Faces of Philanthropy

May 13, 2022
Mid-career students chatting and taking notes on a table with an opened laptop.

by Karen Doss Bowman

Penn GSE is bringing hope and opportunity to a new era. In keeping with Dean Grossman’s vision of access and inclusion, practical knowledge, powerful partnerships, and innovation for impact, Penn GSE is unleashing the power of possibility through education—building a diverse pipeline of the educators and leaders the world needs. The School is grateful to the generous donors who are investing in this work. Here are three stories of support for Penn GSE’s mission.

Opening Doors to Future Teachers and Leaders

A transformational new scholarship at Penn GSE will provide significant funding to diversify the nation’s pipeline of teachers and educational leaders and propel work that benefits marginalized populations. Through the Penn GSE Empowerment Through Education Scholarship Program, Penn GSE will provide significant funding for several students in the Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and the Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program, awarding the scholarship annually starting in 2022 to individuals who would not otherwise be able to consider enrolling in those programs.

Intended to open doors and create opportunity, the scholarship will be awarded to future teachers and educational leaders who are members of underrepresented groups or who demonstrate a longstanding commitment to serving marginalized populations. The program aims to build a diverse, robust, and highly talented community of educators and leaders who will be positioned to reframe education in the twenty-first century, especially in underserved communities.

“We are thrilled that this program has been made possible through the generous support of our donors,” says Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman. “The scholarship will have an incredible impact on Penn GSE, advancing our deep commitment to access and inclusion and strengthening our efforts to create a national model that prepares teachers and educational leaders to develop and implement innovative and replicable practices. The Penn GSE Empowerment Through Education Scholarship Program will build the next generation of educators who are equipped to be change agents and address systemic challenges facing our nation’s schools.”

The Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership prepares working educational leaders to meet the demands of district and organizational leadership and deepens their understanding of educational organizations, instruction, and learning.

The Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program is a practice-focused master’s program in teacher education that prepares new teachers to enact student-centered learning and to use innovative teaching tools in urban schools. Teachers leave the program inspired to use the power of teaching to deepen student learning, transform schools, and increase educational equity.

The Penn GSE Empowerment Through Education Scholarship Program is made possible through the generosity of Allison Blitzer, C’91, David Blitzer, W’91, and the Blitzer Family Foundation.

Giving Back to a Lifelong Inspiration

For Susan Cotton, GED’69, Penn GSE’s values of leadership, innovation, inclusion and diversity, and equality in education were a formative influence. As an expression of gratitude for her experiences at the School, she and her husband, Doug Cotton, WG’69, established the Susan M. Cotton Scholarship Fund. Believing the School’s world-class reputation is well deserved, the couple want to expand access to a Penn GSE education.

Susan Cotton and Doug Cotton are seen with masks against the backdrop of College Hall at Penn. Photo by Jane Lindahl

The Cottons believe education not only improves each individual’s quality of life, but also makes the world a better place. In Doug’s view, one of the biggest challenges facing American education is the need to upgrade teacher salaries. Additionally, he hopes more talented young people become aware of the broad range of career opportunities within the field of education.

“Education is the basis for our future,” Doug says. “Without the ability to provide every child a quality education, our society is going to regress. Susan and I are both proud of Penn GSE’s tremendous commitment to improving education at all levels.”

Doug and Susan also have a particular fondness for Penn as the place that brought them together. The pair met in a library elevator and married shortly after graduating in 1969. They raised their children, Mark and Amy, in California, where Doug worked for Corning Inc. and Susan paused her career in education to be a stay-at-home mom. After their children were grown, the couple returned to upstate New York, where Susan resumed her career as an elementary school teacher and counselor and Doug became president of Cotton-Hanlon Inc., a timberland management company. They are now retired and live in Horseheads, New York.

“I’m thrilled to honor my wife in this way,” Doug says. “It’s a way we can give back to a place that had such a positive impact on her life as a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and an educator. This scholarship fund is based on Susan’s investment in Penn GSE, as well as the School’s investment in Susan. The values that Penn GSE instilled in her have never left her.”

Supporting an Indelible Impact

As a member of the inaugural cohort of the Penn GSE Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, Delvin Dinkins, GRD’05, appreciated the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences with fellow school leaders in an innovative format for working professionals.

Delvin Dinkins seated with hands interlocked and wearing a suit. Photo courtesy of Karen Tracy

“We had a chance to be pioneers and to actually co-construct a program that was designed to leverage the knowledge, skills, and expertise of its students,” says Dr. Dinkins, who was appointed head of school of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, effective in July. “Penn GSE brought together thoughtful scholar-practitioners to imagine together how to improve our schools and better serve our students.”

Having received scholarship support for his own education, Dinkins believes in giving back to Penn GSE. He is a member of the Penn GSE Annual Fund Benchmark Society, which honors donors who have made contributions every year for the past three or more years.

“I support Penn GSE because I am a fan of its impact—indelible and outsized in every way possible,” says Dinkins, currently assistant head of school at The Pingry School in New Jersey. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs, Dinkins grew up in a family that valued the transformative nature of education. As an educator, he believes it is important to “meet people where they are” throughout a school’s community. “People come to the table with appreciably different levels of experience and expertise, and you have to build on that,” Dinkins says. “As the world gets even more complex, that means we must come to the table with competencies that transcend any one area not only to guide school improvement, but also to affect lives.”

That perspective is rooted in his time in the Mid-Career Doctoral program. “Penn GSE met me where I was and provided me with a rigorous, deep, and thoughtful experience that allowed me to think more broadly and complexly about everyday problems in practice,” he says. “Giving to Penn GSE has meant providing oxygen and a knowing nod to the great work faculty and students are doing, or will do, to effect positive change in the world within and beyond the schoolyard.”

To learn more about Penn GSE’s giving priorities, visit https://www.gse.upenn.edu/support/power-of-possibility or contact us at 215.573.6623 or alumni@gse.upenn.edu.

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of The Penn GSE Magazine.