Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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’68 Penn Heavyweight Crew

By Phil McKinley Captain ’68 Penn Heavyweight Crew & Nick LaMotte ’68 Penn Heavyweight Crew


Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Champions – 1967 University heavyweight varsity crew. Left to right: John Ferris, C’69, Bill Purdy, C’68, Stephen Cook, C’68, Austin Godfrey, C’68, Howard Greenberg, ME’67, L’73, Phil McKinley, C’68, Captain Nicholas Paumgarten, C’67, kneeling, Arthur Sculley, W’67. Click here to read the entire story from The Daily Pennsylvanian, 13 September 1967.


There are few superstars in a University eight oared shell. Some oarsmen may be better in some ways than others but all have to pull together in great precision to win a race let alone a national championship. In the fall of 1967 the Pennsylvania Heavyweight Crew came from the previous season with great optimism having won the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships the previous summer on Lake Onondaga only losing the JV race due to a freak storm that came up during the race.

The members of the University of Pennsylvania Class of ’68 who were members of the Penn Heavyweight Crew returning in the fall of 1967 were David W. Carroll, W’68, Stephen A. Cook, C’68, Austin E. Godfrey, C’68, Francis H. Gehman III, W’68, Michael M. Howard, C’68, Nicholas H. LaMotte, C’68, WG’72, Henry H. Livingston III, C’68, Philip H. McKinley, C’68, and William K. Purdy, C’68. The Penn returning seniors and underclassmen were considered the favorites to repeat a national championship and perhaps represent the United States in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Penn had always had a long and venerable rowing tradition. For years now college oarsmen from any class may be in the varsity or JV boat whereas in 1968 we had a separate freshman boat that competed against other freshmen teams. In 1967 Penn had a superb freshman coach Ted Nash, who had won the gold in the four without coxswain in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and then bronze in the four with coxswain at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Ted had begun his coaching career the year the ’68 oarsmen were freshmen and thus spent a year coaching sequentially the ’69, ’70, and ’71 oarsmen who made up the ’68 crew. Ted was a very enthusiastic coach firing up our imaginations and often reminding all of us that this was an Olympic year and we should chase that Olympic sweatshirt all the way to Mexico City.



Joe Burk

Our varsity coach Joe Burk, with whom the seniors, juniors and sophomores spent countless hours on the Schuylkill averaging about 100 miles each week, was the Sullivan Award winner for the best amateur athlete in the U. S., Diamond Scull winner at the Henley Royal Regatta and a World War II PT boat hero who had won the Navy Cross. He rowed for Penn and was Varsity captain. He was a man of few words, kept himself in great shape, always in control, and tough as a titanium rigger. When he asked us to row 24 miles in practice, as we did on Saturday mornings, We never doubted that at 55 he was perfectly capable of doing so in a single perhaps even at a faster pace and certainly at a higher stroke rate than we could. By the calculations of Reed Kinderman, class of ‘67 who is Joe’s unofficial biographer, the ’68 Varsity crew rowed over four thousand miles on the Schuylkill in practice during the fall of ’67 and the spring of ’68.

Our race lineups were based on a demonic random system of employing playing cards with each rower’s or coxswain’s name on a different card. The cards would be shuffled and dealt making up 3 practice boats. Points earned in inter-squad races during practice determined the intercollegiate race boat lineups. Oarsmen had the opportunity to move up if they were in boats that won practice races or down if they lost. Therefore theoretically any member of the crew could be in the JV’s or Varsity at any race. This separated the racers from the rowers and identified those oarsmen who were improving, or not, more readily.


Heavyweight crew practice-rows on Schuylkill River. The crew later won the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Regatta.
Click here to read the entire story from The Daily Pennsylvania, 25 August 1967.

In 1968 the freshman crew swept away all adversaries. The JV crew who had lost to Harvard in a dual meet came back to beat them in the Eastern Sprints and the Varsity lost only to Harvard. In June 1968 the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships again took place on Lake Onondaga. This year it was a 2000 meter race, the Olympic distance, instead of the 3 mile race the previous year. Penn was ready. Again the freshmen triumphed, and this year, without a storm to stop the JVs, they almost coasted to their victory. It was the Varsity’s turn. Coming off the start at 44 strokes per minute we were well ahead but fell back. Slowly over the next 1500 meters we steadily pulled up on the lead boats and passed them winning by a half-length of open water over the second place Washington University Huskies.

