Flashback: 70 Years Since Graduating and He’s Still Got the Hurrah for Penn!

Today, May 18, 2015, the University of Pennsylvania held its 259th Commencement ceremonies. Each year, while working as a staff member for Penn Alumni Relations, my colleagues and I would help alumni dress in academic regalia to prepare for the alumni processional into Franklin Field for Commencement. It was always one of the happiest days on campus as new graduates officially received their degrees and joined the ranks of Penn Alumni, and the alumni class representatives walking in the procession cheered the new graduates as they walked through the alumni flags lining Locust Walk in front of the Sweeten Alumni House.

This is my first time since 2001 that I am not at Commencement, but I watched the live webcast and followed along on social media with the hashtag #PennGrad. U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power delivered the commencement address, and she received an honorary degree along with Arthur K. Asbury, Lee C. Bollinger, Joan Myers Brown, Rita Moreno (Rita Moreno!!), Ellen Ochoa, and Cass R. Sunstein. You can read more about the honorary degree recipients here.

Last year, I wrote a post about Penn’s 258th Commencement, which featured the commencement address by John Legend, C’99, and the happy times I shared during the ceremony with my colleague Casey Ryan, C’95, and alumnus Harry Gross, W’44.

My former colleague Steve Hamilton caught up with Harry Gross, W’44, who I highlight in my post below, again this year. Steve notes, “Among other things, Harry hosted WWDB’s ‘Speaking of Your Money,’ and wrote a regular newspaper column. He always was and still is a great guy and perfect gentleman.” I am very happy to see that Harry is still waving his class flag proudly at Commencement!

Alumni Relations' Steve Hamilton and Harry Gross, W'44, at Penn's 2015 Commencement

Alumni Relations’ Steve Hamilton and Harry Gross, W’44, at Penn’s 2015 Commencement

Here is my original post which appeared on the Frankly Penn blog on May 28, 2014.

Congratulations to the Penn Class of 2015!

70 Years Since Graduating and He’s Still Got the “Hurrah!” for Penn

By Kiera Reilly, C’93 @KieraReilly

I always tell people that Commencement Day at Penn is the happiest day on campus, and this year, on May 19 as Penn celebrated its 258th Commencement, was no exception. In Alumni Relations, we help with the alumni processional portion of the event – alumni from every undergraduate class at Penn carry flags from their graduating year and march into Franklin Field after the graduates.

We arrive early in the morning, so we can “get robed” in our caps and gowns, and then wait for the alumni to arrive. The alumni robing is near the academic processional staging area, and I happened to be looking at President Gutmann and commencement speaker John Legend’s, C’99, chairs when the University Mace was delivered. Leslie Kruhly, the Secretary of the University, leads the academic procession carrying the mace.

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The staging area for the academic procession. The University mace was just delivered.

Me and my colleague Casey Ryan, C'95. We lead the alumni procession down Locust Walk and into Franklin Field.

My colleague Casey Ryan, C’95, and I are robed and ready to go. We led the alumni procession down Locust Walk and into Franklin Field.

After everyone is robed, we wait a bit before we get the cue to begin. Here everyone is lined up waiting for the academic procession to pass.

The alumni procession waiting for the academic procession outside of the Annenberg Center.

 

Then we march down Locust Walk to the front of the Sweeten Alumni House. It was a beautiful day and everyone on campus was lining the walk cheering and clapping for the alumni.

Alumni flag bearers line Locust Walk to congratulate the newest Penn Alumni!

Alumni flag bearers line Locust Walk to congratulate the newest Penn Alumni!

The alumni flag bearers then line Locust Walk and wait for the graduates. The graduates march down Locust Walk through our line of alumni flags, and the alumni cheer, clap and congratulate the newest members of Penn Alumni.

Some graduates casually walk by, others pose for pictures with their friends, or their parents and family try to capture a candid moment of them walking to graduate. And in the midst of the several thousand graduates passing us by, at the front of the alumni flag line, was Harry Gross, W’44. Harry graduated in 1944, that’s seventy years ago for those of you having a bit of trouble with the math. He wore a fun Red and Blue hat, and as he sat in his chair holding the Class of 1944 flag, he was arguably the most popular man on Locust Walk. Yes, everyone wanted to wave to President Gutmann and take a selfie with John Legend, but Harry was the star.

