Monday was President's Day, although you might have forgotten SINCE WE DIDN’T GET THE DAY OFF. But with “Lincoln” poised to win big at the Oscars on Sunday, Ego takes a look back at some of the POTUSes who have spent time at Dear Olde Penn.
The original G. Dubya got the thrill of a lifetime when he was awarded an honorary degree from Penn in 1783! It was clearly the highlight of his career, but he didn’t show up to accept it for some reason. Bizarre! Regardless, the wooden–toothed, cherry tree–chopper visited campus several other times.
THOMAS JEFFERSON (ALMOST)
John Adams came to the 1775 Commencement, but TJ never came to Penn, even though he totally drafted the Declaration of Independence in the City of Brotherly Love! And he sent his nephews here. Guess he was busy inventing the swivel chair…
WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON
Many claim poor WHH is the only Quaker POTUS, but real talk: we have NONE. William peaced from the Medical Department in 1791 after four short months to enroll in the army. Foreshadowing for the nation’s shortest presidency? Poor Will died of pneumonia a month after his inauguration.
Pre–assassination, the dude for whom the “Glee” high school is named spoke at University Day, commemorating Washington’s birthday in 1898, complete with a reception at Fisher Fine Arts (then called Furness). In subsequent years, Teddy Roosevelt (whose great–great–grandson Kermit teaches in law here now!) and William Taft were University Day guests.
Oh snap. When he was President of Princeton University, not the United States, this foreign policy boss (League of Nations, anyone?) was a 1903 keynote speaker. Penn–Princeton interactions are no longer so dignified.
While he was President, FDR was the guest of honor at Penn’s Bicentennial Celebration in 1940. Fresh off the success of the New Deal, Franklin D. got an honorary doctorate of laws. Sweet deal!
While President in 1960, Truman spoke on behalf of Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy at a rally at Irvine Auditorium. JFK himself had delivered a speech in the same room three years earlier. Unfortunately, the ‘60s were not a time for campus presidential lovin’, and no POTUSes returned until 1975.
The infamous visit heard ’round Van Pelt. While President in 1975, Ford gave a glorious Penn Commencement speech. Sadly, his return to campus was a bit of a flop, as Gerry was trapped in an elevator in VP on September 19, 1984. There’s even a plaque commemorating the crisis in the elevator where the drama went down. Another reason to use the stairs and stick with Rosenparty.
It was kept really hush–hush, but Bill actually was at Penn in November on Obama’s behalf! (The most action the Palestra’s seen in a while.) Sixteen years earlier, pre–Monica, Hill Field was a campaign stop for Bubba’s 1996 reelection.