Tag Archives: SPEC Connaissance

Remembering Arthur Ashe Speaking at Penn (39 Weeks To Go)

By Kiera Reilly, C’93

While sorting through old photos, I found this photo from our senior year. It is the board of Connaissance, photographed with Albert Moore, our staff advisor for SAC activities, and legendary tennis player Arthur Ashe.

Arthur Ashe speaks at University of Pennsylvania invited by Connaissance

Connaissance board members pose with Connaissance Fall 1992 Speaker Arthur Ashe. L-R Caren Lissner, C’93, Robyn Reifman, C’94, Mark Whitcher, W’93, Arthur Ashe, Kiera Reilly, C’93, Meg O’Leary, C’94, and Albert Moore from the Office of Student Affairs. (note the halo around Caren’s head is how the photo was developed!)

I did not remember much about the speech – I remember Mr. Ashe came to Penn, that I went with Meg to pick him up at 30th Street Station, and that he died not long after he visited Penn.

I hoped that Caren, Robyn, Mark, Meg and Albert might recall more than that, and Meg was the only one that had a clear memory. She wrote:

My biggest memories are of the drive picking him up at the train station.  If you remember, I hadn’t had my driver’s license very long and not a whole lot of experience driving.  My driving made Mr. Ashe quite nervous – he held the dashboard the whole way and kept asking questions of Kiera, basically asking if she’d like to take over the driving and making sure that I was going the right way.  I don’t think I drove him back to the station though. It wasn’t that long after that he died, and I remember feeling a little guilt that maybe my driving had stressed him out and made his illness worse.

I also remember that, of all our speakers, I felt that he was the most modest.  He asked for very little special treatment – just reimbursement for his travel costs (he took the train from NYC; so pretty inexpensive) and a very reasonable speaking fee.  And, in person, he was very unassuming and didn’t put on any airs, was quite down to earth.

Luckily, The Daily Pennsylvanian sent staff writer Charles Ornstein, C’96, (now a Senior Reporter for ProPublica), and he filed this report (you can see a PDF of the article here).

Arthur Ashe speaking at the University of Pennsylvania November 4, 1992

Arthur Ashe speaking at the University Museum on November 4, 1992.

Arthur Ashe speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, photo by Steve Waxman, the DP

The DP Arthur Ashe AIDS

DP staff writer Charles Ornstein

The Daily Pennsylvanian covers Arthur Ashe's visit to Penn for Connaissance

The Daily Pennsylvanian covers Arthur Ashe's visit to Penn for Connaissance

The Daily Pennsylvanian covers Arthur Ashe's visit to Penn for Connaissance

The Daily Pennsylvanian covers Arthur Ashe's visit to Penn for Connaissance

The Daily Pennsylvanian covers Arthur Ashe's visit to Penn for Connaissance

The Daily Pennsylvanian covers Arthur Ashe's visit to Penn for Connaissance

The Daily Pennsylvanian covers Arthur Ashe's visit to Penn for Connaissance

The Daily Pennsylvanian covers Arthur Ashe's visit to Penn for Connaissance

The Daily Pennsylvanian covers Arthur Ashe's visit to Penn for Connaissance

Meg’s memory is correct about Mr. Ashe being so humble. As soon as I read her note, I remembered that too. We were fortunate to help bring many prominent speakers to campus, and as Connaissance board members we often had dinner with them before the speech. But he was probably the nicest and most unassuming speaker I ever met. It was a true honor to meet him and have him speak at Penn.

While he was on campus, Mr. Ashe spoke with DP Sports Writer Jonathan Mayo. The link to their conversation as published in the DP is here.

Sadly, Meg was correct in her recollection that Mr. Ashe died not long after he visited Penn. The DP reported his death on February 8, 1993.

Penn Class of 1993 25th Reunion Countdown

The weekend of August 11 – 12, 2017, marked 39 weeks until the 25th Reunion of the Penn Class of 1993 (May 11 – 14, 2018)!

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

  • Do you have old photos or mementos from our time at Penn? Photos of Spring Fling? Football at Franklin Field? Classes at DRL? We are taking a trip down memory lane and would love for you to share your memories with our class in a future post. Please email us upenn1993@gmail.com!
  • Join our reunion committee – email Lisa Grabelle at lisagrabelle@yahoo.com.
  • Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.
  • Classmates are invited to join our Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

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

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Filed under 25th Reunion, Class of 1993, Kiera R., Memories of Penn

Gov. Mario Cuomo Speaks at Penn (71 Weeks To Go)

By Kiera Reilly, C’93

The weekend of December 30-31, 2016, marked 71 weeks to our 25th reunion in our #93tothe25th countdown. At that time in December, 1989, it was a break between our first and second semesters of our Freshman year at Penn. I remember returning home to Texas, and catching up with my friends from high school. All of us shared stories of our experiences at our respective colleges and universities.

