The year 1881 should stand out to all of us, for it is the year that our proud institution, The Wharton School, was officially founded. For the longest time, however, I did not know the exact day of that year that the school was founded, nor did anyone I asked.
Why did I care? Why should anyone care? Before business school I served in the military, graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point and forged relationships in a community steeped in tradition and a sense of service. Ask any Veteran, they not only know their respective service’s founding date, but probably their sister services’ birthdays as well, and look forward to celebrating without hesitation and in proper fashion.
I see the same potential for our school. We are 94,000 strong in 153 countries. We boast captains of industry, leaders in government and innovators that are changing the world. This is our identity. What date can we all unite around and draw a closer sense of camaraderie? After some help from the Penn Archives, and Director Mark Lloyd, this is what I found about the Wharton’s founding. As outlined in Steven A. Sass’s book, The Pragmatic Imagination: A History of the Wharton School, 1881 – 1981:
22 February 1881 – Penn’s Provost, William Pepper, first publicly announced Wharton’s offer of a $100,000 gift to the University to endow the Wharton School.
1 March 1881 – Joseph Wharton formally submitted to the Trustees of the University his written offer to establish the Wharton School.
24 March 1881 – University of Pennsylvania’s Board of Trustees formally voted to accept his proposal, and from this day henceforth, Wharton was founded.
On March 24, 2016, The Wharton School will turn 135. Raise a glass to this institution and all the people we’ve had the honor to get to know within it. Toast to the alumni who came before us and paved the way forward. Celebrate with the current graduates and students who are carrying the torch.
Does this sound like chest-beating? Perhaps. But for good reason. Be humble but be proud. Joseph Wharton generously set in motion an institution that develops leaders of our world. In truth, The Wharton School is only as valuable as the people that its graduates and the network which we boast is only as strong as the connections it creates.
It might be late to have a formal birthday party this year, but fortunately for those in Philadelphia it aligns with our Pub tradition. So, sing happy birthday. Smile. Laugh. And connect. Calling all alumni, graduate and undergraduate alike: wherever you are – West Coast, East Coast, Asia or Europe – coalesce and strengthen our network.
In the words of Professor Eric Bradlow, “be Wharton proud.” 135 years later, Wharton is as strong and special of an institution as ever. Happy Birthday.