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Welcome Back

September 4, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

I hope your summer break was both restful and fruitful, and that you are excited to begin another academic year at Drexel. I look forward to accomplishments that build on our previous successes and bring us closer to achieving the goals we’ve set as a community. I can’t wait to get started, and especially to working with you in our quest to improve the academic quality and competitive position of Drexel University.

I want to extend a special welcome to all the new members of the Drexel community who have joined us this year, and welcome back everyone else. Let me share a few initiatives that we will move forward with during the coming year, and put those initiatives in the context of what we’ve already achieved.

Academic Enterprise

We begin 2014-15 with an academic enterprise that better extends and leverages the strengths of our university and connects these programs to the needs of the marketplace.

The Close School of Entrepreneurship will have 20 students in its new bachelor’s degree programs, a year ahead of their official launch. The school’s foundation grew stronger this summer when Stan and Jackie Silverman generously donated $2 million to endow the position of Silverman Family Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership, to be held initially by founding Dean Donna DeCarolis. Stan Silverman is the Vice Chairman of Drexel’s Board of Trustees and one of our most devoted and passionate alumni, and it’s gratifying that he supports our focus on the academic study of entrepreneurship.

The College of Computing & Informatics is now home to all students and faculty from the computer science and computing and security technology programs, as well as the programs from the former iSchool. The new college is perfectly positioned to address critical challenges in information through initiatives like the Cybersecurity Institute, and is off to a wonderful start in its student recruiting process, with a very strong class of almost 500 undergraduate and graduate students joining us this year.

The School of Education is once again an independent unit and plays a key role in Drexel’s academic and civic activities around education. The school spearheaded the new DragonsTeach program, launched this spring with a $1.45 million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative, and students in a variety of science, technology, engineering and math majors will begin preparing this year for teaching careers to help meet the nation-wide need for STEM educators.

This also marks the first full academic year for the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, and a transitional year for the Goodwin College of Professional Studies. Now aligned with the LeBow College of Business, and under the leadership of Dean Frank Linnehan, Goodwin College will recruit a new executive director while reimagining its mission in continuing education and college access.

I also anticipate a deepening collaboration between our College of Medicine faculty and professional staff and their counterparts in other colleges and schools, now that the “firewall” separating from the university and the college has been formally dissolved.

Finally, I want to welcome the new deans and directors in their first full year of academic leadership, including Ana Diez Roux of the School of Public Health, Nancy Butler Songer of the School of Education, Jonathan Deutsch of the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management and Paula Marantz Cohen, whose 30-year career with Drexel entered a new phase when she was named dean of the Pennoni Honors College.

Student & Faculty Research

Drexel’s reputation for innovation is driven by the individual and team research efforts of our students and faculty. There’s no way to anticipate what this year’s big breakthroughs will be, but we can imagine from whom they might come.

Once again, a record-breaking number of our students and very recent graduates received Fulbright grants for this academic year. The seven recipients, who come from the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, will be working on six continents to advance knowledge in fields ranging from spaceflight to drug delivery to environmental safety and more.

Just this morning, we unveiled Ken Lacovara’s Dreadnoughtus schrani, a new supermassive dinosaur species. Dreadnoughtus schrani was discovered with the most complete skeleton ever found of its type, and it is calculated that the dinosaur measured 85 feet long and weighed about 65 tons when it roamed the Earth. The Drexel-led team, guided by Ken and including many of our students, excavated the skeleton in Argentina over four field seasons, and this extraordinary discovery offers new insights into the anatomy and biomechanics of these titanosaurs.

For the first time, a number of critical projects led by Drexel researchers will move forward this year with seed funding from our new A.J. Drexel Institute for Energy and the Environment. Six colleges and schools are represented in the work, which includes efforts to make our power grid more efficient and secure, reduce carbon emissions in Philadelphia and examine health and environmental issues in natural gas extraction.

There is special promise this year in the research efforts of the “dream teams” created in the wake of our pediatric medical research partnership with Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Two teams led by Drexel researchers are investigating a new intravascular pump for congenital heart disease and ways to reduce failure of transcatheter valve replacements. This exciting partnership is an example of the dividends paid by our efforts to significantly increase Drexel’s global footprint.

Unfortunately I can only scratch the surface of the path-breaking research being done by our faculty and students. I commend to all of you the 2014 Drexel University Research Magazine, which more fully explicates the incredible work that is going on across the University. And congratulations to the very talented team from University Communications, led by Lori Doyle, for the national recognition they have received for producing the Research Magazine.

Economic Development & Civic Engagement

This will be a pivotal year for Drexel’s commitment to be the most civically engaged university in the United States, along dimensions of both service and economic development.

