University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann announced today that alumnus and trustee George A. Weiss has donated $20 million to the university for faculty support. Calling the gift a "transformative moment" in Penn’s development, Gutmann said it is "impossible to overstate George’s impact on the very basics of living, learning and teaching at Penn."
Weiss’s grant will fund four Penn Integrates Knowledge university professorships, further developing Gutmann’s original PIK initiative of 2005. As Penn Provost Vincent Price describes it, the PIK program "embodies two of Penn’s distinctive commitments – to integrate knowledge across traditional boundaries, and to bring that cutting-edge research into the classroom." Ten faculty members, all of whom hold joint appointments in two separate schools, have already been brought to Penn as PIK professors.
Karen Glanz, who holds positions in the School of Medicine and School of Nursing, as well as leading Penn’s new Center for Health Behavior Research, will become the first George A. Weiss professor. The university will identify and recruit three more candidates for the remaining positions.
Weiss describes the endowment as having the potential to bring significant benefit to society. "Faculty are at the core of the university’s strength," he says. "By providing faculty support for the best teachers and scholars with an interdisciplinary focus, we can tackle the complex problems of our times and prepare Penn students to become leaders."
Weiss, president of a money-management firm he founded, has a long history of giving back to the community at Penn and in Philadelphia. In 1987 he founded the Say Yes to Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization with chapters in four East Coast inner-cities that helps pay college tuition or vocational-training costs for disadvantaged children. Weiss also stands as chair of Penn’s Making History campaign, which promotes innovation in all aspects of the university’s activity. Weiss’s philanthropy to Penn now totals more $80 million, and he was a 1985 recipient of the Alumni Award of Merit, the university’s highest alumni honor.