Category Archives: Penn Park

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

Author:  Lisa Ellen Niver, 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 Ellen Niver (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 and


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

A Year in Review at the Red and the Blue

Author:  Carolyn Grace, C’16

Play this and start reading:

Happy New Year, Quakers!  I hope you all celebrated accordingly 🙂

Since we’re only into the second day of 2014, I don’t believe it’s unreasonable to look back on the many fond memories I had in good ol’ 2013.  However, this is, after all, a Penn blog.   That’s why I’m using this post for My Top 12 Penn Moments of 2013, one for each month.  Enjoy, and try to think of your Top 12 Penn Moments as well!


I get invited to become a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority!  I celebrated my acceptance with my new sisters all through the night, right into my 19th birthday the next morning.  Talk about a great birthday present!

I finally meet my Big!

I finally meet my Big!


Big-Little Week for Sigma Kappa!  (For those who are unfamiliar with the term “Big-Little Week,” click here for more info.)  After a FULL WEEK of anonymously-sent baked goods, gifts, and guys, I discover who my wonderful Big is:  Tara!


Spring Break has arrived at Penn, and what better way to spend it than with my fellow Quakers!  I take a weekend trip to Tenafly, NJ with my good friends Charlotte and Gabby, both of whom I met through the freshman seminar “Katharine Hepburn Films.”  I also travel to New York City with a few members of Counterparts:  Lilly, Scott, and Nina.


Enjoying Fling with some SK girls and Mask & Wig guys!

CP about to take the stage

Ok, so I’m cheating a little bit here.  I have two big moments from April 2013.  The first, of course, is Spring Fling.  I mean, how can I leave that out?  It’s the largest collegiate carnival on the eastern seaboard!  Not to mention, it was my first one.  The second moment:  Time to Shine, of course.  Counterparts was one of the many student groups to perform before the Train and John Legend concert.  What was even cooler was that we were the first group to sing on the same stage as these artists!

8.  MAY

My freshman year at Penn finally comes to a close, but not before I start recording for the new CP album!  In the midst of studying for final exams, we all come in at various times to record various songs from first and second semester.

7.  JUNE

A beautiful day to see the Arc de Triomphe

A beautiful day to see the Arc de Triomphe

Bonjour de la France!  Already having departed in late May,  I am entering my  third week in Tours, France with the Penn-in-Tours summer abroad program.  For six weeks, I study a year’s worth of French at the Université François-Rabelais with about 30 other Penn students.  We all live with host families and go on weekend trips around the Loire Valley, visiting castles, exploring museums, and tasting wine!  After mid-terms, we are given a three-day weekend to travel anywhere in France.  I, along with my friends Rachel, Emily, Fola, and Faith, decide to spend those days roaming the magnificent city of Paris.

6.  JULY

A summer is not complete without a trip to the beach.  In addition to my family’s annual vacation in Strathmere, NJ, I spend a weekend in Wildwood with my good friend, Alexa.  She’s one of the first friends I made at Penn!


BACK. TO. SCHOOL.  After another summer of not tanning at all, I am ready for Sophomore year to begin!  Before NSO even starts, however, I kick off the new school year as a student leader for the PennArts pre-orientation program.  I participated in PennArts as a freshman, and it’s just as fun to experience it again as a leader.  The 50-60 of us explore all the arts that both the Penn and Philadelphia communities have to offer.

The PennArts leaders are ready to welcome the freshmen!


CP welcomes its newest members: David, Emily, Michael, and Andrew!


Date Night?  More like Neuro Night!  A Wharton junior in SK has partnered with the drink company, Neuro, for a class project. As a thank-you for all of her hard work, Neuro brings in manicurists and hair stylists to the SK house to help the girls get ready for our Date Night downtown!

Sarah, Virginia, and I try some Neuro while we wait to get our hair done

Sarah, Virginia, and I try some Neuro while we wait to get our hair done


After weeks and weeks of rehearsal, Counterparts performs its Fall show, “Private ‘Parts.”  I sing a jazz song by Melody Gardot called “Baby, I’m a Fool.”


