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Reaching Out to West Philadelphia: The Work of the Netter Center and Penn in the Neighborhood

By: Jorge Penado, C’19
International Relations Major
Work-Study Student, Sweeten Alumni House


Source: Netter Center Collection

Since the second half of the 19th century with the move of the university from the 9th and Market/ Chestnut region, the University of Pennsylvania has shared a common land with the community of West Philadelphia. Though our geographical neighbor, learning and venturing out into the community is not traditionally prioritized by the average Penn student who tends to stay within the university limits. But, though the average Penn student doesn’t explore the neighborhood as much, this does not mean that Penn is isolated from West Philadelphia. There are various departments, centers and individuals who work directly with West Philadelphia, and one in particular that has led noteworthy efforts in engaging Penn in West Philadelphia has been the Netter Center for Community Partnerships.

The Netter Center was formally opened as the Center for Community Partnerships in 1992, but the efforts for community partnerships had been established a few years prior. In 1983, Penn’s Office of Community-Oriented Policy Studies was created to help connect institutional initiatives with West Philadelphia, including through the West Philadelphia Partnership. Two years later in 1985, the idea of academically based community service (ABCS) began when Penn students presented a research proposal for a summer job training corps for West Philadelphia youth as part of their honors seminar class taught by Ira Harkavy and Lee Benson. Soon after, the official center would be established to create and manage projects and programs that saw various individuals, particularly Penn students and faculty, mutually engage with West Philadelphia. Nowadays, the Netter Center, under founding director Ira Harkavy’s (C’70, GR’79) leadership, runs numerous programs throughout the academic and summer terms with programs like the aforementioned ABCS courses, traditional service programs, and community development initiatives, as outlined on their website.

With this general background in mind, one can begin to explore the opportunities and services that the center offers to the average student and even to alumni. In order to learn even more about the center, we reached out to the current assistant director, Rita Hodges (C’05, GED’15), to learn from a representative of the center, and after a short conversation, many services, programs, and initiatives were highlighted that exemplify the mission of the center. As an assistant director and former undergraduate student involved in the center, the insight the conversation provided was helpful in understanding these projects. First and foremost, as assistant director, Hodges does quite a bit at the center which includes supporting the internal operations of the center, overseeing marketing and communication, working with development and alumni operations, and working closely with the director and associate director on replication outreach activities. One interesting project that the center is working on would have to be the replication outreach initiatives which sees the center participate in the creation of a network of colleges and universities around the nation that are improving relations with their local neighborhoods through conferences, workshops, and continued partnership. The center additionally engages in helping establish regional training centers on university-assisted community schools and has recently worked to establish one at UCLA.


Source: Netter Center Collection

Outside of this position, other services the center offers include ABCS courses, averaging about 70 per year in 30 different departments, internships, work and volunteer opportunities, and extensive work in local schools to help create centers that benefit the local population, both local students and parents through its university-assisted community schools program. There are mentoring and tutoring programs, STEM related programs, that help expose students to STEM fields through lessons and activities run by Penn undergraduate and graduate students, and programs focused on literacy, health and nutrition, arts and culture, college access, career readiness, sports and basically anything you can think of! The opportunities, however, are not just for current students as the alumni network and opportunities are just as substantial. The center maintains a relationship with alumni by running various events such as volunteering during alumni weekend or class reunions. Many Netter Center alumni maintain a solid relationship with the center by coming back for events like panels and volunteering. One event that the center helps run is the Basketball Clinic that sees alumni, their children, local children and Penn’s basketball players from the 1979 Final Four Team come together to play basketball for a day. The diversity of events and services offered clearly extends much farther than one can imagine.

