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Drexel University 2018 President's Report

Decade of Distinction

President's Message

john fry headshot

As we near the close of the decade, this President’s Report offers an opportunity to reflect upon milestones, as well as note the many recent highlights that distinguish Drexel as a national center for teaching, cooperative education, research, technology commercialization and civic engagement.

By any measure, Drexel is distinctively different from the university it was when I arrived. We can point to well over $500 million in campus development, the launch of a new school for entrepreneurs, a law school reborn, the establishment of a transformative urban extension center, the enrollment of growing and increasingly talented freshman classes, and so much more outlined in this report.

This year, we welcomed the largest and most academically talented freshman class in Drexel history.

For us at Drexel, though, it’s always about the future. The centennial of the Drexel Co-op is on the horizon, and a number of key initiatives are coming to fruition across our University — one that is becoming more selective; its academic and research enterprises, stronger; its alumni and friends, generously loyal; and with a rapidly evolving campus offering a more inviting, exciting and secure setting for students, faculty, professional staff, alumni and visitors.

The Drexel Co-op takes students all over the world and into every imaginable setting —  whether it’s skydiving over Mount Fuji, crunching numbers for a Fortune 100 energy provider,  prepping for Super Bowl celebrations with the Philadelphia Eagles, or dueling for national honors against other aspiring lawyers. Look to next year’s report for much more about our experiential approach to learning.

During this academic year, we welcomed the largest and most academically talented freshman class in Drexel history. The newest undergraduates are uniquely positioned for success: Their average SAT score of 1280 was 18 points higher than last year’s class. Joining the faculty to teach this extraordinary group are 17 new tenured and tenure-track faculty members, spanning two-thirds of the schools and colleges with tenure-track faculty. Our faculty are an amazing resource, with both a local and global orientation to their teaching and research.

Annual rankings once again placed Drexel among the top national universities, and the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education moved Drexel 10 places higher, to 74th out of nearly 1,000 colleges and universities nationwide. One in every four U.S. students seeking admission to medical school this academic year applied to our College of Medicine. Drexel researchers — supported by a 15 percent increase in sponsored research awards last year, to nearly $124 million — are making their mark, too: In June, the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association moved Drexel 18 places higher, to 54th, on its top 100 list for patents granted worldwide in the past year. And in the latest Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, Drexel for the first time was designated at the highest level of research activity — one of only 34 private universities in the nation.

In support of scholarships and co-ops, faculty and research, academic programs and other priorities, our $750 million The Future Is a Place We Make campaign is making great strides. For the fourth year in a row, donors made gifts and commitments of more than $100 million, moving the campaign past the $500 million mark and surpassing the University’s previous fundraising campaign record of $455 million. This includes more than $77 million in scholarship support from more than 5,500 donors.

Our campus is growing with the formal opening of the Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy in Center City Philadelphia. At the Institute, Thomas R. Kline School of Law students will be able to hone their litigation skills in a courtroom setting that’s not only realistic, but also conveys the majesty of the law and their calling to seek justice. This inspiring space has been created through the extraordinary generosity of Kline Law’s naming benefactor, trustee Tom Kline. Another campus addition is Drexel Square, a beautiful public space under construction across from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station.

The heart of Drexel’s campus has been transformed into a modern, inviting space where our community can gather. New walkways, landscaping and seating in the Korman Quad complement the transparent façade of the Korman Center, recently renovated to include 6,500 square feet of collaborative workspace and adding 1,500 square feet of student space.

Providing a safe campus environment for the entire community remains a priority, and I have great confidence in our police force of 40 armed officers, supplemented by 150 security personnel. Five additional police officers were brought on board this past fall. With the increase, the Drexel Police Department will expand safety education programs for students and maintain a greater patrol presence.

The state of Drexel's finances is strong, thanks to record enrollment, generous donor gifts, an outstanding, 13.9 percent return on the Drexel endowment, and prudent budgeting that resulted in a $51 million increase in operating margin.

Drexel student-athletes continue to excel both on the field, with title-winning performances, and in the classroom, with an overall 3.29 grade-point average. More than 450 student-athletes will compete in 18 varsity sports this year, and another 9,000 students will join club or intramural sports. The past year saw Drexel women’s basketball win the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title. Men’s basketball waged the largest comeback in NCAA history against rival Delaware. Rowing won its sixth straight overall title at the Dad Vail Regatta, and the women’s crew found success abroad at the historic Henley Women’s Regatta in England. Women’s squash won the Kurtz Cup title, finishing ninth in the national rankings. Wrestling finished the season nationally ranked in four different polls.

