Category Archives: Ben Franklin

Last 250th Anniversary Event – Winter Holiday Festival on the Green (74 Weeks To Go)

By Kiera Reilly, C’93

Today, January 17, 2017, marks the 311th Birthday of Penn’s founder, Benjamin Franklin. To celebrate Ben, and note the 74th week until our 25th reunion, we look back to December 1990, when Penn concluded a year of celebrating the 250th Anniversary of its founding.

As noted in this issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian from December 6, 1990, the final event of the year-long celebration of Penn’s 250th anniversary would be a, “Winter Holiday Festival on the Green.”

The Daily Pennsylvanian notes Penn's 250th Anniversary Celebration to end in December 1990

Clip from front page of the DP on December 6, 1990 noting the end of Penn’s 250th anniversary celebrations.

The Daily Pennsylvanian news clip from December 6, 1990 on Penn's 250th annniversary celebration

Continuation of DP article from December 6, 1990, on the final celebration for Penn’s 250th

The party was the day before finals started on campus for the fall semester.

Thank you go Joanna Kwa, C’93, for sharing this photo of Krista Prescop, C’93, and Johanna Pasternak Maleh, W’93, at the event.

Photo by Joanna Kwa of Penn's 250th Anniversary Final Celebration on College Green in December 1990

Krista Prescop and Johanna Pasternak Maleh pose with a toy soldier in front of Ben Franklin. Photo from Joanna Kwa

I have two not very good photos from the party – one is of Ben Franklin decked out in a red scarf for the celebration.

Photo by Kiera Reilly of Ben Franklin statue on Penn's College Green during December 250th Anniversary celebration

Ben Franklin statue on College Green decorated for the final celebration of Penn’s 250th Anniversary in December, 1990.

My other picture is of the lighted, wrapped “presents” that decorated College Green.

Photo by Kiera Reilly of December 1990 celebration of Penn's 250th Anniversary

Wrapped presents with the Penn seal

Does anyone else remember this party? I vaguely remember attending and thinking it was a fun break from studying for finals.

The Daily Pennsylvanian Full Pages

I include below the two full pages from The DP on December 6th – it is interesting to see the other campus news items, especially the one on the hopeful re-opening of Troy’s by our classmate Matthew Klein!

Cover page of the December 6, 1990 issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian

Cover page of the December 6, 1990 issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian

Page 9 from the December 6, 1990 issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian continues articles from the front page on the final 250th event

Page 9 from the December 6, 1990 issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian continues articles from the front page on the final 250th event


Penn Class of 1993 Reunion Countdown

The weekend of December 9-10, 2016 marked 74 weeks until the 25th Reunion of the Penn Class of 1993 (May 11 – 13, 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!
  • Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.
  • Classmates are invited to join our Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

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Filed under 25th Reunion, Ben Franklin, Class of 1993, Kiera R.

Penn Alumni Club Joins Alumni Band for a Memorable Ben’s Birthday Bash

By Robin Tauber Plonsker, C’86

On January 25th, the Penn Alumni Club of Westchester & Rockland Counties teamed up with The Velcrows band, which counts 3 Penn alumni among its members, for food, drinks and rock ‘n roll in celebration of Ben Franklin’s 308th birthday.

The Velcrows

The Velcrows, featuring Randi Nielsen, W’84, (vocals), Mike Rosenman, C’76, (drums), and Rob Birkenholz, ME’82, (guitar)

I met Randi Neilsen, W’84, at Homecoming this past fall and learned that she and her husband, Robert Birkenholz, ME’82, as well as alum Mike Rosenman, C’76, have a band and perform at venues in Westchester. Randi and Rob met and formed a band while they were students at Penn. Happily, the couple and the band are still together. We thought it would be fun to tie a Club event into one of their gigs. It turned out the timing was perfect for Ben’s Birthday Bash, our annual event celebrating Ben Franklin’s birthday.