With all of this in mind, the question arises as to how the relationship between the two has changed over time. Through a long history, the relationship between the neighborhood and the institution, while not always perfect, has definitely improved. Various departments, besides the Netter Center, have engaged with the community. In particular, one department that stands out is Penn Athletics who has been partnering with neighborhood schools to help students learn and participate in sports like track & field and lacrosse through the Young Quakers Community Athletics program that it runs in partnership with the Netter Center. After speaking with Assistant Director Hodges, it was made clear that President Amy Gutmann has made it a priority in her presidency to engage the community more in a mutually beneficial way, not only through academic partnerships with Penn students and faculty, but also by overseeing various initiatives on the business side of things such as working on economic inclusion and helping small businesses. Ultimately, while the relationship has definitely improved and seems to be heading in a much better direction, there is still so much work to be done between the neighborhood and the institution. There are still ties to develop between Penn and local schools and increased interaction between students and residents through pathways like ABCS courses. The work will continue as the relationship between Penn and West Philadelphia becomes even more mutually beneficial, allowing Penn to be a support institution for the neighborhood while it enhances its own research, teaching, learning, and service.

Ultimately, as mentioned above, the history of Penn and West Philadelphia could fill an entire book and this post is too short to do it justice, but the takeaway is hopefully one of awareness. As they celebrate their 25th anniversary, the work of the Netter Center has been developing and strengthening ties between the neighbors, and their work should be highlighted in order to hopefully allow more people, students, and alumni, to participate in the variety of programs they offer and to continue developing that connection.


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Have You Met the Gibson Girl?

By: Jorge Penado, C’19
International Relations Major
Work-Study Student, Sweeten Alumni House

Who would have known that postcards on Penn’s campus in the late 19th century and early 20th century could bring light to a phenomenon happening across the United States? When one first takes a look at these postcards, as depicted above, it wouldn’t necessarily raise an eyebrow. The image is simply of a woman dressed in Penn garb or carrying a red and blue flag. At first glance, they simply look like a depiction of someone with exuberant school spirit, a billowing flag and extravagant outerwear. However, once we take a look past the initial image, the history of these postcards reveals a sociopolitical movement in the US and how it spread to Penn’s campus. These so-called “College Girls” or “Gibson Girls” took the nation by storm in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but besides being an artistic illustration, they also represent a complicated era in the history of the nation.

Who is the “Gibson Girl”? The Gibson Girl was the personification of feminine beauty and attractiveness in the United States largely during the Gilded Age. This ideal representation of women was usually portrayed through pen-and-ink illustrations that depicted an upper-middle-class woman with a small waist, upswept hair, a perfect outfit and a detached nature. This form of illustration was initially started by Charles Dana Gibson who was an American graphic artist from New York City. The Gibson Girl, at first, was a creation of Gibson to satirize the upper class while also being a representation of the beauty standards of that time that he says he saw on the streets of New York. With regards to Penn, the Gibson Girl had an alternative name, simply the College Girl, which various elite colleges used to portray their own university and were placed on postcards. The Gibson Girl soon became a trend that other artists adopted. This trend seems simple at first but can be interpreted in various ways.


Source: Borgen Magazine

However, before we explore some of these interpretations, let’s go back 100+ years in time to the late 19th century and early 20th century. Where was the nation, and particularly Penn, at that time in relation to women? For one, the Women’s Suffrage Movement was in full force in the country. While we all know women’s suffrage wasn’t nationally established until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was accepted, the idea of women’s suffrage had been introduced as early as the 1840s. The famous Seneca Falls Convention was held in 1848. The first national suffrage organizations were established in 1869 by pioneers like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucy Stone. Susan B. Anthony was arrested and taken to the Supreme Court in United States v. Susan B. Anthony for voting in the 1872 presidential election. Senator Aaron A. Sargent introduced a women’s suffrage amendment to Congress in 1878. The leading National American Woman Suffrage Association was created in 1890. There is no doubt that the role and rights of women in American society were being challenged during this era and that suffrage advocacy was on the rise.

Now, while this was a nationwide view, there was simultaneously a Penn movement during this era. The late 19th century saw a variety of achievements and changes in the way Penn was run in relation to women. This era was the time in which various women were officially accepted into the schools of Penn and granted diplomas. In 1878, Anna Lockhart Flanigen and Gertrude Klein Peirce were the first women to complete a collegiate course of study at Penn. In 1879, the Trustees announced that “persons of both sexes are now admitted,” to various departments in the College, the School of Engineering and to the Department of Music. In 1880, the School of Auxiliary Medicine admitted its first women students. In 1881, the Law School admitted its first woman student. In 1882, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was the first to admit women to courses leading to a degree. And the list goes on. For Penn in particular, this was a clear shift in the access to education that women were getting after years of self-advocacy. There are various records of women attending open lectures at Penn or being enrolled as “special students” for years beforehand without ever gaining full access. After years of pushing, the tide began to shift.

