the student directories from our time at Penn.

Rob Williams, C’93, had our first student directory with a beautiful photo of Locust Walk in the Spring.

Penn Student Agencies' Penn Student Directory 1989 University of Pennsylvania #93tothe25th

Penn Student Directory 1989 – 1990, photo courtesy of Rob Williams, C’93

As you can see from the cover page below, students’ local (Philly) address and phone numbers were listed as well as the home address, expected graduation year and faternity/sorority affiliation. The information was provided by the Registrar.

Title page Penn Student Agencies' 1989 Penn Student Directory University of Pennsylvania #93tothe25th

Title page of the 1989 – 1990 directory, photo courtesy of Rob Williams, C’93

Remember Penntrex? It’s a, “state-of-the-art telephone system.” The monthly line cost was $8.00.

Penntrex instructions in Penn Student Agencies' 1989 Penn Student Directory University of Pennsylvania #93tothe25th

Penntrex – how to use it! Photo courtesy of Rob Williams, C’93

I remember the coupons in the directory – poor college students needed these to save money!

Penn Directory coupons University of Pennsylvania Penn Student Agencies #93tothe25th

Coupons in the Penn Directory, photo courtesy of Rob Williams, C’93

I had the covers from two directories in my stash of Penn things. Here is the one from our junior year.

Penn Student Agencies 1991 Penn Student Directory Kiera Reilly University of Pennsylvania #93tothe25th

The Penn Student Agencies 1991 -92 Student Directory. Photo courtesy of Kiera Reilly, C’93

I worked at Penn Student Agencies during my four years at Penn, and the summer between my junior and senior year, I worked in the PSA office.

Since the student directory was produced by PSA, there was a summer staff working on the directory.

Here is a photo of us having fun on the Button.

Penn Student Directory staff from Penn Student Agencies University of Pennsylvania #93tothe25th

Penn Student Agencies summer staff 1992, photo courtesy of Kiera Reilly, C’93. Back row, L-R: Chris Lehmann, C’93, Jeff Hurok, C’94, W’94, Diana Cruz, C’93, Mo Massel, C’94. Front row, L-R: Kiera Reilly, C’93, Dena Klein, C’94, Debbie Jaffe, C’93

I remember having many laughs with this crew, and I contacted Chris and Diana to see if they remembered anything specific about our summer working in the basement of Houston Hall (where Penn Student Agencies was located while we were students).

Diana immediately responded with this memory:

I do remember us ruthlessly teasing Jeff, about what I don’t remember. Probably him saying my last name is spelled “H-U-R-O-K” as in “you are Ok, ok?”

I remembered that too – because he’d call to leave his name and say, “H as in Harrry, you are OK.” To this day, whenever I leave a message and have to spell something, I always say H as in Harry and think of Jeff!

Diana also said:

I remember thinking while going door to door from business to business “I signed up to do this again?!?” While walking around in 90+ degree heat and 90% humidity!

Chris chimed in and said that we had a lot of targets for teasing, including Publications Director Mo Massel, C’94.

Here are some photos of what we worked on all summer, the student directory for our senior year at Penn.

Penn Student Agencies 1992 Penn Student Directory University of Pennsylvania Kiera Reilly #93tothe25th

The 1992-92 Student Directory produced by Penn Student Agencies, photo courtesy of Kiera Reilly, C’93.

Penn Student Agencies 1992 Penn Directory photo by Kiera Reilly #93tothe25th

Cover page of the 1992-1993 directory, photo courtesy of Kiera Reilly, C’93

Here is the credits page for the directory with all of our jobs. It was a fun summer!

Penn Student Agencies Penn Student Directory credits University of Pennsylvania Kiera Reilly #93tothe25th

Credits page for the 1992 – 1993 Penn Student Agencies Directory, photo courtesy of Kiera Reilly, C’93

Did you save a copy of the student directory? We would love to see a copy of the 1990 – 1991 directory.

Penn Class of 1993 25th Reunion Countdown

The weekend of September 8 – 9, 2017, marked 35 weeks until the 25th Reunion of the Penn Class of 1993 (May 11 – 14, 2018)!