Combining our event with The Velcrows’ performance was a hit. We started the evening with food, drinks, and conversation, sang happy birthday to Ben, and then rocked to great tunes sung by Randi and Rob backed up by their awesome band. A great time was had by all!

A Happy Penn Crowd

An excited Penn crowd, celebrating Ben with the Velcrows

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Ben Franklin, Ben's Birthday Bash, Guest blogger

Something Worth Writing

Author: Carolyn Grace, C’16

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

– Benjamin Franklin

I love to write.  That may seem obvious, given the length of my previous blog posts, but I feel like I need to officially proclaim it.  Whether it be an analysis of primary documents for my Modern American Culture class or a 100-word review of Lorde’s new album, writing lets me tap into my creative side in way that I can only describe as therapeutic.

Penn provides so many academic and extracurricular opportunities for me to exercise and develop my writing skills.  As a Creative Writing minor, I have already been exposed to a couple different writing-intensive classes.  The English class I am currrently taking, The Arts and Popular Culture, focuses on journalistic writing in the arts.  The course description is as follows:

This is a workshop-oriented course that will concentrate on all aspects of writing about artistic endeavor, including criticism, reviews, profiles, interviews and essays. For the purposes of this class, the arts will be interpreted broadly, and students will be able — and, in fact, encouraged — to write about both the fine arts and popular culture.

This class is absolutely phenomenal!  My professor, Anthony DeCurtis, is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine.  Each week, he brings in a guest Penn alum who works in the writing world.  So far, we’ve had people come in from the New Yorker, the Washington Post, TeenVogue, and Buzzfeed, with more guests to come!

This is a piece that Anthony DeCurtis wrote recently. It's a profile of Robert De Niro for Du Jour Magazine.

This is a piece that Anthony DeCurtis wrote recently. It’s a profile of Robert De Niro for Du Jour Magazine.

The final project of the class is a 3000-word piece about an artist or arts organization in Philadelphia that will involve extensive reporting, interviews and research.  Currently, I’m working on a 1000-word profile of Michaela Majoun, the host of the Morning Show on WXPN, the radio station at operates out of Penn.  I’m thinking of developing this profile into my final project.  We’ll see what happens!

It’s funny, my Arts and Popular Culture course is actually how I got involved in writing extracuricularly at Penn.  A good third of the editors of 34th Street, Penn’s arts and culture magazine, take this class with me.  I would always hear them talk about the weekly Writers Meeting that took place only a couple hours after this class would finish.  One day, I decided I’d go to the meeting.  I filed into the tiny room in the DP office, said my name, year, and what one ingredient I would put in a brownie (that was the ice breaker of the week).  I volunteered to write a couple pieces for the Music section, and the rest is history.

Since that first Writers Meeting, I’ve had such a fun time writing for 34th Street!  I write predominantly for the Music and Arts sections, just because they’re the ones I’m most interested in.  So far, my editors have let me do some really cool assignments!  This week, I co-wrote a review of Underground Arts, an up and coming arts venue in the Loft district of Philly.  I got a free ticket to see the alternative band Grouplove perform in concert the night I covered the venue.  It was awesome!

The entryway to Underground Arts. (courtesy of 34th Street)

The entryway to Underground Arts. (courtesy of 34th Street)

In addition, I conducted a series of interviews for a preview of this week’s Philadelphia Open Studios Tours.  I talked with several local artists about their work, their studios, what made them decide to be an artist, and why they think an event like POST is so important.  This piece is the longest I’ve written for Street so far, and it’s definitely one of my favorites.  I’m planning on visiting the studios this weekend, both to thank the artists for helping me and to show them the final piece.

Burnell Yow! (the exclamation point is part of his last name) - one of the many artists I interviewed for my POST feature.  Courtesy of 34th Street.