Since Harvard and Yale had their special race on the same weekend as the Intercollegiate Rowing Championships the question was raised as to who should represent the United States in the 8 oared shell competition in the Olympics in Mexico City. An Olympic Trials was arranged between Penn and Harvard in Long Beach California later in the summer. The lineup in the Penn boat was changed hopefully to increase its speed by displacing myself and another senior oarsman, Nick LaMotte, who had been drafted the day of the national championship IRAs but thanks to the efforts of Joe Burk was able to return under the Army sports program. We were replaced with two underclassmen, Luther Jones and Gardner Cadwalader. The Olympic Trials Race was held under perfect conditions with both boats bow to bow rowing hard down the course. The only way of telling who won was the photo taken at the finish. After some deliberation it was declared that Harvard won with less than a 4/100s second lead over Penn, the length of the bowball.

After the loss in the eights, several of the members of the Penn crew decided to continue training and try out for the small boat Olympic Trials several weeks later. After training in a 4 with coxswain a group of our own  Penn superstars, Luther Jones ’71, Bill Purdy ’68, Tony Martin ’69, Gardner Cadwalader ’70,  and coxswain John Hartigan, an alumnus coxswain (Penn ’63), won the Olympic small boat trials. They represented Penn extremely well in the ’68 Mexico City Olympics making the finals but coming up short of a medal. Indeed 1968 had been an extremely good year for Penn Heavyweight Rowing.


Penn’s Olympic Oarsmen (left to right: Luther Jones, W’71, Bill Purdy, C’67, Tony Martin, ’69, Gardner Cadwalader, C’70, GAR’75 – not pictured: cox John Hartigan, C’63, WG’65). Ready to shove off for a practice session on the Schuylkill.

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50th Reunion Memoir –

by Colin Hanna, C’68, PAR’96


Colin Hanna, C’68, PAR’96

This half-century of remembrance is especially poignant to me, because it’s also the celebration of the golden anniversary of my marriage to Pricie Hemphill.  She was in the class of ’69 but graduated in ’68 at the end of the first summer session, so she can claim membership in our class as well as the one behind us!

My years at Penn were both a lot of fun and instrumental in setting me on my life’s course in communications.  One of my main non-academic interests upon arriving at Penn was broadcasting, so I became an announcer and talk show host on WXPN, which was entirely student-run at the time.  My father had been a director in radio, television and the theatre, and that may have been what whetted my appetite.  Some may remember a TV commercial I did for Wildroot while at Penn.  It earned me enough money to marry Pricie in December of our senior year!

At Penn I entered the NROTC program, and when commissioned an officer in the Navy, I was assigned to the office of the Chief of Information in the Pentagon.  There I did a daily radio news feature on the Navy’s activities in Vietnam and announced a couple of Navy training films. Upon leaving the Navy, I landed a job with CBS Radio in New York.  I wanted to be on the air with WCBS Newsradio, but took a job in sales instead, thinking that once I was in the company, I’d make the move to an on-air job – a move that never happened because I found sales so rewarding. When we were in New York, Pricie joined Citibank and quickly rose to become one of its first woman officers.  CBS then transferred me to a sales management job back in Philadelphia, where Pricie and I became season ticket holders for Penn football. She joined Scott Paper and soon became Assistant Treasurer and eventually the company’s first woman Vice President.  I did a few more TV commercials along the way, and after about 7 years with CBS, I became President of a small advertising agency. We moved to West Chester and had two children, Jeannie (Penn 1996) and Colin (Wheaton 2003).  I sold the advertising agency and began twenty years or so of entrepreneurial ventures, the common thread of which was communication. I also became politically active, joining the Republican Committee of Chester County as a precinct Committeeman.  In 1995, I was elected Chester County Commissioner, where I served for eight years, four as Chairman.

After leaving office at the end of my second term, I founded a conservative public policy organization called Let Freedom Ring, which I continue to lead on a full-time basis. I have appeared around fifty times on TV, mostly on the cable news channels like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, and hundreds of radio talk shows around the country. I created and hosted a weekly radio talk show on WNTP in Philadelphia called Conservative Solutions and appeared for several years as a regular on Monday Morning Match-Up on Chris Stigall’s show on WPHT. I’m also a regular commentator on American Radio Journal, syndicated on over 200 small radio stations in 45 states.

