Discovering Fun Facts About UPenn

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

University of Pennsylvania entrance sign

Discovering Fun Facts About UPenn

To many, the University of Pennsylvania, UPenn is an institution steeped in rich history and tradition. Renowned for its academic excellence, it has been shaping minds and futures since 1740. But UPenn is not just a prestigious seat of learning; it’s also a place full of fascinating stories and fun facts. Here are a few fun facts about UPenn that may surprise you.

A Brief History of UPenn

The roots of UPenn run deep into the fabric of American history. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, UPenn was originally established to educate the youth in the arts and sciences. Rather unusually for the time, Franklin’s idea was to prepare students not just for the clergy but also for business and public service – an innovative concept that has remained at the heart of UPenn’s mission ever since.

View of UPenn sign

As one of the oldest universities in the United States, UPenn has witnessed and played a significant role in shaping the nation’s history. From its humble beginnings, the university has become a renowned institution known for its academic excellence and commitment to innovation.

Founding Fathers and UPenn

Benjamin Franklin’s influence on UPenn is well-documented, but he wasn’t the only Founding Father with ties to the university. George Whitefield, an English Anglican cleric, was also instrumental in its foundation. Whitefield’s charismatic preaching and close relationship with Franklin helped establish the university’s early reputation as an intellectual and spiritual growth center.

In addition to Franklin and Whitefield, UPenn attracted many other influential figures of the time. Nine signers of the Declaration of Independence and eleven of the Constitution were affiliated with UPenn, highlighting the university’s deep connection to the birth of America. These individuals, with their vision and dedication to the principles of liberty and democracy, left an indelible mark on the university and the nation.

UPenn’s Historical Landmarks

The campus of UPenn is not only a center of academic excellence but also a treasure trove of historical landmarks. These architectural gems serve as a constant reminder of the university’s rich heritage and its enduring commitment to education.

Among the most prominent landmarks is the College Hall, a majestic building designed by acclaimed architect Thomas Webb Richards and opened in 1871. With its grand facade and intricate details, College Hall stands as a testament to the university’s commitment to architectural beauty and excellence.

Another notable landmark on campus is the Fisher Fine Arts Library, an architectural marvel designed by Frank Furness and completed in 1891. The library’s stunning Venitian Gothic style, characterized by its pointed arches and intricate ornamentation, has made it an iconic symbol of UPenn’s intellectual legacy.

These historic buildings, along with others scattered throughout the campus, provide a glimpse into the past and serve as vibrant spaces for learning and collaboration. They are living testaments to the university’s enduring commitment to fostering an environment that inspires and nurtures intellectual curiosity.

Unique UPenn Traditions

UPenn is not just about serious academics; it also has a playful side characterized by a variety of unique traditions. Among the famous fun facts about UPenn are two such traditions: the Toast Throw and Hey Day.

The Toast Throw: A Quirky Custom

The Toast Throw happens at every home football game. At the end of the third quarter, when the band plays “Drink a Highball,” students throw toast onto the field. It’s a peculiar celebration stemming from a time when alcohol was banned from the stadium, and students came up with a toast-related compromise.

But where did this tradition originate? The Toast Throw dates back to the early 20th century when UPenn students were known for their rebellious spirit. In an act of defiance against the strict rules imposed by the university, students decided to find a way to bring some fun and excitement to the football games. They came up with the idea of throwing toast onto the field as a symbol of their rebellion and a way to mock the ban on alcohol. What started as a small act of defiance soon became a beloved tradition passed down through generations of UPenn students.

Over the years, the Toast Throw has evolved into a spectacle showcasing UPenn students’ creativity and enthusiasm. It’s not just about throwing toast anymore – students now come up with elaborate toast-themed costumes and decorations to make the event even more memorable. From toast-shaped hats to toast-inspired face paint, the Toast Throw has become a celebration of individuality and school spirit.

Hey Day: The Junior’s Rite of Passage

Hey Day is another cherished tradition at UPenn. This event marks the transitional moment when juniors become seniors. During the ceremony, students don straw skirts, canes, and hats and march through campus to the statue of Benjamin Franklin. Once there, the university’s president declares them seniors – a timeless UPenn experience.

Happy students walking together.

But why is Hey Day such a significant event for UPenn students? The tradition of Hey Day can be traced back to the early 1900s when a group of UPenn students wanted to create a special day to honor the junior class. They wanted to celebrate the achievements and growth of the juniors as they prepared to enter their final year at the university. Inspired by the idea of a rite of passage, the students decided to create a unique ceremony that would symbolize the transition from junior to senior.

Since its inception, Hey Day has become an integral part of the UPenn experience. It is a day filled with excitement and anticipation as juniors eagerly await their turn to don the traditional straw skirts, canes, and hats. The march through campus is symbolic, representing the transformation from underclassmen to upperclassmen. As the students gather around the statue of Benjamin Franklin, they are filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment as the university’s president declares them seniors.

Hey Day is not just a celebration of academic progress but also a celebration of the bonds formed during the students’ time at UPenn. It is a day when friendships are strengthened, memories are made, and camaraderie is felt throughout the campus. Along with the many known fun facts, the tradition of Hey Day serves as a reminder of the rich history and traditions that make UPenn a truly unique and special place.