I am invited to sing at the Mask & Wig Club’s annual Charity Ball!  The band held auditions earlier in the Fall, and several girls (a bunch of them in CP!) were selected to perform.  The guys were extremely fun to rehearse with, and the songs were so much fun!  Of the three events I sang for, Charity Ball was definitely my favorite.  Everyone dresses up in gowns and tuxedos for a night of great food, dancing, and music.  What a classy way to close out the year!

Me and my date, Luke

Me and my date, Luke

And there you have it, 2013 through the eyes of a Penn Quaker.  I hope 2014 brings just as many great moments like these, maybe even more!  Enjoy the new year, Quakers 🙂

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Filed under Campus Life, Carolyn G., Clubs, Fine Art, Making History, Memories of Penn, Penn in the Summer, Penn Park, Philadelphia, Photos, Student Perspective, The Arts, The Arts at Penn, Traditions, Travel, Uncategorized, Video, Videos

Penn Co-Rec Intramural Summer Softball

Author:  Stephanie Yee, C’08

Penn co-rec intramural summer softball is back! Penn Park is a beautiful place to play softball, but sometimes the Philly weather doesn’t cooperate. Check out the photos below from the Tuesday and Thursday games last week.

A beautiful day in Penn Park on Tuesday

A beautiful day in Penn Park on Tuesday

Playing softball on a rainy Thursday
Playing softball on a rainy Thursday
Rainy, cloudy, and gloomy on Thursday. Do you see the umbrella?

Rainy, cloudy, and gloomy on Thursday. Do you see the umbrella?

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Filed under Athletics, Campus Life, Penn Park, Philadelphia, Photos, Stephanie Y.

Time to Celebrate

Author: Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

As the school year nears its completion, many of my classmates and I find that we have a lot to celebrate. Prime example: in one of my classes, the due date for our final paper was pushed back a whole week!  I’m sure I can speak for my classmates in sharing my excitement.

Outside of class, we have a lot to celebrate, as well.  The Graduate School of Education (GSE) and the Wharton Doctoral Council hosted a Masquerade Ball for GSE and Wharton students last Saturday.  It was a fun evening to dress up, see friends that I haven’t been able to catch up with recently, and indulge my creative side by decorating a mask.  My full time cohort members and I will graduate in May, so while we enjoyed the evening, we also took a lot of photos with each other, trying not to think too much about the good-byes we’re all going to have to say in a month or two. \

GSE formal: Posing high-school-dance-style with some of my cohort members.

GSE formal: Posing high-school-dance-style with some of my cohort members.

Tomorrow Time to Shine will be held in Penn Park to celebrate the success of the Making History campaign.  The whole campus is full of bright signs and floating stars, and Locust Walk has a festive air to it.  I hope to see many of you there on Friday!

The view on Locust Walk today.

The view on Locust Walk today.

And one more...

And one more…

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Filed under Campaign, Penn Park, Rebecca E., Student Perspective

Schmotziger Dienstag (aka Greasy Tuesday)

Author:  Lisa Marie

Today is Fat Tuesday, or what is known in Germany as “Schmotziger Dienstag”.  Fat Tuesday is the last day of Karneval, more popularly known as Mardi Gras, when indulgence in such treats as rich, fatty foods is encouraged.  Growing up in a German Lutheran household, I was very familiar with the practice of “Schmotziger Dienstag” and today I will allow myself a few pleasurable excesses in celebration of this tradition.

Massage at Pottruck: Penn Rec offers professional table and chair massage services 7 days per week at the Pottruck Center, to all members and non-members. Members receive a discounted price on massages that last any where from 30 – 90 minutes.  Having my back massaged by a trained professional is the fastest way for me to relax and find a sense of bliss.


Penn Food Trucks: There are many amazing food trucks on Penn’s campus and today I will buy something sweet AND salty to satisfy my “Schmotziger” cravings.