Graduates thanked him for coming. They shook his hand, they said wow. And when they said congratulations, Harry simply replied, “Congratulations to YOU!” And then he told them that they’d be in his same spot in seventy years!

Me and Harry

Posing with Harry

Congratulations to Penn’s Class of 2014! We’ll see you in 2084 (and we hope every year in between).

Hurrah, Hurrah, for the Red and the Blue!

Commencement from the alumni flag bearer's view.

Commencement from the alumni flag bearer’s view.

Here’s Harry leading the alumni processional into Franklin Field.

Harry Gross, W'44, leading the alumni flags onto Franklin Field for the University of Pennsylvania's Commencement, May 2014. Photo copyright: University of Pennsylvania.

Harry Gross, W’44, leading the alumni flags onto Franklin Field for the University of Pennsylvania’s Commencement, May 2014. Photo copyright: University of Pennsylvania.

Watch videos of President Gutmann’s commencement speech and John Legend’s address here (and also photos of the day).

See all the Penn Commencement tweets #PennGrad.

This post originally appeared on the Frankly Penn blog on May 28, 2014.

Flashback: It’s #PennTimetoShine

This post originally appeared in the Frankly Penn blog on April 18, 2013.

It’s #PennTimetoShine

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @KieraReilly

Did You Know…that Penn’s Making History campaign celebration, Time to Shine, is tomorrow? Over 14,000 alumni, students, faculty, staff and guests will celebrate on Penn Park with headlining acts Train and John Legend, C’99. The event is free, but registration closes at noon EDT tomorrow, April 19th. Register here. The show will go on, rain or shine. Please note backpacks and umbrellas will not be allowed in Penn Park.

Read the article in The Daily Pennsylvanian today about the event.

During the event, screens around the park will showcase your Instagram photos with the #PennTimetoShine hashtag. Can’t make the event? Share your Penn Pride with us – post your photo of you and your friends or your clubs on Instagram (wearing your Penn gear) with the hashtag #PennTimetoShine and you’ll be featured during the celebration (and of course you can follow along on Instagram and twitter too).

The Regional Clubs team already got into the spirit:

Penn Alumni Regional Clubs director Tara Davies' post.

Casey Ryan, C'95, post. Follow Casey on Instagram @IrishWombat

Kiera Reilly, C'93, post. Follow Kiera on Instagram @KieraReilly

Please like our photos on Instagram!

Penn Alumni (PennAlumni)

University of Pennsylvania (UofPenn)

Penn Alumni Regional Clubs team:

Tara Davies (TaraAnnDavies)

Kiera Reilly, C’93 (KieraReilly)

Casey Ryan, C’95 (IrishWombat)

This post originally appeared in the Frankly Penn blog on April 18, 2013.

Flashback: Penn Serves LA: Habitat for Humanity

When I worked for the University of Pennsylvania’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to help a group of dedicated Penn volunteers as they created opportunities for local alumni to come together to serve the community. Since an initial meeting in April, 2012, this group, called Penn Serves LA, has organized numerous volunteer opportunities for Penn alumni and their families all over the greater Los Angeles region.

Here is a post I wrote on April 1, 2013, for the Frankly Penn blog about their Habitat for Humanity event.

In April of this year (2015) Penn Serves LA is offering several opportunities to serve with Meals on Wheels. You can learn more about the group and register to participate at one of their events via their website.

Here is the original post:

Penn Serves LA: Habitat for Humanity

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @KieraReilly

On Saturday morning, March 9th, I drove to a house in Lynnwood, California, hoping to take photos of the Penn Serves LA group working on a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles project. There was a dumpster in the driveway, and a work truck parked out front, so I assumed I had arrived at the proper place. As I walked toward the home, I noticed people on the roof wearing Penn gear. I guess I’m at the right place, but why are they all on the roof? It turns out our job wasn’t to paint, as many of the volunteers expected, but to remove the roof from the house!

I checked in with the Habitat for Humanity on-site managers, and they said, “Oh, sure you can help…just sign this waiver, put on some gloves, grab some goggles and head up the ladder!” Gulp. This wasn’t what I was expecting, but seeing that everyone else was on the roof, I took a deep breath and up I went to join twenty other Penn alumni and friends.

Penn Serves LA volunteers at Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles

Penn Serves LA volunteers hard at work taking off the roof.

