For her determined efforts to make Penn better, not only for its students and employees but also for the good of the region, nation, and world, Gutmann and her legacy was recognized this year by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia for its highest honor: the William Penn Award.
“I am so humbled to accept this award on behalf of the entire Penn community,” Gutmann said, chatting at the award’s gala Friday evening. “We are working together to transform countless lives, to make amazing dreams come true, and to make our beloved Philadelphia region the destination.”
A black-tie affair, held at the Bellevue Hotel in Center City, hundreds of local business, civic, and government community members, including Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, gathered to celebrate Gutmann, who was also joined by her family and close colleagues from the University.
“As the largest private employer in the city, we have a broad impact,” said Penn Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli. “Whether it’s the research coming out of our labs or the students recruited to the area, Penn has long tentacles. And the fact that other leaders are seeing the impact of those connections, I think is a positive thing.”
In true Penn fashion, the Penn Band kicked off the celebration, marching through the reception’s aisle, and a cappella group Penn Counterparts performed a beautiful rendition of “I was here,” by Beyonce. In a special tribute video, playing on the big screen, Gutmann was congratulated for her award by not only Penn’s provost and deans, but also by former Gov. Ed Rendell, NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell, singer John Legend, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“In my life I’ve had the honor to work with some of the smartest, most driven, and most passionate people in the world, and I count you among them,” said Biden. “So, congratulations on this award. You’ve earned it, Amy, you’ve earned it.”
The Chamber’s chairman Daniel Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross, said Gutmann is a leader who has set the tone for how greater Philadelphia collaborates, while influencing how the city is seen around the world. Where her stamp has been indelible, Hilferty said, revolves around innovation.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that the University of Pennsylvania, under Amy’s leadership, is the lynchpin of innovation in greater Philadelphia,” Hilferty said. “That goes beyond health care of course. It extends to the business world and leadership of the Wharton School, to innovation in education, sciences, and the arts, to a groundbreaking approach to inclusive neighborhood development. Penn is an anchor to this region, and Amy is a leader of singular vision, compassion, and commitment.”
Innovation, along with impact and inclusion, have been the three pillars Gutmann has focused on since her very first days at Penn. Her ability to foster inclusion, said Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen, has been—in his eyes—most remarkable.
“As the first in her family to graduate from college, Amy has made access to a Penn education a top priority,” he said. “She has more than doubled the number of students from low income, middle income, and first generation families at Penn. Under her leadership, Penn has become the nation’s largest university offering all grant financial aid rather than loans that meet the full needs of undergraduate students at our University.”
When Gutmann first arrived in Philadelphia, explained Cohen, who also serves as chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees, one in 20 Penn students were first generation in college.
The current admitted class? One in seven.
“These remarkable statistics did not happen by accident,” Cohen said.
“I think everyone in this room, everyone in this city, everyone in this region, should thank their lucky stars every day that we have Amy Gutmann as a member of our business community,” noted Cohen, “and as the leader of the great University of Pennsylvania.”
Gutmann graciously took the stage, first thanking her “dream team” at Penn, noting that it’s “not hard to be a good leader when you have so many brilliant, hardworking, talented, entrepreneurial, enterprising people to lead.”
She paraphrased a quote said by Benjamin Franklin, Penn’s founder, from when he established the very first public hospital in America: “The good particular individuals do separately is small compared to what we may do collectively.”
For Gutmann, and all of those working to boost the city’s opportunities, these wise words are ones to live by.
“Together we are nurturing fresh ideas and talent, we are incubating new products and technologies, and we’re attracting companies and capital to the region,” Gutmann said. “But this uplifting story isn’t just about Penn. It’s the Philadelphia story. When we consider inclusion, innovation, and impact on their own merits, they are absolutely worth pursuing, no question about it. But taken together, our collective aim is bigger still. It’s nothing short of transformation.”
“Transformation,” she continued, “that’s the story of Philadelphia told in one single word.
Transformation: It’s the story we all proudly share. With all of us together, working collectively, for good, it’s a story that will only get better. I guarantee it.”
Homepage photo: Humbled for her award, it’s one Gutmann said she shares with the entire Penn community.