Burnell Yow! (the exclamation point is part of his last name) – one of the many artists I interviewed for my POST feature. (courtesy of 34th Street)

This semester in particular has gotten me extremely excited about writing.  I think it’s because I now realize how easy it is to write at Penn in both a variety of styles and a variety of settings.  I have peers and professors as my editors.  I can write about my favorite subject – the arts – for either a letter grade or a Facebook “like.”  Penn is giving me the opportunity to grow as a writer both in and out of the classroom.  That’s doing something worth writing.

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Filed under Academics, Ben Franklin, Campus Life, Carolyn G., Clubs, Photos, Student Perspective

With Great Anticip…

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

For the better part of the last two years, I’ve garnered concerned looks whenever I start to talk excitedly about a floating boardwalk on the Schuylkill.

“There are great plans underway!” I exclaim to anyone who will listen.  “Someday, we’ll be able to walk from the South Street Bridge all the way up to Walnut Street, on a boardwalk perched above the river!”  As is often the fate of prognosticators and sooth-sayers, my promises for a brighter future have been met with fear, suspicion, and uncertainty, particularly if I make these statements to utter strangers whizzing by on their bikes.

Actually, I do not make such proclamations vocally, but I am irrationally excited about the Schuylkill River Trail extension currently under construction. The trail now ends just below Walnut Street, with a convenient overpass to access the nearby park: bikers are forced to end their ride in an abrupt cul-de-sac, while runners find themselves veering off of the river’s bank and filing back onto Center City streets. For those of us who live south of South Street, it’s tempting to wish that the trail would extend just a little further, although it’s also easy to understand why it doesn’t. At that point on the trail, the river bank narrows sharply as a more industrial set of buildings encroach, meaning that the only path along the river would quickly land you in the river.


That’s why this most recent construction project is such a thrill: they’re putting the Schuylkill Trail directly over the river. The boardwalk won’t float, but it will perch on pylons a few feet above the water, extending evening walks by another half mile, tempting fishermen into deeper waters, and royally freaking out my scaredy-cat of a dog, who has to be coaxed across even the sturdiest of bridges.


Here is Lilli, unresistingly being used as a pillow by the cat, Mac.

Over the past few months, every addition that has been made to this multi-stage construction project has led to some new thrill/temptation for me to shout:

    • Wow, the pipe they’re using for that concrete pillar is HUGE!!
    • Hey, the ramp is almost done!

So far, I have continued to restrain myself, but I don’t know how much more I can take.


I love to walk in Philadelphia. You can get nearly anywhere in this city if you’re willing to put in a half hour at a steady pace. I like that if you own a car here, you rarely need to use it.  I also appreciate that the Philadelphia “Powers that Be” seem to nurture these pedestrian impulses.  Only recently did I discover that you can walk (or bike) essentially uninterrupted from Center City to Valley Forge on the Schuylkill River Trail, and that when completed, this trail will extend almost 130 miles, from Philly to Pottsville, from the University of Pennsylvania’s campus all the way to the Appalachian Trail.

I think Ben Franklin would be proud of the face that part of his legacy was a footpath with the power to lead people out into Penn’s Woods, following the banks of a river that he hoped would one day become easier to navigate.

In Dutch, Schuylkill means “hidden river,” and, while I certainly advocate for keeping rivers wild and free, I think Ben had this one right: the Schuylkill is a river that should be easy to navigate, and easy for people to enjoy.

And with every passing day, the trail gets a little closer…

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Filed under Ben Franklin, Patrick B., Philadelphia

My Top Penn List: I <3 Penn

Author: Casey Ryan, C’95

It’s St. Valentine’s Day and I thought there could be no better use of my Top Penn List blog entry for today then an open love letter to the University.


Things that I Love about Penn:

10. Art. There is treasure trove of public art on campus as well as in numerous galleries (read more herein When the Students Aren’t Here).  Places like ICA and the Arthur Ross allow staff, students, and visitors to take in some art during the work day.

A temporary exhibit at the ICA.

9. Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. As a current student or a staff member, one can take advantage of the impressive collection of novels ranging from current best sellers to the classics. However, there are some additional treats in Van Pelt, like movies, foreign language materials and very comfortable lounge chairs. Plus, you can even find places to get food and drink in the building.

8. Classes. There are so many classes on Penn’s campus that it’s difficult to choose.  I’ve mused about the courses I would take if I had the chance again in my “Do Over” list.

 7. Architecture. We work, go to school and live in the very large and dynamic University of Pennsylvania Campus Historic District, a district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of our beloved buildings are noted on this list. My own office building, E. Craig Sweeten Alumni House (aka Delta Tau Delta) from 1914, makes the grade.

Furness Building, interior .

6. Intellectual Access. We try to capitalize on the educational opportunities here on campus.  Why, just this very year, Sweeten staff members have started a book club. In fact, our first reading assignment came from the one featured by the Penn Reading Project for 2012-2013, John Patrick Shanleys’ Pulitzer Prize winning play, Doubt. The club has continued throughout the year featuring a variety of short stories selections and this year’s One Book, One Philadelphia selection, The Buddha in the Attic.

5. Sports. Penn’s NCAA and club sports make for great athletic viewing here in our corner of West Philadelphia.  From Franklin Field to the Palestra (both also on the National Registry), from Dunning-Cohen Champions Field to Hamlin Tennis Center of Penn Park and beyond, there are many opportunities to watch Penn take on their collegiate foes in the battle for the bragging rights of being the best.

One of the very first iterations of the vision that is now Penn Park.

4. Ben Franklin. Speaking of bragging rights, we have Ben Franklin; Boston’s native son came to Philadelphia and he ended up adopting us. A printer by trade, a scientist by fame and a founding father, he gives 100 dollar bills their nickname and gave life to our great institution.

 Our founder in front of College Hall (P.S. College Hall is on the National Registry).

Our founder in front of College Hall (P.S. College Hall is on the National Registry).

3. Co-workers. I am really excited to have a cadre of colleagues who help make work not seem like so much work.  You have read some of the stories from Kristina, Lisa Marie, Liz Pinnie, Aimee, and former staffers like Leigh Ann and Elizabeth. Their insight and funny stories can give you a little glimpse of how they make Sweeten seem like a home.

2. The Penn Museum. One of our biggest treasures on campus is the Penn Museum; I always find an reason to visit from the Crystal Ball to the temporary exhibits.  The Arts and Crafts and Eclectic style building (which – surprise, surprise – lands it on the National Registry) houses our internationally renowned educational and research institution dedicated to the understanding of cultural diversity and the exploration of the history of humankind.

1. A Piano in the Office. Sweeten has a lot going for it – it’s located in the center of campus, it’s a converted fraternity house, it’s on aforementioned National Registry – but to me, the most noteworthy aspect of Sweeten is the piano in the main room.  While it is a pretty discussion piece, any member of the Penn community can stop by to tickle the ivories during the 9-5 business day. Many times, I have come downstairs for a cup of coffee to find someone playing and brightening up the day with a Chopin étude, a Mozart minute or a good old-fashion song about Pennsylvania.

The inviting piano in Sweeten.

The inviting piano in Sweeten.

What are the top ten things you love about Penn?  I send my best wishes to everyone out there for a very happy St. Valentine’s Day.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Ben Franklin, Campus Life, Casey R., Penn Museum, Philadelphia, Sweeten Alumni House, The Sweeten Life, Top Ten


Author: Patrick Bredehoft

The idea of what is true merit should also be often presented to youth, explained and impressed on their minds, as consisting in an inclination, joined with an ability, to serve mankind, one’s country, friends, and family.

~Benjamin Franklin

BenAs the Director of the Penn Alumni Interview Program, I have the opportunity to work with over 9,000 Penn graduates from all around the world.  I am continually impressed by the multiplicity of reasons that lead people to get involved as alumni volunteers, as well as by the depth of their commitment to the institution.