Join us we count down the weeks to our reunion #93tothe25th:

  • Do you have old photos or mementos from our time at Penn? Photos of Spring Fling? Football at Franklin Field? Classes at DRL? We are taking a trip down memory lane and would love for you to share your memories with our class in a future post. Please email us!
  • Join our reunion committee – email Lisa Grabelle at
  • Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.
  • Classmates are invited to join our Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

Important hotel update! Overwhelming response from our great class has sold out the Downtown Marriott Class of 1993 room block for Saturday night. There are alternative hotels. We recommend booking ASAP! Please see our class website for additional details.

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December in Philadelphia: University City Events and Center City Attractions


Image courtesy of Longwood Gardens

The month of December is a time to celebrate and gather. There are a wide variety of seasonal events and attractions around the University of Pennsylvania campus and within the greater Philadelphia area. Below you will find a guide to some of these happenings throughout the City of Brotherly Love to celebrate the holiday season.

Events in University City


Second Saturday: Winter Solstice

Saturday, December 9th – 11:00am – 4:00pm

Celebrate the holidays with a scavenger hunt, winter-themed crafts and exploration of the galleries.

This event is free with museum admission!



Friday Night Lights, Garden Railway

Fridays, December 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 – 4:30pm – 7:30pm

See the Garden Railway decorated in recognition of the holiday season!

Click here to be linked to the events site of Morris Arboretum for tickets.

Morris Arbor Train

Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum


Irish Christmas in American, Zellerbach Theater

Saturday, December 9th – 8:00pm

Get into the Christmas spirit with Irish and Scottish holiday ballads and Irish dancing.

Canadian Brass: Christmas Time is Here, Zellerbach Theater

Sunday, December 10th – 2:00pm.

Enjoy a mix of holiday standards and upbeat festive tunes.

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker, Zellerbach Theater

Monday, December 18th, and Tuesday, December 19th – 7:00pm

Experience this traveling classic in your city featuring an extravagant set.


Click here to purchase tickets for any of these shows and more at the Annenberg Center.


Center City Attractions

Wintergarden, Dilworth Park and City Hall

December brings holiday festivities to Dilworth Park and the Courtyard of City Hall. One of many attractions is seeing the historic building illuminated with holiday lights during the Deck the Hall Light Show. The Rothman Institute is sponsoring an ice rink and indoor cabin space where food and drink are available for purchase. Ice skates are available to rent for $10 and admission to the rink is set at $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 10 and under.

On the Albert M. Greenfield lawn, visitors will find America’s Garden Capital Maze which features topiaries and greenery from more than 30 public gardens in the Philadelphia area. Enter the Courtyard to find a holiday-themed carousel and the Philadelphia holiday tree at the north end of City Hall. Along with these many attractions, Dilworth Park is home to the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market featuring crafts, art, and gifts from local vendors.


Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, Penn’s Landing

Penn’s Landing celebrates winter with an Olympic sized ice skating rink, fire pits, and more! Work up an appetite skating and dine at the ski chalet-style Lodge Restaurant and Bar. The space also features a children’s lodge with arcade games and other activities. General admission is free; admission to the ice rink is $3 and skates are available to rent for $10.

Penn's Landing

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest at Penn’s Landing



The LOVE sculpture itself is currently still under renovation but the park has been transformed into Christmas Village for the holiday season. The location is inspired by and modeled after the traditional Christmas Markets found in Germany and features 80 wooden booths of both local and international vendors. Visitors are enticed by smells of traditional European cuisine including waffles, bratwurst, and mulled wine while searching for the perfect holiday gift.

The LOVE sculpture is set to return in February of 2018.


Holiday Festival and Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show, Franklin Square

Franklin Square is home this holiday season to an elaborate display of lights and decor. The light show begins every 30 minutes beginning at 4:00pm every day. The attraction is completely free and open to the public!

Franklin Square

Holiday Lights at Franklin Square

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens makes their ornate transformation once again this year. This French-inspired holiday display features fountain shows, dining in the gardens, carolers in costume, and more than 50 trimmed trees throughout the space. Admission tickets are required and prices are as follows: $23 for adults, $20 for seniors, $20 for students, $12 for children.

Click here to purchase tickets for Longwood Gardens.


For more events and attractions in Philadelphia, visit



Images courtesy of

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