Laura Perna Named Inaugural James S. Riepe Professor

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
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Philadelphia, PA— Laura Perna has been named the James S. Riepe Professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. This newly created professorship has been awarded by Penn President Amy Gutmann in honor of the former chairman of Penn’s Board of Trustees.

“Jim Riepe’s decades of unbounded and unselfish service to Penn have set a very high standard for how an alumnus gives back to his alma mater,” Gutmann said. “From serving for 10 years as an active and engaged chair of the Board of Trustees to the philanthropic generosity he and his wife, Gail, have shown, Jim is one of Penn’s heroes.

“I am pleased to name Dr. Laura Perna as the first James S. Riepe Professor,” Gutmann said. “Laura and her scholarship have made -– and undoubtedly will continue to make -- substantive contributions to the body of knowledge about how to improve college access and educational attainment.”

Wharton alumnus Riepe served as board chairman from 1999 to 2009 and oversaw a decade of growth and institutional accomplishment at Penn. During his term, the University’s endowment increased 58 percent, and he continues to serve on many Penn boards and committees. Riepe is senior advisor and retired vice chairman of the board of directors of T. Rowe Price Group and former chairman of the T. Rowe Price Mutual FundsPenn’s Riepe College House is named for him and his wife, Gail Petty Riepe.

Laura Perna is a respected national expert on the ways tuition, financial aid, academic preparation and other policies and practices determine who goes to college and who makes it to graduation. She joined Penn’s Graduate School of Education in 2005 and is the founding executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy, or Penn AHEAD, and chair of the Higher Education Division of GSE. Through her research, Perna finds policy solutions to closing gaps in educational attainment for students from traditionally underrepresented groups. She is also Faculty Fellow of the Penn Institute for Urban Research, Faculty Affiliate of the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative, member of the Advisory Board for the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and member of the Social Welfare Graduate Group of the School of Social Policy & Practice.

Her research has been supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science, the Lumina Foundation for Education, the American Educational Research Association and Association for Institutional Research, among others. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Perna has served on the editorial boards of leading journals including the American Education Research JournalEducational Researcher and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis and is associate editor of Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. Perna has held leadership positions in the primary national associations in the field of higher education administration.  She is currently president-elect of the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

In 2003, the ASHE awarded her the Promising Scholar/Early Career Achievement Award. In 2010 she was awarded the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching from Penn, and in 2011 she received the Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. 

She is also a Penn Fellow and a Fellow of the American Education Research Association.

About Penn GSE

Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge building as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit

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