I’ll start this series by considering the force from which other motivations follow, the idea Ben Franklin referred to as “an inclination…to serve.”

Last night, I spent some time speaking with an interviewer in California who graduated from the College for Women in the mid-1950s.  She was a trail-blazer in her own right: while at Penn, she had to petition to take Engineering and Computer Science courses, since women weren’t typically allowed to take classes in those fields at the time.  In this capacity, she worked on ENIAC, the world’s first electronic general-purpose computer, and then went on to do graduate work at Harvard and MIT.  For the past several decades, she has served as an alumni interviewer, and in that time, she has interviewed hundreds of prospective Penn students, many of them young women interested in the field of computer science. Thousands of hours of her life have been devoted to this voluntary effort, which translates into several waking months of service on Penn’s behalf.  In our conversation last night, there was a phrase she repeated several times, and it stuck with me: “This isn’t about me,” she insisted. “It’s about the students.”

The Interview Program appeals to some volunteers because it affords them the opportunity to “give back”–not monetarily donations, but with hours invested in service to others.  In some cases, this service becomes a passion, and perhaps even part of a life’s work.

The inclination to serve has been a core aspect of the Penn experience, ever since Ben Franklin penned his Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania. Franklin didn’t envision the Interview Program in those notes, but I think he would approve of its mission: sharing the experiences of our alumni with prospective students, while allowing those students to more fully represent themselves to Penn. At its root, an inclination toward service may not be teachable, but it can certainly be nurtured, modeled, and facilitated. In so doing, generations of former Penn students are embodying an ideal for generations  to come: learning endows us with certain abilities and a common purpose, made all the more valuable as it is shared with others.

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Filed under Ben Franklin, Campus Life, Interview Program, Patrick B., Volunteering

Happy 307th Birthday Ben Franklin!

Ben Franklin

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @KieraReilly

Every year, Penn Alumni clubs around the world gather to celebrate Penn’s founder, Ben Franklin. Many clubs celebrate on Ben’s birthday, January 17th, but others celebrate throughout the month of January.

The Penn Alumni Regional Clubs website lists all of these celebrations. There is still time to raise a toast to Ben in Baltimore (Jan. 31st), Seattle (Jan. 27th) and Westchester and Rockland Counties, NY (Jan. 31st).

The Penn Club of Portland (Oregon) gathered on January 17th to raise a toast. Here’s how they notified members:

Benjamin Franklin visited Ireland in 1771 and was invited to sit with the members of the Irish Parliament rather than in the gallery with other visitors. He was the first American to be given this honor. While touring Ireland, he was moved by the level of poverty he observed. Since Ireland’s economy was governed by the same trade regulations and laws of Britain that governed America, Franklin feared that America could suffer the same effects should Britain’s colonial rule continue. So, we are honoring this event on Benjamin Franklin’s 307th birthday on Thursday, January 17th, at where else?

Kells Irish Brew Pub

210 NW 21st Avenue


Join in celebrating Ben Franklin’s 307th birthday with Penn alums and friends. Beer lovers have long claimed that Franklin’s love of beer led him to say: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Wine lovers and Walter Isaacson know that the actual quote was: “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” The good news is that both will be available (along with a happy-hour menu until 6:30pm) to continue the proof.

Look for friends, smiling faces and/or small Penn flag.

RSVPs, while not required, are always appreciated.

Club president John Vosmek, C’61, said, “We never had more than 10 at one time – people came and went, but it was all fun.”

Here’s a toast to dear old Ben!

The Penn Club of Portland celebrates Ben Franklin on January 17, 2013.

The Penn Club of Portland celebrates Ben Franklin on January 17, 2013.

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Ben Franklin, Clubs, Events, GAN, Historical, Kiera R., Penn Clubs, West Coast Regional Office

Ode to the Penn Quaker

Author: Amanda D’Amico

Walkers, Banes, and Kantisses took the world by storm this Halloween. While these costumes — and each corresponding show or movie — represent today’s pop culture, I thought Halloween was the perfect time to highlight a costume that never goes out of style: the Penn Quaker.