I’ve now embarked on what is undoubtedly the most ambitious project of my life: a full-length dramatic film of the life of Frederick Douglass, intended for theatrical release. My team includes one of most-respected biographers of Douglass, Dr. C. James Trotman, the great-great granddaughter and great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass, a former Hollywood studio CEO and a 1968 Penn classmate: John Altman.  2018 will be the bicentennial of Douglass’ birth, and we hope that the attendant publicity will make the film especially timely.  That’s to say nothing of how much 21st-century America needs to learn from the story of this great 19th-century American hero.  If the project stays on track, it’ll be something to talk about during our reunion film conversation.

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Women’s Basketball – 1968

by Carolyn Marcus Jacobs, CW ‘68


Row one: K. Merritt, E. Morrow,  Co-captain. Barbara Linnehan (Ellis), Co-captain, N. Ball Row two: F. Bardman, Coach, J. Miller, P. Whatley, P. Gardner, J. Sanders, B. Stocking, Carolyn Marcus (Jacobs), CW’68. Row three: A. Garvine, A. Williams, F. Martin, T. McMullin, E. Sommerfeld.

Over the winter of 1967-1968, the women’s basketball team completed an undefeated season.

Before we get all excited about that, let me describe the climate of women’s sports at Penn.

Remember, it was the late ‘60s and Title IX which mandated that equal money be spent on sports for men and women was still several years away.

We often had to drag a bag of practice balls from campus to 30th Street Station to take the train to Swarthmore or Bryn Mawr. This was, of course, the cheapest way to get us to the Main Line and back.  We had no training staff and when one of us was injured (and I had notoriously weak ankles), our coach, Faye Bardman, went to the men’s trainer to ask how she should be taping ankles.  Women, as you know, could not be expected to run the full length of the court, so we played a game with six team members … two permanent forwards, two permanent guards and two rovers, the only ones permitted to cross the center line. Defense was almost always a zone … a box, a diamond or a triangle with a one-on-one if we needed to stop the other team’s star player. Oh, and we had to wear little dresses with bloomers underneath. (Let me not disparage the basketball uniforms. They at least existed, unlike the softball team whose members wore whatever we had with a Penn logo. Check out the team picture in our yearbook and note that one of our players was even wearing a Yale sweatshirt)

We played an 8-game schedule and, if we played a team from a school with a top-flight phys ed program like Temple or West Chester, we likely played their third string team since the varsity or JV would have run roughshod over us.

Nevertheless, we persisted.

Wbball2In our freshman year, we also had an unblemished record, one unblemished by a win. Our indomitable coach, Faye Bardman, stuck by us, worked us hard, taught us to dribble without looking at the ball, to play relentless defense, to shoot and shoot and shoot. She never gave up on us. In successive years, thanks to an influx of both height and talent, we won two games, then four games and finally, all eight.

Our ’67 – ’68 team was led by co-captains Barbara Linnehan, and Ellen Morrow, both dead-eye shooters and hard-nosed defenders who played the rover positions. Our offense was ably supported by underclassmen Barbara Stocking and Joan Sanders. For me, Kate Merritt and Jan Miller who “stuck it out” for four years, that season was the reward for all of the hours and hours of practice in Weightman Hall, all the late nights getting home from away games and missed meals in the dorm cafeterias.

The personal highlight for me was the final game of the season against Immaculata which, if you recall, went on to win the first national championship in 1972. Math tells me that not a single one of the national championship players in 1972 would have been playing in 1968. Whew! I recall being the high scorer in that game and sinking some crucial foul shots which (in my maybe-distorted memory) were instrumental in our final victory. It was the game that gave us an 8-0 record and was the capstone to four years of devotion to this team.

Next time you are in the Palestra, look (hard) for the display cabinet dedicated to women’s sports at Penn and you will see a picture of a women’s basketball team from that era in our navy blue jumpers. Erroneously (and sadly), that picture is of the ’66-’67 team, but nonetheless it honors a very special time for those of us who proudly wore the Red and Blue.

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The Case of the Errant Trunk


Ann (Pepek), G’68, and Don Morrison, C’68

By Don Morrison, C’68


When I was 18, my daddy put me on a Greyhound bus with a small cardboard suitcase and $200 and sent me off to a strange city a thousand miles away. I was finally on my own, turnpike-bound for glory.

That elation evaporated a day and a half later when, amid tropical heat and humidity, I arrived to learn that the trunk full of clothes and bedsheets that I’d shipped in advance to the Philadelphia bus depot had gone missing.

