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Photo Courtesy of Drexel University.
Photo Courtesy of Drexel University.

Drexel University’s President to be awarded highest business honor

John Fry will be the recipient of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s William Penn Award in May.

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The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia will be honoring John Fry, President of Drexel University, this year with the William Penn Award.

The honor is the highest bestowed upon a business executive in the Greater Philadelphia area.

“I am deeply honored to receive the William Penn Award and to be recognized by an extraordinary group of Chamber leaders whose partnership and support have been integral to Drexel University’s ongoing work to promote the civic health and economic competitiveness of the Greater Philadelphia region,” said Fry in a statement. 

Given annually since 1949, the award recognizes an individual for their outstanding contributions toward the betterment of the region, professional accomplishments, and commitment to charity and community. 

“Few leaders in our city and region are as dynamic as John Fry,” said Wonderling. “His exceptional vision and intellect have not only reimagined higher education, but revitalized Philadelphia neighborhoods and commercial corridors.”

Fry is the 14th president in Drexel’s history and has been in the position since 2010. Since his appointment more than a decade ago, Fry has set out to transform Drexel into a private research university with a strong public purpose of harnessing its strengths to serves its students, neighborhood, city, and ultimately, the nation. 

Under his leadership, Drexel has been a prominent leader for economic development in the Greater Philadelphia region through a number of public-private partnerships. 

Fry has helped champion major neighborhood revitalization initiatives - including the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, a multi-faceted university extension center in Mantua - extensive economic development efforts, and support for local neighborhood schools.

He also negotiated a groundbreaking affiliation with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and launched the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship in an effort to foster entrepreneurial learning. 

Fry’s leadership has led to great funding success for the university, as well. Under his tenure, Drexel has seen a significant increase in fundraising and philanthropic partners. Landmark gifts in recent years include $50 million from Thomas R. Kline to support the Kline School of Law and $45 million from Dana and David Dornsife to support the Dornsife School of Public Health. 

In November 2017, Drexel publicly launched a campaign that recently surpassed its $750 million goal to support scholarships, faculty chairs and a number of other academic initiatives. 

“John Fry has been one of the region’s great transformative leaders … Philadelphia is fortunate to have his vision and leadership,” said Susan Jacobson, chair of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

Fry is a former chairman of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

When detailing what makes his work and leadership style so effective, he notes what he believes is the basis of good leadership. 

“I believe that the highest form of leadership is service,” he said. “It has been my privilege to serve a great institution like Drexel that has brought so much innovation, vitality, and opportunity to the city that I love.”

Fry will join past William Penn Award recipients, which include Dr. Amy Gutmann, former President of the University of Pennsylvania and United States Ambassador to Germany; Daniel Hilferty, former President & CEO of Independence Health Group; David L. Cohen, former Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation and current United States Ambassador to Canada; the late H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, cable TV pioneer and philanthropist; and many others. 

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