April 24, 2015

In his new book, John Puckett tells interwoven histories of Penn and West Philadelphia

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Seven years ago, Penn GSE educational historian John Puckett and co-author Mark Frazier Lloyd set out to tell the story of the University of Pennsylvania in the second half of the 20th Century.

Becoming Penn book cover

Becoming Penn is published by Penn Press

But the story of Penn was incomplete, Puckett told the Penn Current, without exploring how the University and West Philadelphia shaped each other in the years after World War II. Their new book, “Becoming Penn: The Pragmatic American University, 1950-2000,” blends university politics and urban policy.

Puckett and Lloyd, director of the University Archives and Records Center, will discuss the book at a signing 7 p.m. May 14 at the Penn Book Center.

Drawing on historical records from the City of Philadelphia and the University, Puckett and Lloyd explored the dynamics, both political and social, that helped to drive decision-making processes, policies, and ambitions of the four presidents who led Penn in the last half of the 20th century: Gaylord Harnwell, Martin Meyerson, Sheldon Hackney, and Judith Rodin. Each of these presidents faced challenges unique to their time, and the ways each responded to those challenges ultimately defined what the University would become.

“It’s a story of the American research university in the second half of the 20th century,” Puckett told the Current. “It’s a social history and an institutional history.”