The Penn Serves LA volunteers were all busy working with tools to scrape and pull tiles and nails off of the roof. Others were filling buckets with broken-up roof pieces. That became my job, filling a big paint bucket with roof pieces, walking over to the edge, and flinging the contents over the side into the dumpster. On my first attempt, about half of the contents landed on the ground, and half in the dumpster. The bucket was heavy, and I felt like I might fling myself off the roof with it! The Habitat supervisor encouraged me to go closer to the edge of the roof, and if I felt the bucket going, just let it go. Pretty soon I got the hang of it, and wandered around the roof helping to collect and dump all the tiles everyone was helping to remove.

Penn Serves LA volunteers on the roof for Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles

Back-breaking work.

The Habitat staff stopped us for water breaks, making everyone climb down, drink some water and rest. And we enjoyed a long lunch break, with a beautifully displayed spread of sandwiches, tangerines, carrots, chips and cookies provided by Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16, one of Penn Serves LA’s directors. While we ate, our group talked about jobs, where we lived, and what we studied at Penn. Everyone seemed happy to be there and were enjoying the tough work since we were doing it together.

Penn Serves LA volunteers work on a garage roof Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles

While most of us worked on the house, this group removed the roof from the garage.

Happy Penn Serves LA volunteers at Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles

Happy Penn Serves LA volunteers.

Penn Serves LA volunteers moving a tarp from the lawn Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles

Now we had to move the tarp from the front lawn.

The tarp was really heavy for Penn Serves LA volunteers Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles

It was really, really heavy!

Habitat for Humanity currently has grants to work on homes in three areas of Los Angeles, and Lynwood is one.  The family we were completing the house for currently lives in 100 square feet of housing.   Recipients of homes are asked to contribute “sweat equity” of 250 or 500 hours, depending on whether their home was remodeled or whether they were receiving a newly built home.  They get 30-year mortgages with no interest, and only one person has ever defaulted because the folks who get the houses are all hard workers with good credit.

The roof our group removed was 1,600 square feet, and we worked alongside the woman and her family who will be living in the house. They were great and so excited about their future home.

“What a fantastic experience it was to work alongside so many terrific young Penn alums and their friends. We got crazy dirty doing really hard work, but it was so satisfying and the group was Quaker strong, determined and indefatigable,” said Jane Gutman.

Jane continued, “I am soooo tired and wait ‘til you see the photos showing how dirty we were…I probably won’t be able to walk or move tomorrow, but the Habitat guys were so encouraging and supportive and our group totally came together and just never stopped…an awesome day!”

Penn Serves LA founder Jane Gutman helping to remove the roof Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles

Jane Gutman helping remove the roof pieces.

Penn Serves LA director Jane Gutman showing off roof dirt Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles

Jane Gutman showing us all the dirt from the roof!

The Habitat for Humanity event, which was co-sponsored by the Southern California Regional Advisory Board, Wharton Club of Southern California, and PennClubLA, was the fourth Penn Serves LA event since its launch in May 2012.

The Penn Serves LA Habitat for Humanity volunteers after removing the roof! Los Angeles

The Penn Serves LA Habitat for Humanity volunteers after removing the roof! Hurrah, Hurrah!

See all of the photos from our day here.

Are you active in community service? Want to get your favorite nonprofit involved? If you have a nonprofit in mind for a future Penn Serves LA event, let us know. Our initiative provides alumni with the unique opportunity to showcase their favorite charitable organization. Send us an email at pennservesla@gmail.com with your name and Penn affiliation, the organization you would like us to serve, why you got involved and how Penn Serves might help. The group would like to expand to other cities, so please contact us if you’d like to spearhead a similar effort in your town.

Penn Serves LA is an initiative to encourage Penn alumni, parents and family across all schools and all years to come together and serve those in need through established nonprofits working in underserved communities. Children and spouses of alumni and parents of current students are also invited to participate (please check age requirements). Penn Serves LA is regularly scheduling service events throughout the year. Penn Serves LA is working in partnership with PennClubLA, Wharton Club of Southern California, and SCRAB.

You can read about our first event at Turning Point Shelter in Santa Monica, our second event at the Midnight Mission, and our third event at Inner City Arts.

The Penn Softball team volunteered at Habitat for Humanity in New Jersey – here’s the link to a story and video about their experience.

This article originally appeared on the Frankly Penn blog on April 1, 2013.

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