Notable UPenn Alumni

UPenn, one of the prestigious Ivy League universities, counts among its alumni a wide range of high-profile figures from various fields, from Hollywood to the business world. The university’s commitment to academic excellence and fostering talent has produced individuals who have made significant contributions to their respective industries.

UPenn’s Influence in Hollywood

UPenn’s influence extends to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, where many alumni have gone on to achieve acclaim in the film industry. One notable example is Elizabeth Banks, a prominent UPenn alumna who has made her mark in Hollywood. Known for her roles in movies such as “The Hunger Games” and “Pitch Perfect,” Banks has not only established herself as a talented actress but also as a producer. Her ability to bring compelling stories to the screen showcases UPenn’s multidimensional education, which encourages students to explore various creative avenues.

One fun fact about UPenn is that its famous alumna is John Legend, a musician and recipient of Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.

Leaders in Business from UPenn

UPenn’s impact extends beyond entertainment, as the university has also produced many business leaders who have shaped industries and economies. One of the most prominent examples is Elon Musk, the visionary entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. Musk’s groundbreaking innovations in space exploration and electric vehicles have revolutionized industries and inspired a new generation of inventors and innovators.

Another notable business leader who honed their skills at UPenn is Warren Buffett, widely regarded as one of the world’s most successful investors. Buffett’s value investing expertise and ability to identify lucrative opportunities have earned him the nickname “Oracle of Omaha.” His remarkable success serves as a testament to the exceptional education in business and entrepreneurship that UPenn provides.

These alumni, among many others, exemplify the transformative power of a UPenn education. Whether through their contributions to the arts or their groundbreaking achievements in business, UPenn alumni continue to significantly impact the world stage, leaving an indelible mark on their respective industries.

UPenn’s Architectural Marvels

The architectural contributions of UPenn are another fun fact to explore. The campus is a treasure trove of architectural wonders, from historic masterpieces to modern marvels.

The Iconic College Hall

The centerpiece of the UPenn campus is the College Hall. This red-brick Victorian Gothic masterpiece is a symbol of the university and its history. Standing tall and proud, College Hall has witnessed the evolution of UPenn over the years. Its intricate detailing and soaring spires make it a sight to behold. As you walk through its grand entrance, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe and reverence for the knowledge and tradition that have been nurtured within its walls.

View of UPenn building

Inside College Hall, you’ll find a blend of old-world charm and modern functionality. The hallways are lined with portraits of distinguished alumni and faculty, showcasing the rich legacy of UPenn. The classrooms and lecture halls, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, provide an ideal learning and intellectual growth environment.

The Modern Perelman Quadrangle

A more recent addition to the campus is the Perelman Quadrangle. This cluster of buildings combines modern design with historical architecture, reflecting UPenn’s commitment to innovation in education and physical space. The Quadrangle serves as a hub for interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing together students and faculty from various fields of study.

As you explore the Perelman Quadrangle, you’ll be struck by the seamless integration of old and new. The sleek glass facades of the buildings harmonize with the surrounding historic structures, creating a visually captivating ensemble. Inside, you’ll find cutting-edge research labs, collaborative workspaces, and vibrant common areas that foster creativity and intellectual exchange.

One of the standout features of the Perelman Quadrangle is its breathtaking central courtyard. Lush greenery, tranquil water features, and comfortable seating provide a serene oasis amidst the bustling campus. It’s a perfect spot for students to relax, study, or engage in lively discussions.

Whether you’re drawn to the timeless beauty of College Hall or the innovative design of the Perelman Quadrangle, UPenn’s architectural marvels are a testament to the university’s commitment to excellence in all aspects of education and campus life. Each building tells a story, encapsulating the spirit of UPenn and inspiring generations of students to pursue knowledge, creativity, and discovery.

UPenn’s Academic Achievements

Finally, it’s impossible to overlook UPenn’s plethora of academic achievements. These successes highlight the school’s unwavering commitment to educational excellence.

UPenn has a long and storied history of academic achievements that have shaped the landscape of education. Let’s delve deeper into some pioneering programs and notable laureates that have made UPenn a renowned institution.

Pioneering Programs at UPenn

UPenn is a true pioneer in several academic fields. Notably, it’s home to North America’s first school of medicine, founded in 1765. The Perelman School of Medicine has been at the forefront of medical education and research for over two centuries, producing generations of skilled physicians and groundbreaking medical discoveries.

In addition to its medical school, UPenn is also home to the first collegiate business school, the Wharton School, established in 1881. The Wharton School has consistently been ranked among the top business schools globally, offering innovative programs that prepare students for leadership roles in the ever-evolving business world.

UPenn’s Nobel Laureates

UPenn’s roster of Nobel laureates is a further testament to its high academic standing. The university boasts 39 Nobel laureates, including physicist Raymond Davis Jr., whose groundbreaking research on neutrinos revolutionized our understanding of particle physics. Economist Lawrence Klein was honored with the Nobel Prize for their contributions to the field of economics, shaping economic theory and policy.

These laureates, among others, have made significant contributions to their respective fields, reflecting the university’s tradition of fostering intellectual brilliance. Their groundbreaking work not only enhances UPenn’s reputation but also contributes to the advancement of knowledge and society as a whole.

Reflecting on these ten aspects, it’s clear that UPenn is a truly remarkable institution. Its rich past, full of history and tradition, its quirky customs, and many distinguished alumni make it a unique and vibrant university that continues to contribute to the world in multiple ways.

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