Now, with all of this in mind, we can much more clearly begin to evaluate what role the Gibson Girl played in society. Particularly, some argue that the Gibson Girl became a depiction of the social anxieties that came with the changing role of women in American society. The various achievements of women in society and college brought about a fear that women would not be satisfied with traditionally domestic life and would alter their role as an educated woman. It became a much more conservative depiction that seemed to focus on the frivolous, playful pursuits of women as a means to reassure people who were afraid of the changing roles. The Gibson Girl was contrasted with the New Woman because of the belief that she wouldn’t involve herself in politics and would thus not join the suffrage movement unlike the latter. While many saw the Gibson Girl as a new interpretation of the American woman who was independent and active, others saw her as conservatively trying to address the changing role of women.

At first glance, these beautiful sketch images seemed to be simple and representative of Penn’s school spirit. However, once we take a deeper look, we begin to see a much more complicated history in a time where society was changing. While the depictions are now an interesting thing to take in as art, it is equally as important to understand the backstory and the resilience of women of this era who fought for their right to education and right to vote such to create a better world for women in the US now.

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Smokes – the Pennstitution

By Mark Sullivan, C’93

Here are some of my memories of Smokes.

Smokey Joe's Smokes at Penn

The inside of Smokey Joe’s, photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

Raid by the Liquor Control Board (LCB)

During the first semester of our freshman year, it was still possible to get into Smokes with a Penn student ID and other questionable forms of identification. The Pennsylvania liquor control board began to crack down, and so we had to be tougher with ID’s. I began bouncing at the end of my freshman year. Members of the wrestling team/ATO had proven to be adept at handling the imposing Penn student population. As you may recall, the uniform for all Smokey Joe’s employees – bartenders, wait staff and bouncers – was a long sleeve oxford with a tie that was tucked in. Many a night, someone would show up without a tie, so there were extra ties (many of them very ugly) that were kept behind the upstairs and downstairs bars. One night during our sophomore or junior year, the LCB raided Smokey Joe’s. They blocked the front and back doors, made everyone exit one by one and checked their ID’s. Some enterprising (and underage) patrons put on some of the extra ties that were behind the bar and tried to pass themselves off as employees. Unfortunately, they wore the ties over polo shirts, baggy sweaters or sweatshirts, and the LCB was not convinced.

Joe Whelpy at Smokes

Joe Whelpy at Smokes, photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

Erin Express

The Erin Express is a pub crawl held around St. Patrick’s day throughout University City and Center City. School buses drive a loop to each bar that participates in the Erin Express. One year, one of the buses pulled up to Smokey Joe’s and the bus driver went in to use the restroom. One of the passengers grew impatient and drove the bus to the next bar.

Smokey Joe's owners Pat and Paul Ryan

Pat and Paul Ryan, owners of Smokey Joe’s, photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

21st Birthday Celebrations

I learned the real names of several of our classmates on their 21st birthdays. Most of the birthday celebrations were benign, but a few got out of hand, including one male celebrant who ended up riding a bicycle naked in the downstairs bar at the end of the night.

Sink or Swim flyer for Smokey Joe's Smokes

Sink or Swim flyer photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

Nearby Shooting

By our junior year, Smoke‘s had installed the video camera and microphone to prove that each person admitted had been carded and stated their name and date of birth. Very late in the Spring of that year, I was working the door with another bouncer (who shall remain nameless). It was a very warm evening and the windows and front door were open. Smoke‘s was pretty empty – it may have even been the week of final exams. Just as the other bouncer and I were carding two women who walked in together, gun shoots rang out on the corner of 40th and Walnut just outside of McDonald’s. The other bouncer and I could see some flashes of light and the car with the shooter speed away. I remember the strong smell of gunpowder lingering in the humid air. The other bouncer and I excitedly recounted the events to everyone inside Smoke‘s. We explained how brave we had been and how we had sprung into action and protected the two women who we were checking for ID by removing them from harm’s way. The only problem was that the video recorder had been running and when they played back the tape, it showed the other bouncer and I cowering behind the two women patrons when we heard the gunshots and using them as human shields. Management played that tape every night for the following week to everyone else’s amusement.