Food Truck

King Cake : Eat a piece of King Cake and look for the plastic baby.  This cake was generously provided to our office after I bought my sweet and salty lunch.  Oh, well, it’s Fat Tuesday.

King Cake

Walk in the Park: Finally, before I go home for the evening, I will take a walk around Penn Park.  Just look at that sky!

Penn Park

Tomorrow is the start of Lent, a time when German Lutherans deny themselves simple pleasures and abstain from excess.  I may decide to give up eating dessert one meal a day or stop watching mind numbing episodes of Private Practice, but for today, I will enjoy all the benefits I can on this beautiful campus.

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Filed under Campus Life, Lisa Marie Patzer, Penn Park, Uncategorized

Daily Perks of Penn Park

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

As an Admissions Officer traveling for Penn last year, I knew that I was supposed to talk about Penn Park while I was on the road. It was an easy selling-point: a new campus space that very few people had seen, a significant expansion of Penn’s athletic facilities, and a bridge between the university and the city of Philadelphia. It made for great press, as well: urban renewal, convenient access, collaboration between the university and the West Philadelphia community.

I do think Penn Park is a special part of the university’s growing identity: it boasts an underground cistern that captures excess storm water, allowing every raindrop to be reused for irrigation. It brings 500 additional trees and native grass species back to the banks of the Schuylkill. It also increases Penn’s total campus green space by 25%, while reducing the campus’s carbon footprint–and opening up opportunities to convert old campus spaces into even more greenery, as with the recently-completed Shoemaker Green. It’s entirely open to the public, but hosts advanced security systems that make it safe at all hours.

But as a Center City resident, I’ve come to realize that these aren’t the reasons that I love Penn Park. I walk to work over the South Street Bridge each day, I follow my dog through the park in the evening, and I jog along the paths to find new energy at the end of an exhausting day. Each time I pass through Penn Park, I’m struck by some new aspect of what it lends to this city: seemingly endless team and club sports practices, of course, but also hosts people from beyond Penn competing and engaging with one another, couples smiling in the grass as they bask in the sun, photographers trying to capture an ephemeral sunset on the Philadelphia skyline, children still unsteady on new bikes, baseball games, tennis matches, soccer, football, Frisbee, and perhaps even a flock of geese that have stopped to rest along a much grander journey. Each time I see the place, I feel lucky to live in Philadelphia, and glad to be part of a city that continues to rediscover itself along the banks of a winding river. Penn Park is a new link in an emerald strand connecting the River Walk, Fairmont Park, Wissahickon, and more trails than anyone could properly walk in a single season.

I’m proud to be a part of Penn not just for what it is, but also for what it will be, and for the ways in which the continually-developing campus benefits the city I live in. Penn Park is one step in the university’s grander plan to transform the surrounding landscape for the better, but mostly, I’m glad that I get to walk by it each day.

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Filed under Campus Life, Patrick B., Penn Park

It’s a Beautiful Day for Tennis at Penn Park

Author: Stephanie Yee, C’08

I played tennis at the Hamlin Tennis Courts at Penn Park for the first time this past Saturday. The courts are beautiful! I look forward to playing there more often. On Sunday, I returned to Hamlin as a spectator to cheer on the Penn Women’s Tennis  team. It was my first Penn Women’s tennis match, and I was so impressed with the talent, skill, and determination of the Quakers on the court.

Walking to the Hamlin Tennis Courts from Walnut Street

Penn students playing football at Penn Park

End of the Penn Women’s Tennis doubles match

Five reasons you should go to Hamlin Tennis Courts:

  1. Penn Women’s Tennis players Jules Rodin and Sol Eskenazi are ranked in national doubles.
  2. Penn students can reserve the outdoor courts for free.
  3. Penn Parking Services’ new Occasional Parking Program offers discounted parking at Penn Park.
  4. Tennis is fun to watch and fun to play.
  5. The weather forecast for the rest of the week is sunny and gorgeous.


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Filed under Athletics, Penn Park, Philadelphia, Stephanie Y.

