Wendell Pritchett Named Provost of the University of Pennsylvania

Wendell Pritchett has been named the 30th provost of the University of Pennsylvania. The announcement was made today by Penn President Amy Gutmann.

He is currently Presidential Professor of Law and Education in Penn’s Law School and was interim dean of Penn Law in 2014-15.

“Wendell is a celebrated teacher and scholar of urban policy, education, civil rights and race relations; an accomplished leader and administrator; and a passionate advocate for academic excellence and civic engagement,” Gutmann said. “A longtime faculty member and universally admired leader in our Penn community, he is consummately well-positioned to work with our deans, faculty, staff, students and me in advancing Penn’s highest priorities.”

His appointment is effective July 1, after ratification by Penn’s Trustees at their June meeting.

Pritchett served as chancellor of Rutgers-Camden in 2009-14 and saved the campus in the wake of a proposal to merge it with another institution. His leadership there saw immense growth and improvement for the institution, including graduating classes of record sizes, implementing the campus’ first doctoral programs, hiring of dozens of new faculty and initiating critical capital projects, including new health-education and science facilities, a new dormitory and library renovations.

In 2012, he was elected president of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, a national consortium of higher-education institutions.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to be selected as the 30th provost of the University of Pennsylvania,” Pritchett said, “and I am grateful to President Gutmann for her confidence in me.  As I lifelong Philadelphian, I cannot remember a time that the University of Pennsylvania was not part of my life. 

“I learned to ice skate at the Class of '23 Rink; I took my SATs at DRL. More importantly, I learned how to be a scholar in Penn's wonderful History Department and how to be a teacher and an academic with the support of my colleagues at the Law School. Under President Gutmann's leadership, the University has gone from excellence to eminence in research, teaching and engagement, and I have been proud to play a small part in this transformation. In my new position, I look forward to working with the president, the deans of our 12 wonderful schools and everyone in this amazing community to continue to advance our institution to even greater heights.”

Pritchett is an interdisciplinary and award-winning attorney, legal scholar and urban historian whose research examines the development of post-World War II urban policy, in particular urban renewal, housing finance and housing discrimination.

His first book, Brownsville, Brooklyn: Blacks, Jews and the Changing Face of the Ghetto (University of Chicago Press, 2002), explores race relations and public policy in 20th-century Brooklyn. His most recent book, Robert Clifton Weaver and the American City: The Life and Times of an Urban Reformer (University of Chicago Press, 2008), is a biography of the first African-American cabinet secretary who was a leading thinker and practitioner of 20th-century urban development. Pritchett’s 2008 article, “Which Urban Crisis? Regionalism, Race and Urban Policy, 1960-1974,” won the Urban History Association Best Article Award.

A member of the Pennsylvania Bar since 1991, his practice focused on real estate and housing law, including the representation of nonprofit organizations involved in the development of affordable housing.

Pritchett earned his Ph.D. in history from Penn in 1997 under the mentorship of Walter Licht, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History in the School of Arts & Sciences. Pritchett earned his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1991 and B.A. in political science from Brown University in 1986.

After completing his doctorate, he joined the faculty at Baruch College-City University of New York where he taught courses in post-bellum American history, American legal history, nonprofit law and the history of immigration to the United States. He joined the Penn Law faculty in 2002 as an assistant professor of law, was promoted to full professor in 2006 and served as associate dean for academic affairs in 2006-07. He rejoined Penn in 2015 as Presidential Professor of Law and Education upon completing his chancellorship of Rutgers-Camden.

A strong believer in the value of public service and the importance of knowledge-based public policy, Pritchett also served in 2008 as deputy chief of staff and director of policy for then-Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter where he helped oversee the preparation of the city’s Five-Year Plan and budget and managed the operations of the mayor’s office.

As Nutter’s appointee, he was vice chair (2008-10) and chair (2010-11) of the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia and also served as the mayor’s appointee to the School Reform Commission in 2011-14. He chaired the board of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia in 2005-08 and was co-chair of the World Class Great Philadelphia Initiative of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. 

His other community and public policy contributions have included service as a member, trustee or director of the Pennsylvania State Planning Board, the Public Health Management Corporation, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Cooper University Hospital, Coopers Ferry Partnership, Campus Compact and College Unbound.

The selection of Pritchett as Penn’s next provost concludes a four-and-a-half-month international search by the Consultative Committee, chaired by Larry Jameson, executive vice president, University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and dean of the Perelman School of Medicine. Pritchett will succeed Vincent Price, who is leaving Penn to assume the presidency of Duke University.

“I have every confidence,” Gutmann said, “that Wendell will be an exceptional partner and inspiring presence for me and the entire Penn community. His deep experience, impeccable judgment, inclusive manner and warm style will help us further increase Penn's eminence and momentum. Wendell has been a standout and a star in every role he has inhabited – teacher, scholar, senior academic administrator, policymaker and political advisor among them – and he will surely shine as our University’s provost, helping to propel forward our shared and ambitious vision for Penn.”

Wendell Pritchett