Smokey Joe's the Pennstitution

The Pennstitution – photo by Mark Sullivan

Ken Kweder at Smokey Joe's

Ken Kweder plays at Smokes, photo courtesy of Mark Sullivan

What was your favorite bar on campus? Do you remember hanging out at Smokes? If you have memories, share them in the comments below.

Penn Class of 1993 25th Reunion Countdown

The weekend of December 22 – 23, marked 20 weeks until the 25th Reunion of the Penn Class of 1993 (May 11 – 14, 2018)! Meet us at the Button!

Register NOW to attend our 25th Reunion!

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.
  • Donate to The Penn Fund in honor of our reunion! We want to break the 25th reunion participation giving record and every gift matters!

Book Your Hotel Room for Alumni Weekend NOW!

The Marriott Downtown (where we had a Penn 1993 and a Penn Alumni room block) is sold out for Alumni Weekend. There are alternative hotels near by. We recommend booking ASAP! Please see our class website for additional details.

Penn Class of 1993 25th Reunion #93tothe25th


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The Revolutionary Quaker: The Unheard History of Penn’s Mascot

By: Jorge Penado, C’19
International Relations Major
Work-Study Student, Sweeten Alumni House


Source: University of Pennsylvania Flickr

The Fighting Quaker? A term most people at Penn have become so accustomed to identifying with our mascot that we rarely question it or its history. However, anyone who is even slightly aware of the Pennsylvania-centered Quaker religious movement may wonder how a phrase so paradoxical in nature could end up becoming the well-known mascot of our own Penn. Even further, most people could also mistakenly associate Quakerism with the most famous figure in Penn’s history, Benjamin Franklin. Nonetheless, people will soon realize that Franklin was not a Quaker, himself, and that the university has never had any direct connection to Quakerism. But, even the paradoxical phrase, Fighting Quaker, does have some ground in history and became realized in the university’s athletics due to coincidental nature and geographic location.

In colonial America, the Quaker religion originally grew in prominence in New England. In the mid-17th century, Quaker missionaries traveled to North America in order to preach their religious movement that originated in England. However, they would soon enough face discrimination in New England as people considered them heretics and began to banish them from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This persecution would lead Quakers in North America to migrate southwards where they would establish thriving communities in the Delaware Valley, particularly Philadelphia. William Penn, the namesake, and founder of the state would find Pennsylvania in 1682 and would run the commonwealth under Quaker principles. Quakers would maintain their beliefs of pacifism and pursuit of the “Inner Light,” which would be internally challenged during the American Revolution. As Philadelphia had become one of the largest cities and busiest trading ports in British America, there was a significant movement in the city that supported the revolution, even amongst the generally peaceful Quakers. In 1781, the Religious Society of Free Quakers, or more simply known as Free Quakers, would be established by expelled members of the Quaker community who failed to obey their pacifist nature n order to support the American Revolution. Hence, the term, Fighting Quaker, may not be such a historical anomaly as there actually did exist a Quaker sub-community that supported fighting for American Independence.

However, this still doesn’t answer the question of how Quakerism and Penn became associated, and the association wouldn’t directly emerge for another hundred years. As one of the oldest institutions in America, Penn has a lengthy history, and one of the many eras in its history would have to be its prominence in athletics in the late 19th century. In the early 19th century, student athletics had taken universities by storm as various organizations and teams were established. Penn’s first sports organization consisting of Penn students, the Junior Club, was founded in 1842. It wouldn’t be long before intercollegiate athletics would become a staple of college life.