Thankful for…Campus Mysteries

Author: Raymond Rorke

Is this Penn’s new extreme sport?  A couple of castoffs from the Seventh Seal? Or is this how the bubble gets cleaned?

A couple of castoffs from the Seventh Seal?

Actually, I do have an idea what’s going on, and if you do too, send an email to The first person to answer correctly will get a cool Penn Park memento courtesy of the Penn Alumni blog.

In the meantime, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

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Filed under Campus Life, Penn Park, Raymond R., Sustainability at Penn

My Top Penn List: Memories of Homecoming 2011

Author: Casey Ryan, C’95

Homecoming this year was amazing.  The fall weekend was glorious with its bright light blue sky slightly dusted with clouds and the crispy cool air keeping any rain at bay.  The combination of great weather and engaging programming drew record numbers of alumni back home to Penn.  There is my list highlighting some of the incredible events from this past weekend.

10.          Pre-Game Coming Home Tribute: From Penn to Princeton — A Dedication to Lenape Land.

Penn and Princeton reside on Lenape soil and to pay tribute to their ancestors, the Association of Native Alumni and Natives at Penn came together for a touching ceremony honoring their land home.  The attendees found it poignant that this observance was held on the newest use of Lenape land, Penn Park.

9.            77th Annual Alumni Award of Merit Gala

The event to kick-off the Homecoming Weekend festivities, the Gala is the formal hallmark event of Homecoming.   President Amy Gutmann and Board of Trustees Chair, David Cohen, L’81, paid tribute to the following outstanding alumni, classes and club in a black and white game-themed party that accentuated the many years of love and appreciate that these alumni have for Penn.

  • Edward Anderson, C’65, M’69;
  • Susanna Lachs, CW’74, ASC’76;
  • Mae Agnes Pasquariello, CW’53, GRD’85;
  • Roy Vagelos, C’50; and
  • Paul Williams, W’67
  • Calvin Chen, C’97, W’97, Young Alumni Award of Merit
  • Catherine “Kaki” Marshall, CW’45, Creative Spirit Award
  • Class of 1986, Alumni Class Award of Merit
  • Class Award of Merit; Class of 2006, David N. Tyre Class Communications Award
  • PennClub of LA, Alumni Club Award of Merit.

    Festive decor at the Gala.

8.            Alumnus Stefan Fatsis, C’85, Celebrates the Creative Powers of Scrabble.

As Words with Friends takes over everyone smart phones, it’s refreshing to take a moment and recall the tiled game that started our love affair with making words.  Fatsis and follow alumni enjoyed a lively special discussion in celebration of the tenth anniversary release of his bestselling book, Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players.

7.            Alumni Bacchanal/Platt Fifth Anniversary Party

Those in the performing arts at Penn recall the annual Bacchanal, the end of the year costume party, fondly.  Capturing those memories, the Platt Student Performing Arts House invited alumni back to revel in the boisterous Alumni Bacchanal to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Performing Arts’ newest home on campus.

Platt House 5 Years at the Alumni Bacchanal

6.            Free-at-Noon Concert featuring Frank Turner

WXPN’s weekly “Free-at-Noon” concert at World Cafe Live featured Frank Turner. Turner is an English folk/punk singer-songwriter from Meonstoke, Winchester and formally the lead vocalist of post-hardcore band Million Dead. His musical style seems to be counter to his upbringing – educated on a scholarship at Eton College and studied alongside Prince William. Yet, his current directions are now acoustic-based which have critics calling his work “a fearless venture for an artist with something interesting to say.”

For the “Free-at-Noon” concert in its entirety, visit NPR: here.

5.            Feature Film Screening: Thunder Soul Presented by the Penn Alumni Film Festival

The pinnacle of Penn’s newest Homecoming tradition, the Penn Alumni Film Festival, this feature film did not disappoint. Jamie Foxx’s rousing documentary tells the story of Conrad O. Johnson, a music teacher at a predominantly black high school in Houston. Johnson replaced the mundane standards that students of the Kashmere Stage Band were learning to play with contemporary funk, jazz, and original compositions. He not only got their attention and their active participation in class, he changed their lives forever.