So I headed from Center City to my new home, a much longer walk than was apparent from the map, especially with a suitcase full of books. The clothes I had slept in were soaked through by the time I got there and found my dorm. Minutes later, my charming, confident, New England prep-school-formed roommate rolled in with his equally presentable parents, who suggested we all go to Bookbinders for dinner. Did I by any chance have clean clothes and, um, a jacket and tie? No problem, I said. I’ll meet you there in a jiffy.

Why such bravado? Because, while I may have been lacking in clothing, I did have friends in this unfamiliar place, and at least one of them was about my size. True, I had come from a two-bit town with a small, undistinguished high school whose graduates rarely left the county, let alone the state. And yet that wide spot in the road had sent Greyhound-loads of kids to Penn in recent years. There was a half-dozen in my entering class alone. As I stepped out of the shower, my borrowed suit arrived courtesy of a guy I’d grown up with. I strode off to meet my roommate, his parents and my first-ever lobster.

What were so many of my fellow hometown hayseeds doing at a university that even back then was dauntingly difficult to enter? It had less to do with our uncommon brilliance, I think than with the rather tenacious hold this particular school has on the imaginations of those it shapes.

The detailed explanation begins about three decades earlier when a shy young man named Dudley Giberson became probably the first son of our hamlet to attend the University of Pennsylvania. He lasted one semester.

Oh, he did fine, academically and socially. But his father died unexpectedly, and he hastened home to save the family’s commercial insurance business from the Depression. Dudley saved it brilliantly, never resuming his college career but forever crediting it with giving him the stuff to do the job. During my high school years, his affection for the place burst forth: He became a one-man recruiting department.

Early in my senior year, Dudley held a dinner at the only real hotel in town, invited about 20 of my brighter classmates and even persuaded somebody from the Office of Admissions in distant Philadelphia to come give a presentation. I was hooked. So were five other diners, which wasn’t a bad yield at all.

We fortunate few became a loose mutual aid society, sharing friends, funds, and rides back to the prairie. The guy with the suit was my entrée to a genial fraternity. The brothers there nudged me toward the Daily Pennsylvanian, where I gained the skills that would determine my career and where I met the friend who set up a fateful encounter with my future wife (long story) and served as an usher at our wedding along with a guy from both the fraternity and the DP who later worked with me at Time magazine and met his wife at the aforementioned wedding, to which she had come as the girlfriend of a guy I’d met through the second individual mentioned in this paragraph. Got that?

Even in those days I wasn’t a particularly gregarious character, but my varied campus networks kept expanding and merging with others – publications, honor societies, religious and intellectual groups, political protest cabals, classroom seatmates, people who hung out at certain bars. That process continues to this day. I recently had dinner with a new neighbor who happens to be a classmate I hadn’t seen in decades who introduced me to a neighbor of hers who, it turns out, lived next door to me for years in Hong Kong, though we didn’t know it at the time.

Lest my stay in West Philadelphia sounds like one perpetual networking party, I must note that our years there embraced one of the most tumultuous periods in recent American history. An unpopular president was presiding over an unpopular war — also an alarming military draft — and the fight for racial and economic justice was raging. Oh, and the university itself wasn’t making many friends in my generation with its research ties to the military (these were wound down after much agitation) and its plans for an undistinguished arts building in one of the few green plots left in the center of campus (it got built despite bitter opposition). We spent many of our undergraduate hours in protests, counter-protests and trying to make it to class around them.

Despite all that turmoil, however, I struggle to recall any deeply unpleasant conversations or permanently ruptured friendships. Perhaps because our campus was then relatively confined, we ran into each other constantly. And we had developed webs of overlapping connections too thick to be severed by mere ideological disagreement. Families are like that.

I eventually left this particular family. I had moved on. Indeed, I had moved to the ends of the earth. I had retired from Time and was teaching at a university in China, living in a polluted corner of Beijing so distant from the city center that I went there infrequently – and few people came to see me. Then one day I received an e-mail from a gentleman in the Development (now Gift Planning) Office, 7,000 miles away. Against all odds, he had tracked me down in my hideaway to say he was going to be in Beijing and wanted to get together. I was so astonished that I invited him to lunch at our proletarian faculty club, and we passed a jolly afternoon.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Or, to steal another literary reference: The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past. I learned both those lines, and embarrassingly little else, during my college years, and I have come to treasure them.