There are so many elements that distinguish the Drexel of today, and many stem from decisions and planning that stretches back nearly 10 years. With that perspective, I am proud to share this report with the Drexel campus community, alumni, and the University’s many friends and supporters in the wider community.


John Fry

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225143 Enrollment from 2010-2018

1398 Doctorates awarded since 2010

90 Sophomore retention rate—one-fifth higher than national average

1000 Students from more than 30 countries, comprising Drexel University’s International Graduate Student Association

900 Hours of civic engagement volunteer work performed by faculty and professional staff, 2017-2018

1566 Co-op placement sites at corporate, nonprofit partners around the world

54 Drexel's place among top 100 worldwide universities granted utility patents

Distinctive Learning

The collective learning power of 24,600 students is an awesome resource, nurtured every day by Drexel's outstanding faculty. The results, like those that follow, speak for themselves each and every academic year.

Distinctive Research

research graphic

Drexel researchers are relentless in their search for answers, so much so that the University saw a 15 percent increase in sponsored research awards over the last year, to nearly $124 million. From smart fabrics to revolutionary nano-materials to life-saving health breakthroughs, Drexel researchers are always on the hunt for new knowledge.

Distinctive Experience

experience graphic

The centennial in 2019 of the Drexel co-op will be a moment to celebrate, but there are no plans to rest on our laurels — as a University intent on growing its network of 1,566 corporate and community partners who provide real-world settings for Drexel undergrads to learn. And in the spirit of work hard, play hard, Drexel student-athletes make their mark every year.

Distinctive Engagement

Our founder, Anthony J. Drexel, wanted us to stay engaged with our community, and we're doing that in so many new and interesting ways. Anyone up for a 5K to benefit autism research?

Distinctive Places

korman quad

A growing campus is a living campus, and Drexel’s advocacy and investments in its public realm made substantial strides this year. The completely transformed Korman Quad became a beloved gathering place and crossroads, the Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy opened, and shovels dug into the site of Drexel Square, soon to join Philadelphia’s most iconic outdoor settings.

University Finances and Fundraising

Campaign Shifts into High Gear, Crosses Key Threshold

This was a milestone year for the Campaign for Drexel, which reached $500 million in August, 2018, less than a year following the Campaign's public launch. That put us more than two-thirds of the way to the goal of raising $750 million by June 30, 2021, and it exceeded any previous total ever raised by a Drexel Campaign.

For the fourth year in a row, Drexel raised more than $100 million — with $102.6 million in gifts and commitments to support student success, research discovery and innovation, teaching and learning, and other strategic priorities.

Engagement with the Campaign was never higher, thanks to our inaugural alumni volunteer summit held in October, with more than 130 alumni volunteers, faculty and professional staff partners and student leaders coming together for a day of collaboration, networking and education. Through panels and discussions, alumni learned about the University's growth trajectory, our strategic vision, and how alumni can become more involved in student recruitment, campus life and civic engagement.

Also, during the most recent completed fiscal year Drexel surpassed 20,000 unique alumni engaged as donors, event attendees and volunteers since the Campaign began on December 1, 2013. We have every reason to be confident that we’ll make steady progress towards our goal of engaging 35,000 unique alumni by the close of the Campaign.

Clearly, the theme of our Campaign, The Future Is a Place We Make, has fired the imagination of Drexel volunteers, donors and leaders. My dear friend and urban expert, the late Jeremy Nowak, once described Drexel as “the workshop for the future” — a place that trains individuals who are “fearless about the future.” He encouraged us to create a vision in which our supporters would be what he called “venture investors in the future.” I share that vision.

I hope you join me in a sense of excitement about the next chapter in the Campaign, and the benefits it promises for Drexel in the years ahead.


John Fry

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Driven by record enrollment, impressive endowment returns, and the fourth year in a row of gifts to the university exceeding $100 million, Drexel University notched a $51 million improvement in operating margin in fiscal year 2018. Research was up significantly, with a 15 percent increase in sponsored research awards over the last year, to nearly $124 million. Meanwhile, the current budget prioritizes investments in faculty, academic programs, IT security, public safety, and a merit pool for faculty and professional staff, while continuing to maintain a balanced budget. The University continues to grow its endowments, focusing primarily on scholarships and awards to enhance access and affordability. These efforts were aided by a 13.9 percent return on the Drexel endowment for fiscal year 2018 — an outstanding performance that placed the University in the top 3 percent among all major institutions, according to Wilshire Associates’ TUCS foundation and endowment universe. Our commitment to operating the University at peak efficiency remains core in our approach and contributes to the strong state of Drexel’s finances.