This article is part of the DrexelNow “Faces of Drexel” series honoring Drexel’s history as part of the University-wide celebration of the 125th anniversary of Drexel’s founding in 1891.
Exactly 25 years ago — when Drexel University was celebrating its centennial — the Drexel 100 was launched as the University’s alumni hall of fame to honor Dragons making a significant difference in the world after graduation. Now, during Drexel’s 125th anniversary year, the Drexel 100 is celebrating a special anniversary of its own.
Since 1992, 250 Drexel Dragons have been inducted into the selective group, with an induction ceremony occurring every two years. These leaders were on campus for 10 out of the University’s 12 decades and have, in their own way, historically gone on to make a difference in their various fields, careers and philanthropic efforts. New members elected by the current Drexel 100 members are recognized with a medallion at the special event, with this year’s ceremony taking place May 20.
“All of our existing members of the ‘100’ show us why Drexel University came into being, what we have accomplished, and what we will accomplish,” said President John Fry at the event.
This year’s induction ceremony welcomed 14 more Dragons into the group, which current chair and trustee David R. Geltzer ’77, who was inducted in 2011, said represents “the Drexel MVPs.”
“The Drexel 100 is a really important way of recognizing Drexel alumni who have made their mark on society, not just on campus or in Philadelphia but across the country and around the world,” he said.
The list of members reads like a who’s who of Drexel Dragons — and has since the very beginning, when the inaugural class of 100 graduates were selected from the University’s 65,000 living alumni.
“With literally thousands of distinguished alumni/ae to select from for this distinction, it was no easy task to narrow the field to a mere 100 to exemplify the best that this institution has produced,” wrote then-Drexel President Richard Breslin, PhD, in the fall 1992 issue of Drexel’s alumni magazine, which was devoted entirely to the Drexel 100.
The process began in the spring of 1991, and then again in early 1992, when the publication sent out ballots for alumni to nominate worthy Dragons. Trustees, faculty and the eight-member General Alumni Association Board of Directors also sent in nominations. At the end of the process, the Honors and Awards Committee of the board recommended its finalists, with Breslin ultimately choosing the final — and first — 100.
“The honor fell to me to make the phone calls to each of the 100, telling them that they had been selected,” he wrote. “Without exception, all 100 expressed great pride and pleasure at being so honored by their alma mater.”
A composite of the front and back covers of the fall 1992 issue of Drexel’s alumni magazine featuring the inaugural class of the Drexel 100 (with President Richard Breslin in the pale blue coat in the center of the bottom row). Magazine scan courtesy University Archives.
That first class consisted of graduates ranging from Drexel from the 1920s to the 1980s. Notable members included Chuck Barris ‘53, host of “The Gong Show”; Paul Baran ‘49, an inventor of packet-switched computer networking; James P. Bagian ‘73, a NASA astronaut; Susan O. Seidelman ‘73, HD ‘91, noted director of films like “Desperately Seeking Susan”; and Elizabeth Gray Vining ‘25, English tutor of Japan’s Emperor Akihito and author of over 60 books including the Newbery Medal-winning “Adam of the Road.”
The group also included Drexel’s only two alumni to become University presidents, though only one had served by that point: Harold M. Myers ‘38, HD ‘83, who served from 1987–88; and C. R. “Chuck” Pennoni ‘63, ‘66, HD ’92, who would go on to serve in 1994–95 and again in 2009–10.
Most of the 100 returned to campus for Reunion Weekend (now Alumni Weekend), which was held in June 1992 as the grand finale of the centennial year. The official ceremony was held June 13 in the Mandell Theater.
Today, the nominating system is a little different. Anyone can nominate a Dragon for the Drexel 100. After that, an internal committee narrows down the candidates for a given induction year to about 30-35 names, with the current members of the Drexel 100 voting on who should join them. The votes are tallied and the top vote-getters — roughly half of the ballot — are offered induction. Alumni must be able to attend the special medallion ceremony to be inducted.
Ever since the very beginning of the Drexel 100, the University has highlighted its incoming class of Dragons by placing them in context with Drexel’s history.
“Our founder Anthony J. Drexel would have been proud of the Drexel 100,” noted Geltzer in the spring 2017 Drexel 100 newsletter. “When he established the Drexel Institute in 1891, he envisioned an education that produced graduates more experienced than their peers and better positioned for success, which remains the foundation of Drexel University’s identity to this day.”
President Fry, at the event, instead reflected on how the inaugural class and those involved with creating the Drexel 100 would have reacted to seeing how much the Drexel 100 — and its members — have accomplished.
“I don’t know if anyone could have imagined 25 years ago the accumulating stature and impact of this luminary cohort,” he said.
To learn more about the Drexel 100, including the most recent inductees and biographies of all members, click here.