Author Jennifer Egan Among 10 to Be Honored at Penn’s 78th Alumni Award of Merit Gala

PHILADELPHIA – At a black-tie gala Friday, Oct. 26, the University of Pennsylvania will honor alumni and alumni groups who, through their accomplishments or continued involvement, have brought honor and prestige to Penn.

The 78th Annual Alumni Award of Merit Gala will honor, among others, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan, who will receive the Creative Spirit Award, which recognizes alumni who have shown life-long commitment to the arts through outstanding personal achievements.  It was established in 2009 as part of the University’s efforts to promote arts and culture.

“ ‘Spirit’ in the title of the award best expresses Jennifer’s connection with her alma mater,” said Diana Cavallo, a 1953 alumna and former teacher of Egan, who will make the presentation.  “There was no Kelly Writers House at Penn when she was here, but she often visits and encourages the aspiring writers there.” 

Egan, a 1985 graduate of the College, won the 2011 Pulitzer for A Visit From the Goon Squad, which also earned her the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.  Egan also penned The Invisible Circus, which was turned into a film in 2001; Emerald City and Other Stories; Look at Me, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 2001; and The Keep.  

Also a journalist, she writes frequently in the New York Times Magazine, where her 2002 cover story on homeless children received the Carroll Kowal Journalism Award, and her most recent article, “The Bipolar Kid,” received a 2009 NAMI Outstanding Media Award for Science and Health Reporting from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.   

Also that evening, four Penn alumni will share the spotlight for the Alumni Award of Merit: Dale Borenstein Bell, Harve D. Hnatiuk, Paul Knox Kelly and James Joo-Jin Kim.

Bell, who earned her medical-technology degree in 1981, chairs the Penn Alumni Interview Committee of Bergen County, N.J., whose members meet with aspiring Quakers.  Under her presidency, the Penn Club of Metro NJ won the Alumni Club Award of Merit in 2006. She is president of the Class of 1981, serves on the Class Gift Committee, has co-chaired both her 25th and 30th reunion committees and serves on the Penn Alumni Board of Directors.

A 1974 grad with a degree in electrical engineering, Hnatiuk is a vice president with Maida Engineering. Quick to point out that he feels a debt to Penn, he is so active an alum that he has been described as “Penn’s quiet warrior.” He was president of his alumni class for 15 years and continues to serve as vice chair.  He is president emeritus of the Alumni Class Leadership Council, chaired the original committee that developed the Penn Reunion Leadership Conference and has been on all of his reunion committees. 

Kelly, as president and CEO of Knox & Company, is widely considered to be an expert in cross-border investment banking and has been influential in introducing new financing concepts to the international capital markets.  The 1962 graduate of the College with an MBA from Wharton in 1964, Kelly had been a University trustee since 1997 and is now emeritus.  He gave his name to Kelly Writers House, which is considered a model for learning hubs at Penn, and to the Kelly Family Gates that adorn the entrance to the Addams Fine Arts Hall.  

Kim, a 1959 Wharton grad with two Penn graduate degrees, was the driving force behind Penn’s Korean Studies program that now bears his name.  He was a Penn trustee and served on the School of Arts and Sciences’ Board of Overseers, Wharton’s Executive Board for Asia and the Penn Alumni Board of Directors and Council of Representatives.  Now a trustee emeritus, he is a member of the Board of Governors of the Lauder Institute.  He founded Amkor Technology Inc.

Taking home Young Alumni Awards will be Brett Edward Weinheimer, a 2000 Wharton grad, and Melissa L. Wu, a 1998 graduate of the College.

Cited as a role model for his generation, Weinheimer was recognized for his inspiring alumni leadership, his generously giving back to Penn and other charitable endeavors.  As owner of the Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches shop near campus, he is a corporate sponsor of Penn Athletics, serving the “official sandwich of Penn Athletics.”

As president of the Penn Club LA, Wu made increasing membership a priority, revitalized the club newsletter and ratcheted up the use of social media with a communications strategy that featured focused messaging and streamlined event promotion.  She increased the number of club events by 75 percent, including six annual PennFest events.

The Class of 1992 will receive the Class Award of Merit for its members’ 20th reunion efforts. With 553 in attendance, the reunion was the result of inspired, long-term strategic thinking and planning and has become a benchmark for other classes.  The hallmark of that effort was a virtual homecoming for classmates unable to attend in person, where they could gather together virtually, in real time, with those who did. The class was also commended for its “swift and impressive follow-up.”

The Class of 1967 earned the David N. Tyre Award for Excellence in Class Communication for its members’ inventive and energetic ways to communicate with classmates about their 45th reunion. The class was recognized for the sustained, shrewd and highly successful communication strategies and for raising $2.4 million for its reunion gift, a million dollars more than its goal.

The Penn Alumni Club of San Antonio will receive the Club Award of Merit. Under the leadership of Bob Weidman and with a dynamic board of directors, the club increased its roster of active members to 150 from 110 and increased its visibility and relevance with the growing Latino population.

The club is known for diverse, one-of-a-kind events, including the annual Quaker classics, such as the summer send-off for new and returning Penn students and festivities surrounding Ben Franklin’s birthday each year.