Drexel played a lead role in the successful effort to have West Philadelphia named one of the first five federal Promise Zones by President Obama. Now we’re leading the educational working group for the zone along with the School District of Philadelphia. We’ll see faculty members with relevant interests begin to leverage the Promise Zone designation in their research during the coming year.

We have broken ground for the much-needed expansion of the Drexel’s 11th Street Family Health Services facility in North Philadelphia with the support of a $2.5 million gift from the Sheller Family Foundation. The expanded building will be renamed in honor of Stephen and alumna Sandra Sheller. Steve is a Trustee of the University and one of our most engaged and generous benefactors. Planning will also continue for the University City High School site acquired by Drexel and Wexford Science & Technology, and we are making early progress on creating a plan to create a new, University-assisted K-8 neighborhood school on the site with our partners from Science Leadership Academy, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Philadelphia Zoo. And if you haven’t joined our neighbors for a class or event at the new Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is an entirely uplifting experience.

More than a dozen companies are involved in the recently opened Innovation Center @ 3401, our incubator/accelerator developed in partnership with the University City Science Center. The tenants range from healthcare and technology startups to established companies like and DreamIt Ventures to international pharmaceutical giant Merck, which has been embedding offices in innovation hubs where they see the potential for new healthcare IT solutions.

Finally, Drexel will soon select a master developer for the Innovation Neighborhood. We’ve issued a request for proposals, and we anticipate choosing a developer and executing an agreement by next spring. At the same time, design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill will continue developing a comprehensive joint master plan for the 30th Street Station district, guided by the coordinating committee led by Drexel, Amtrak and Brandywine Realty Trust.

Many of these efforts share a common basis in urban planning. That’s why I’m looking forward to seeing the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation play a larger role under the leadership of Harris Steinberg, one of our region’s leading voices in civic visioning, and the long-time head of Penn Praxis. Harris joins Drexel in November to lead the Lindy Institute, and will also become a member of the Westphal College teaching faculty.

Campus Life & Development

The heart of our campus will beat stronger than ever when Perelman Plaza opens this fall. The renovated space will serve as a crossroads, a community gathering spot and a relaxing oasis for everyone. Earlier this week, we announced an additional $6 million gift from Ray Perelman to name the new Center for Jewish Life, which will be constructed on 34th Street and open in the fall of 2016. Drexel is blessed to have wonderful friends such as Ray.

While Chestnut Square becomes a favorite destination for student living and for dining and shopping in the neighborhood, its sister complex, The Summit, at Lancaster Avenue and 34th Street will continue to rise to its full 24 stories and will open in fall 2015. Launched under our continued partnership with American Campus Communities, the project is the most ambitious residential, dining and retail development in Drexel’s history.

The School of Public Health will celebrate its full occupancy of the renovated Nesbitt Hall in an October ceremony. The school’s outstanding faculty and students are looking forward to an even deeper connection with their colleagues on the University City Campus.

Our athletic facilities will once again host the incredibly exciting performances of Drexel’s student-athletes. It will be hard to top last year’s results, which included crew championships at the Dad Vail and Head of the Charles regattas, a conference championship and NCAA tournament appearance for men’s soccer, and a first-round NCAA victory for men’s lacrosse. No fewer than five of our sixteen women’s and men’s varsity teams were ranked in the top 20 in the nation, and our student-athletes continue their exemplary academic performance, among the strongest in the country. The first big moment this year shows how athletics complements the academic experience at Drexel, as our men’s basketball team just returned from China and a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition tour.

Better Stewardship of Resources

This coming year will also be notable for two fundamental shifts in how we undertake our key institutional responsibilities.

Our focus on student lifecycle management is, at its heart, a commitment to finding the best qualified students for Drexel and giving them everything they need to succeed, across a continuum from recruitment to graduation and beyond. With Randy Deike now on board to head the new Division of Enrollment Management and Student Success, we’ll begin to see significant progress in that effort.

At the same time, we have begun the transition to a resource allocation process based on responsibility-center management. By aligning the incentives and rewards for innovation and effective management at all levels of academic and administrative management, Drexel can better steward the resources entrusted to us and focus investment on priorities such as student access and faculty support.

I’m happy to report that this past fiscal year, Drexel raised a record $85.5 million, exceeding our $60 million goal by 42.5 percent. We also successfully concluded a $455 million capital campaign, the largest in our history, well beyond our campaign goal and nine months earlier than anticipated. We expect this momentum to continue in our next campaign, which will be largely endowment-based, and look forward to the positive impact our donors’ investments will have on the lives of our students, faculty and professional staff.


Our strategic plan is being fully implemented, in some cases ahead of schedule, and I look forward to another year of enormous progress. I am proud to share this time in Drexel’s history with you, and I wish you continued success in all of your endeavors in 2014-15.


John A. Fry