Dean Pam Grossman leaves a legacy of leadership

June 29, 2023
GSE Dean Pam Grossman smiles in front of a painted wall
Nine years ago, on September 19, 2014, the Penn GSE community came together to celebrate the School’s Centennial, reflecting on how far it had come from its initial 97 students, three faculty members, and nine courses. The kickoff for what would be a yearlong 100th birthday party featured the requisite cake, balloons, and music. But it also included one very important attendee: Pam Grossman, a scholar of teacher education from Stanford University’s School of Education who was soon to become Penn GSE’s newest dean.

Grossman, who began her career as a high school English teacher, had never planned to be a dean—in fact, she had previously turned down other offers so she could continue teaching and advising doctoral students at Stanford. But she felt a pull to lead Penn GSE, compelled by its unique partnerships with the School District of Philadelphia and the potential to make a real, tangible impact.

“It was a big leap for us, particularly because I’m from the Bay Area and had never spent time in Philadelphia, so there was a lot of learning to be done,” Dean Grossman said. “But if you care about urban education, which I do, it really helps to be in a city.”

She officially became dean in January 2015, leading the School into its second century. During the busy years that followed, change was the only constant. Some of it was actively pursued—such as the fundraising and groundbreaking for a new building expansion. And some of which—namely the COVID-19 pandemic—could never have been foreseen. But Dean Grossman steered the School through it all with a steady hand, aspiring to create an inclusive community devoted to academic excellence, innovation, local engagement, and international impact.

“As a global leader in the field of education, Pam, not surprisingly, has a passion for improving our educational systems at every level. Through her leadership, GSE has cemented its place among the top schools of education,” said Wendell Pritchett, GR’97, who served as provost and interim president of the University during her tenure as dean. “Pam has also been a crucial collaborator in our University efforts to create an even more meaningful educational experience for our students.”

The breadth of all she has accomplished came into sharp relief when she announced the bittersweet news that she would be stepping down this summer.

“Dean Grossman is leaving the school in exceptionally good shape,” said Penn GSE’s Chair of the Board of Advisors Doug Korn, W’84. “We have tremendous momentum programmatically, academically, organizationally, and reputationally. By the end of Pam’s term as dean, the School’s physical plant—its learning spaces and public areas—will have been expanded and completely updated to contemporary standards. The School is objectively bigger, better, stronger, and more financially sound than ever.”

Read more about Dean Grossman's legacy at Penn GSE in the latest edition of the Penn GSE Magazine.

Photo credit: Stuart Goldenberg for Penn GSE