A darkened auditorium watching Thunder Soul

4.            Old Guard Brunch

This is the perennial favorite event for those in Alumni Relations and alumni alike.  Our distinguished alumni who have passed their 50th reunion are invited to this buffet brunch.  Our staff is enchanted by the stories of the Woodland Avenue Trolley, Althea Kratz Hottel, the Mungermen, and Rowbottoms, told so vividly by our alumni that they could have happened yesterday.  Fellow alumni are always excited to see and catch up with old friends as welling as making a new one along the way.  The gathering always ends with festive singing and cheering before folks head over to the game.

Our revered alumni enjoying each other’s company

3.            QuakerFest

The weather couldn’t have been better on this perfect fall day.  Music filled College Green and tents for food and tables for groups to meet up dotted Blanche Levy Park.  Partnered with the Penn Alumni Arts Fair, QuakerFest was the place to be to tailgate before kickoff. In time for the game, the Quaker mascot joined the crowd to lead alumni and friends to Franklin Field!

College Green full of Penn Pride

2.            Taste of Penn: A Global Celebration

Taste of Penn is the flagship festival of the Penn Alumni Diversity Alliance. This year’s party was a tour de force celebrating Penn’s cultural diversity – accentuating its global scope.  Complete with a globe centerpiece with all roads leading to Philadelphia, alumni and friends danced to hip-hop, rock, reggae, salsa, and pop as well as enjoying the flavors from these rich cultural identities in savory entrees and refreshing cocktails.

Peruvian courtship dance by Cynthia Paniagua, who the subject of “Soy Andina,” directed by Mitch Teplitsky, W'80, and featured in this Homecoming’s Penn Alumni Film Festival

1.            Penn Football:  Homecoming Game vs. Princeton

We have a saying in Alumni Relations, “Homecoming isn’t just about the game, but it IS about the game.”  This is always the biggest draw for the weekend. Alumni and friends travel from New York, Washington, Boston, and beyond to be back in Franklin Field and cheer on our football team. The Quakers Homecoming victory over the Tigers continues to give Pennsylvania the chance of being Ivy Champs this year.  It was a thrilling match up, but thankfully, a definitive win, which fueled our hope for another Ivy Title.

Below, you can view for yourself the post game  press conference given by head coach Al Bagnoli, wideout Ryan Calvert, C’12, and linebacker Erik Rask, W’12,  held to celebrate the Quaker’s fifth straight win over Princeton.

Thanks to everyone who returned and we hope to see you back on campus for Alumni Weekend 2012, May 11-14!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Casey R., Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Penn Park, Top Ten, WXPN

Homecoming Weekend Recap (in Video!)

Author: Raymond R.

What a great Homecoming Weekend! I walked around campus with my iPhone and the video below captures what happened. Call it a “handheld homecoming” — a quick, pocket-sized excursion through the weekend that alums might like to share.

So much was happening, right from the start! The black-tie glamour of Friday evening’s Alumni Award of Merit Gala…The peaceful, early morning solemnity of the Lenape Land dedication ceremony at Penn Park…

Throughout the weekend, I was struck again and again by how warm and connected our alumni are, and how enthused they feel about tapping into the “real life” at Penn — all  of the great things that are available on campus every day: our history, traditions, and diversity, our brilliant faculty and professionals, daily illuminating lectures, expressive arts, and a beautiful urban campus of architectural masterpieces as well as Penn Park. In addition, we share a genuine sense of community and service, always remain energized and forward-looking, and, of course, we get to interact with students, students, students!

No wonder we call this place (one that unites us like family) “home”…

If you returned to campus last weekend, you might already feel a bit nostalgic… If you weren’t here, perhaps this short peek at what turned out to be our best attended Homecoming Weekend ever will inspire you to come back to Penn next fall — or maybe even next week!

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Campus Life, Events, Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Penn Park, Philadelphia, Raymond R., Video, Videos