Wharton alumni built the School’s new home, and on October 25 and 26 they came from around the world to celebrate it.
Two years ago, when Jon M. Huntsman Hall was just beginning to materialize as a mass of steel beams and newly poured concrete, the Alumni Magazine interviewed Matt Greene, WG’89, and Beth W. Nelson, WG’82, about their recent gifts to name rooms in the building. Both seemed excited to be a part of something so big in the School’s history. Greene, who named The Greene Family Study Room, made certain that the names of his wife, Tita, and two sons – Matthew II and Kobi – would appear on the plaque. “Someday, if my kids go to Wharton, they’ll see their names in the building,” he said.
Although Matthew II and Kobi are nowhere near the age at which they would attend Wharton, they did indeed have the opportunity to see their classroom and experience Wharton’s new home on October 25 and 26. That weekend, the new facility was officially dedicated, and the festivities drew more than 1,000 alumni and guests from around the globe. Most had been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to finally see the School’s new home. And many, like Greene and Nelson, were looking forward to seeing first-hand what they had helped to build.
Nelson, along with her husband, Gary Glynn, WG’70, named a classroom. “It’s important to remember that you had a helping hand while achieving your success,” said Nelson, who is a former principal of Neuberger Berman LLC. While attending the dedication of named spaces, both Nelson and Glynn were shown around their classroom – a tiered learning facility equipped with state-of-the-art audio/visual and teleconferencing equipment and a custom instructor’s lectern incorporating a computer keyboard, laptop ports, a microphone, and a master control system, which adjusts audiovisual equipment, lights, and room settings. “The technology is incredible,” Glynn said as a Wharton staff member demonstrated how the podium works.
Greene and his family actually had the opportunity to see their room in use: Dennis Tupper, W’03, and Sioban Nolan, W’03, were working on a project in the study room during the dedication and provided a demonstration of the room’s “smart board” technology to Matthew II and Kobi. (A “smart board” is an electronic whiteboard, connected to the room’s computer, to enable the information on the whiteboard to be stored, e-mailed, or posted to the Web.) “The room is fantastic,” Nolan said. “It’s been great to work on projects together like this. I’ve spent a lot of time in here already.”
“I’ve never been exposed to the opportunity to make such a tangible difference,” Greene said. “You can actually visit and see what you’ve helped to make happen. You can see that you’re part of something.”
That sentiment was echoed by many throughout the dedication ceremonies. Ruth Blank, ED’37, attended with her son, Robert Blank, L’65, and grandson, Matt Blank, C’03, to see the room her son named after her and her late husband, Samuel A. Blank, W’29, L’32. “I just had to see my classroom,” Mrs. Blank said. “It’s a lot different than when I had classes back in Bennett Hall!”
“I had seen just the shell of it before,” said Jay Baker, W’56, who attended with his wife, Patty, to dedicate the Baker Forum, which is the focal point for student life in Huntsman Hall. “Now, it’s mind boggling!”
Jon Burnham, W’59, like many others, took the dedication ceremony as an opportunity to meet with the scholarship students he has sponsored as well. While exchanging thoughts about the building with Laura Kournihan, W’06, and Chris Murphy, W’03, Burnham said, “I get a great kick out of seeing you kids come through here. My involvement with Penn is one of the great joys I have in my life.”
Perhaps that sense of joy was best expressed by Jon Huntsman himself during the weekend’s proceedings. Huntsman, whose $40-million contribution was the lead gift in the campaign to create the building, was joined throughout the festivities by his wife Karen and several generations of his own family; he was also celebrated at a special ceremony attended by his personal friend Vice President Dick Cheney.
At Friday afternoon’s public dedication, also attended by President Judith Rodin, Provost Robert Barchi, and Wharton’s Dean Patrick Harker, Huntsman touched the audience with his message about what Wharton has meant to him in his personal, spiritual, family, and business success. In his dedicatory statement, he challenged and inspired his fellow alumni with a quote that he keeps over his desk: “No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down and lifting another up.”
A Celebration – And Building – To Remember
In true Wharton style, the seriousness of dedicating the School’s new home was met with serious celebrating. Friday’s Open House featured a scavenger hunt, jugglers, and balloon sculptures for children; their parents were entertained by Professor Michael Useem’s “Wharton Jeopardy” and performances from Penn singing groups and the Wharton Follies.
There was a networking breakfast on Saturday, and the weekend’s events were concluded with a Harvest Party at the new building’s C. F. Koo Plaza, made even more celebratory by the occasion of the sun shining for the first time all weekend.
In an amazing turnout, alumni from around the world – Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and throughout the U.S. – came to campus, representing generations of the Wharton experience, from a member of the undergrad class of 1933 to the newest members of the alumni body, the Class of 2002. Current students were also a vibrant presence: the undergraduate Wharton Ambassadors gave tours of the building in which they are studying, and members of the WGA Alumni Affairs committee welcomed guests to their new home.
Fred Stafford, W’33, from Havertown, PA, and one of the oldest alumni present, expressed his amazement at the building’s size. “It’s fabulous, marvelous,” he said, adding that the eighth floor had “a great view.” Others felt that Huntsman Hall underscored the seriousness of a Wharton and Penn education. Albert Abehsera, WG’73, who traveled from London, noted that the building “feels like a temple inside,” and Keisuke Muratsu, WG’75, agreed. “It raises the seriousness of education,” he said. “It tells people that this is a place dedicated to learning.”
Mitchell E. Roth, W’48, from Broomall, PA, had similar thoughts. “It’s a cathedral of learning,” he said. “Students should feel lucky to be here, and it should motivate them to do their best.”
Franck Noiret, WG’95, who came from Paris, and Rogerio Tsukamoto, WG’88, from Brazil, were both impressed with the Huntsman Hall’s technology. Tsukamoto noted that the multimedia and broadband audio and video conferencing, which links Wharton’s main campus in Philadelphia with Wharton West in San Francisco as well as INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France and Singapore, “truly facilitates a global connection.” Noiret specifically remembers spending time as a student at bars, apartments, and other off-campus locations to study and meet, and said he felt the technology-enhanced group study rooms are a “huge improvement.”
Katarina Stefanovic, WG’00, from New York City, agreed. “We used to sit around in Sun Lounge with our laptops,” she said. “Now there’s no running around. And with the cafes, there’s a place to socialize – the most important aspect of the Wharton experience.”
Miguel Rozensztroch, WG’00, also from New York, noticed how much the current classes seemed to be utilizing the building. “I’m glad they’re enjoying it,” he said. “This is great for future generations.”