Which brings us to the case of the errant trunk. (Remember that?) I revisited the bus station several times that hectic first semester, but the cursed thing never turned up. I made do for a while through energetic borrowing and eventually acquired new items. As for the trunk, I found another, more durable one. I filled it with friends and memories, which, I’ve come to realize, never really go missing.

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PennPAC (Pro bono Alumni Consulting) accepting applications now through August 18th for Fall 2017 volunteers

A PennPAC leadership role supports a career transition

PACEugenia’s appreciation for the importance of service began at a young age. Her father runs the US chapter of a Colombian based nonprofit, Children of the Andes. She began collecting school supplies and running clothing drives for the nonprofit when she was still in high school. A 2012 Penn Huntsman Program graduate (earning a BS in Econ and BA in International Studies), Eugenia is now in a career transition bolstered by her PennPAC volunteer leadership role.

For the past five years, Eugenia has worked as a research analyst for an asset management firm in the consumer food and beverage sector. The sector is appealing to her, but she would like to shift to a marketing role with an emphasis on branding and consumer insight. To help reach this goal, Eugenia will study marketing research and consumer behavior in a one-year program in Madrid this coming fall.

Volunteering with PennPAC Philadelphia has been another important piece of her transition puzzle. Seeking new experiences, Eugenia found the PennPAC volunteer opportunity attractive and thought, “I have no consulting experience, but it can’t hurt to apply.”

On her project for Concilio, a nonprofit serving children and families in the Latino community, she seized the opportunity to become a team leader. “The team needed someone to step up and I volunteered” and she is very happy that she did. “I was nervous and it was not always easy. It put me out of my comfort zone, but I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I have the skills to be a team leader and how much I like leading a team.

Eugenia truly enjoyed her project teammates. “It is really cool to work with people from so many graduating classes, see our shared values and bond over our shared past experiences from Penn.” She was also impressed by their effectiveness. “Two months seemed short, but we managed to get so much done because everyone does their part. Everyone has been so happy to work with each other. We are a lot more productive than I would have expected given everyone’s busy lives.”

She also felt the strong impact of the team’s work on Concilio. Their client “didn’t realize how many opportunities they had out there, so much low hanging fruit” and as a result, they are “so excited, grateful, receptive and appreciative.”

If she returns to a city with PennPAC, Eugenia plans to volunteer with us again. We wish you the best of luck in Madrid, Eugenia!

Learn more about the PennPAC consulting experience and apply by 8/18 to join us.

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Family Traditions at Penn

By: Lindsey Klinger-O’Donnell

Virginia Webster Hilligoss Patton, CW’67, recently returned to campus for a very special Alumni Weekend. Virginia celebrated her 50th Reunion and spent the weekend reminiscing and catching up with fellow classmates, alumni, and her three siblings. She spoke with Penn Alumni Relations about her college experience, fondest memories, and family connections to Penn.

Virginia is the youngest of four siblings. Her two older brothers, Spencer Webster, W’57, and Richard Webster, W’58, and older sister, Linda Webster Huggler, CW’62, all attended Penn in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. From an early age, Virginia felt a strong impetus to not only attend college but specifically the University of Pennsylvania. With such strong family ties to the University, Penn was really the only choice in her mind. While at Penn, Virginia and her sister were student-athletes, playing on the Women’s Field Hockey team. They were also members of the Tri Delta Sorority. They still value the strong friendships and bonds they made there.

Although Virginia grew up in Suburban Philadelphia with her family, she later moved to California and does not have an opportunity to return to campus often. This made Virginia’s homecoming to Penn even more meaningful. She remarked on how much the campus has changed, with so many new buildings and spaces. However, some buildings remained seemingly untouched, like the iconic architecture of Houston Hall, with its comfortable interior spaces and fireplaces. Virginia commented that Houston Hall had always been a common meeting place for her and her classmates. In that regard, not much has changed.

Virginia went on to share one of her most memorable moments from her time at Penn. In her Senior year, Virginia became the first woman to sit on an athletic board when she took on the role of President of Women’s Athletics. Virginia remembers advocating to an all-male board about the need for better facilities and equipment for Women’s Athletics. However, it’s safe to assume that after Alumni Weekend, one of Virginia’s fondest memories of Penn is probably this photo of her and her three siblings enjoying the Alumni Picnic. What a special moment it must have been to come back and share in this Penn Tradition together.


(Photo credit: Lisa Godfrey Photography)

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