How our 2017 Lucretia Mott honoree, University of Pennsylvania’s President Dr. Amy Gutmann, is bringing opportunity and innovation to all “Think big and aim high.” That’s the advice Dr. Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), says she’d give to women today.
It’s advice she’s clearly followed herself. Her triumphs—which she’s leveraged time and again to affect positive and visionary change in her community, throughout the country and even globally- are the reasons she is this year’s recipient of WOMEN’S WAY’s Lucretia Mott Award. In addition to being President of a university with a total enrollment of more than 24,500 students which is Philadelphia’s largest private employer.
Dr. Gutmann is a multi-published author recognized for her contributions to political philosophy and practical ethics. She also is well-known for being a woman who gets the job done. From personal experience, she knows how difficult it can be to pay college tuition. “I was the first in my family to attend college, and although I excelled in high school, I had no insight into how I could possibly afford a first-rate college education,” Dr. Gutmann says. “It wasn’t until our family doctor urged me to explore the Ivy League, and explained the availability of financial aid, that I even considered applying to Radcliffe (now Harvard), where I eventually enrolled. Education has opened every door for me, and I am committed to being a force for opening doors for others.”She has been that force. Under her leadership, Penn has become the nation’s largest university offering an all-grant financial aid policy to meet the full needs of undergraduate students. The number of students from low-income, middle-income, and first-generation college families has more than doubled since 2004, when Dr. Gutmann was appointed president.
Prior to her current position at Penn, Dr. Gutmann served as Provost at Princeton University. In a recent article, she explained her decision to leave Princeton, where she had been for 27 years, and move to the city of Philadelphia. “It was an opportunity for me to make the maximal difference in people’s lives.” She has made a significant difference in her tenure, creating an environment of positive change, not just for students, but for all residents of Philadelphia.
One of the University’s more recent initiatives, led by Dr. Gutmann, is Pennovation Works, 23 acres in the Gray’s Ferry neighborhood which is a “unique blend of offices, labs, and production space which is bridging Penn’s intellectual and entrepreneurial initiatives for advancing knowledge and generating economic development.” She is pointed about the need for innovation in today’s economy. “Innovation is the engine of our modern economy, and Philadelphia is well-positioned for even more innovation and growth. Pennovation Works has taken this previously abandoned industrial land and is turning it into a thriving innovation ecosystem, connecting Penn’s vast intellectual and entrepreneurial resources to our city and region,” Dr. Gutmann says. Opportunity, innovation, community — three guiding principles of WOMEN’S WAY are clearly values that Gutmann embraces, says Executive Director Diane Cornman-Levy. “In our 40th year, as we reinvigorate to meet the needs of women during this critical point in history, it was even more important that the Lucretia Mott honoree exemplify our core principles: community, opportunity, intersectionality, innovation and accountability” says Cornman-Levy. “Amy Gutmann does all that and more. She leads by action, and example, in both her astonishing career and her human interactions.” This leadership, as well as her writings and work around the need for open and collaborative approach to solving complex problems, extends beyond the borders of Pennsylvania.
In 2009, and again in 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Gutmann Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. The commission had a diverse membership, including experts from philosophy, medicine, nursing, law, religion, and engineering, and issued multiple reports and recommendations ranging in topic from how to discuss and debate difficult ethical issues to the need to adequately protect adult and pediatric participants in medical research. Dr. Gutmann is also part of the Global Colloquium of University Presidents, a select group of presidents of research universities, throughout the world, that advise the United Nation’s Secretary-General on a range of global issues, including academic freedom, mass migration, international development, and the social responsibilities of universities.
Dr. Gutmann offers a piece of advice to women about recognizing opportunities when they present themselves—even, maybe especially, when they are unexpected. “Opportunities will arise, often serendipitously, that you could have never imagined, and the smartest thing anyone can do is to be ready to act when you see the right opportunity for your talents and passions,” she says. She then adds that she followed the advice of her mother, “My mother told me to love what you do and do what you love.”
Dr. Gutmann went on to explain how her mother inspired her to pursue her education.“The thwarted dream of my super-smart and spirited mother was to become a teacher, but her parents believed only boys needed a college education, so she passionately taught me and many of my friends pro bono.” “I too wanted to become a teacher, and I would have been thought delusional had I aspired as a college student to become president of the University of Pennsylvania. At that time [the early 1970s] no woman was considered to lead any of the male-dominated Ivy League universities. Fast forward to today, and half of the Ivy League presidents are women.” Of course, Dr. Gutmann points out, there is always more progress to be made. “We have made great strides and will continue to do so, but our work remains: To make sure that all career paths, all fields of study, and all corner offices and E-suites are equally within reach for all, no matter their gender.”
WOMEN’S WAY is pleased to present Dr. Amy Gutmann with the Lucretia Mott Award at the 40th Annual Powerful Voice Awards on Thursday, May 11, 2017.