Penn didn’t actually substantially enter intercollegiate sports until the 1880s and 1890s after Harvard, Yale and Princeton had begun to organize early intercollegiate athletics. Penn would set their foot with the establishment of Franklin Field in 1894. Once intercollegiate athletics picked it, it was sports writing that would serve as the definitive influencer on Penn’s mascot. Since Philadelphia was known as the “Quaker City,” it became easy for sportswriters to associate the university with the city and thus, the predominant Quaker religion and then call Penn’s athletic teams Quakers. This emerged much like the term “Ivy League” which began in New York sports writing to identify the colleges along the northeastern coast and as a reference to the custom of planting ivy on these college campuses. At the end of the day, the Penn Quaker was referenced enough that it eventually stuck and would soon enough be used in the 20th century and depicted on various pennants.


Source: University Archives Digital Image Collection

Once the Quaker was accepted, it would undergo various changes and enhancements. Quite recently in 2004 and 2006, the mascot would be refurbished and reintroduced after a previous version was criticized by many. Interestingly enough, on February 28, 2006, the Daily Pennsylvanian would run a story about the negative reaction to the new-look Quaker as people at a men’s basketball game reacted with “curious murmurs” about the new mascot that was believed to appear too menacing. Luckily, the new Quaker mascot has been accepted by the Penn community as he makes regular appearances at sporting events throughout the year. While the university is not a Quaker institution and has minimal interaction with the Quaker community, its location in the city of brotherly love would soon enough informally secure its mascot as the one and only, the Fighting Quaker.

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Trouble in the Library: The History of Fisher Fine Arts

By: Jorge Penado, C’19
International Relations Major
Work-Study Student, Sweeten Alumni House


Source: National Register of Historic Places

Gargoyles, Shakespearean-inspired writing on windows and a German-English architectural feud on Penn’s campus? The history of the famous Fisher Fine Arts Library holds a complicated yet interesting past that many of its students and alumni may not be aware of. While nowadays the library is regarded as one of Penn’s most unique buildings, on par with College Hall and The Quad, it wasn’t always accepted as that. Soon after its completion in the late 19th century, a transition in leadership in the university led to a complete re-evaluation of the architectural legacy of Penn. This shift would challenge the very existence of the building until it grew to be appreciated as a staple of campus a generation later.

Frank Furness (1839-1912), the Victorian architect of the library and native Philadelphian, entered the world of architecture early on in his life in 1857. After returning from serving in the Union in the Civil War, he eventually found himself back in Philadelphia where he began his own career through various architectural partnerships. After working on other famous projects like the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, his company was eventually hired to construct Penn’s first university library in 1888. Furness would invoke various unique designs in the construction of the library such as the interconnected nature of the five stories through the tower’s staircase or inscriptions on the windows chosen by Furness’s brother, Horace Howard Furness, a Shakespearean scholar and Penn faculty.  The library was completed and dedicated in 1991 but would soon face various obstacles to its continued existence.


Source: University of Pennsylvania Fine Arts Library Image Collection

Furness’s architectural style, which aligns closely with a German-model focused on graduate studies and technical scientific research with expansive room instead of the English-model focused on undergraduate education and socialization, would lead to some controversy. Furness’s greatest supporter, then-Provost William Pepper Jr., was in the German-model camp and actively supported Furness and similar projects like the School of Engineering and the Wharton School. However, once Provost Pepper retired, his successor, Provost Charles Custis Harrison, was much less supportive of the German-model and preferred the English-model as seen with his construction of The Quad. Provost Harrison would challenge the design of the library by even questioning the “historically-incorrect gargoyles,” on the exterior of the library. This clash of visions would lead to Provost Harrison cancelling Furness’s future architectural projects and would even label the library an embarrassment to Penn, seriously considering cloaking the building in a different style.

Lucky for us, the library was never cloaked and was actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1985. The building would be restored and expanded from 1986 to 1991 with the primary benefactors being Anne and Jerome Fisher to whom the building is now dedicated. Through a turbulent history, the Fisher Fine Arts Library fortunately still stands on the east side of College Green with its red sandstone and Venetian Gothic architecture being a definite landmark of Penn’s campus.


Source: University of Pennsylvania Flickr Account

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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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