One memory I remember sharing from the fall semester is going to Irvine Auditorium to hear New York Governor Mario Cuomo speak. The student groups Connaissance and the Penn Political Union brought him to campus – later in my time at Penn I became involved with both the PPU and Connaissance and was fortunate to work on bringing many high profile speakers to campus. This event was one of the first times I realized why Penn was so special. So many different academics and dignitaries came to speak on campus and we were able to hear them, meet them, and question them. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to learn and explore so much.

Looking at the two pictures I took from the event, I am reminded how different capturing images is today compared to 1989!

Governor of New York Mario Cuomo on stage at Irvine Auditorium at Penn photo by Kiera Reilly

My photo of Gov. Mario Cuomo on state at Irvine Auditorium at Penn

New York Governor Mario Cuomo speaks at the University of Pennsylvania in 1989 Irvine Auditorium

My second photo of Gov. Cuomo on stage at Irvine auditorium

NY Governor Mario Cuomo speaks at Penn in 1989. Photo by Mike Johnson, The Daily Pennsylvanian

The DP Photo editor took a much better picture of Gov. Cuomo. Credit: Mike Johnson, DP

I saved the article from The Daily Pennsylvanian in the next day’s paper and pasted it in my scrap book. You can access the article and the text of his speech (plus the entire issue from October 25, 1989) via the DP’s archives online here. I also saved my ticket from the event.

ticket to see New York Governor Mario Cuomo speak at Penn in 1989. Photo by Kiera Reilly

My ticket to see Gov. Cuomo at Irvine Auditorium on October 24, 1989

The photo caption on the front page (which is cropped in this scan below), said that Cuomo spoke to an audience of 1,400. The article said that after his 90 minute speech and 20 minute Q&A session with the audience, Cuomo received a standing ovation.

Front page of The Daily Pennsylvanian on October 25, 1989 highlights Gov. Mario Cuomo

Front page of The DP on October 25, 1989, highlighted Gov. Cuomo’s visit the night before.

Speech delivered by Gov. Mario Cuomo at Penn on October 24, 1989, credit to The DP

The lengthy front page story on Gov. Cuomo continued inside the paper with a copy of his speech.

Penn Class of 1993 Reunion Countdown

December 30-31, 2016 marked 71 weeks until the 25th Reunion of the Penn Class of 1993 (May 11 – 13, 2018)! Join us we count down the weeks to our reunion #93tothe25th:

  • Do you have old photos or mementos from our time at Penn? Photos of Spring Fling? Football at Franklin Field? Classes at DRL? We are taking a trip down memory lane and would love for you to share your memories with our class in a future post. Please email us upenn1993@gmail.com!
  • Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.
  • Classmates are invited to join our Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

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

SPEC Connaissance: James Franco Edition

Author: Stephanie Y., C08

Thanks to SPEC Connaissance and my PennCard, I spent yesterday afternoon sitting in the 4th row of Irvine Auditorium listening to James Franco talk about his acting and academic careers. Each year, SPEC Connaissance brings an array of public figures to address the Penn community. Past speakers include Anderson Cooper, Madeline Albright, Henry Kissinger, Whoopi Goldberg, Peyton Manning (I attended), Billy Joel, Ben & Jerry, and Ellen DeGeneres (wait – when did ELLEN come? How did I miss that?) Tickets to the James Franco event were only available to PennCard holders. Hooray for working at Penn!

James Franco in Irvine Auditorium (photo credit: The Daily Pennsylvanian)

In addition to being a huge Hollywood star, Franco holds multiple advanced degrees (from UCLA, Columbia University, and New York University), and he is currently enrolled in a PhD program at Yale University. I have always been impressed with his CV, but I still wondered whether he was admitted into these programs based on merit or his name. During the interview, Franco admitted he receives special treatment for being famous, but the talk confirmed that he is brilliant, and he can certainly hold his own in an academic setting. The man is a true scholar in addition to being a super dreamy Hollywood star.

Here are a few fun facts from the talk:

  • Franco watches the Twilight movies because he is interested in why teenage murder is ok if the teenagers are vampires (good point…)
  • He spent 3-4 months cooped up in his apartment, reading about James Dean, isolated from his friends and family, and smoked two packs of cigarettes per day to transform into his character.
  • There are three movies he regrets making because he was disappointed with the final product (hmm three movies? Spiderman series, anyone?)

Thanks, SPEC Connaissance! I can’t wait to see who you bring to Penn next time.

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Alumnni Education, Campus Life, Stephanie Y., The Arts, The Arts at Penn