Despite widespread belief among students, the Quaker has nothing to do with the University’s founder or its early administration. According to an article in the Daily Pennsylvanian from February 2010, the “Penn Quakers” came into being during the late 19th century.

Sportscasters referred to many teams in Pennsylvania as Quakers—as the Commonwealth was founded by a Quaker, William Penn, and guaranteed Quakers the freedom to practice their religion. Because of the University of Pennsylvania’s outstanding athletic prowess during this time (and into the mid-20th century) the nickname “Quakers” stuck to the University.

So no, Benjamin Franklin was not a Quaker. And no, “the Fighting Quaker” isn’t the mascot’s real name. But despite these common misconceptions and the fact that Penn has no historical ties to the Religious Society of Friends, the Quaker remains an icon on campus —through multiple iterations.

Old Quaker

New Quaker

Read more about the history of the Penn Quaker in the Daily Pennsylvanian or view images of the beloved mascot on the University’s Flickr stream.

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Filed under Amanda D., Athletics, Ben Franklin, Historical

Hello, 20-Foot Ben Franklin

Author: Stephanie Yee, C08

I have been known to see red and blue everywhere, and I am always trying to find a Penn connection. However, I am really starting to think SAP loves Penn. Back in July, the Magic Carpet food truck was at SAP’s 40th Anniversary Newtown Square Summer Picnic. Flash forward a few months, and Ben Franklin is at the SAP Active Global Support Newtown Square Summit. Granted, the event was held at the Franklin Institute, so it’s no surprise Ben Franklin was all over the place.

I had visited the Franklin Institute a number of times but always for the special exhibits. This was my first time in the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, and wow it’s beautiful! There is nothing quite like a 20-foot statue of Ben Franklin staring down at you while you eat your taco salad and chicken fingers. Too bad we can’t borrow the statue for Homecoming and Alumni Weekend. I would love to see the 20-foot Ben Franklin wearing the foam Quaker hat or a net-hat from Penn Men’s Basketball.

A 20-foot statue of Benjamin Franklin at the SAP Active Global Support Newtown Square Summit at the Franklin Institute.

Panoramic view of the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial at the Franklin Institute.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Ben Franklin, Philadelphia, Stephanie Y.

Penn, Ben, and the 4th of July

Author: Amanda M. D’Amico

Happy Fourth of July!  During this day filled with barbeques, fireworks, and good company, I wanted to take a moment to think about the reason for this three-day weekend and the impact of America’s founding fathers.  In that spirit, I combed through campus to find images and mementos of one of America’s most prominent founding fathers and Penn’s founder:  Ben Franklin.

Finding Ben Franklin’s influence at Penn isn’t difficult.  From Penn’s alumni magazine, The Pennsylvania Gazette, to this very blog, Mr. Franklin can be found throughout the Penn community.  Here are just a few places where you can see images of Ben Franklin on campus:

Ben on the Bench.  This iconic image of Mr. Franklin sits on the Class of 1962 Walkway and was a gift from this generous class.College Green.  Located directly in front of College Hall, this statue of Ben Franklin has been seen by hundreds of thousands of students, alumni and staff, and serves as the legendary inspiration behind the split button.

Young Franklin.  This statue of a spritely Mr. Franklin is located outside of the appropriately-named Franklin Field.

Quotes.  Mr. Franklin’s words, as well as his images, have permeated Penn’s campus.  The Class of 1962 Walkway is filled with quotations from this world-renowned scholar.  Below are two of my favorites:

Next time you’re taking a walk around Penn, be sure to take notice of the influence that Franklin had on the campus, and on the country at-large.  For information of Franklin’s life and work, visit

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Filed under Amanda D., Ben Franklin, Campus Life, Historical