Alum gives to Writers House

The Daily Pennsylvanian
January 27, 1997

The Writers House was full Friday afternoon, as administrators, students and faculty gathered to celebrate University alumnus Paul Kelly's $1.1 million donation to the facility.

The money will fund technological updates and structural renovations to the 19th-century house -- renamed the Kelly Writers House -- located at 3805 Locust Walk.

"I'm here to congratulate all who have made this house a success," Kelly said. "This unique learning type of environment is both informal and structured."

He added that the house represents "the best of both worlds."

Provost Stanley Chodorow praised Kelly's gift and "vision" as a commitment to the "promise" of the Writers House.

"The Writers House is an expression of an incredible community," he said.

The house "fills a niche" on the University's campus and provides an environment that encourages creative expression, according to College senior Christine Goralnik, who assists Resident Coordinator Shawn Walker in supervising the house.

"A whole community of students can come here and be creative together," Goralnik said.

Renovations will begin May 1 and conclude by October 15, according to architect Harris Steinberg.

Steinberg and his wife Jane Stevens -- both graduates of the University's architectural program -- will coordinate the house's renovations.

Steinberg explained that although the house will remain virtually intact structurally, internal renovations will include electrical, mechanical, technical and life safety improvements. The house will also be wired for ResNet as part of its internal improvements.

Joanne Hanna, director of Perelman Quadrangle development, characterized the changes as "basic" improvements that will convert the house into a technologically-updated classroom building.

"The current equipment isn't modern enough to handle the daily needs of a large group of students being there," Hannah said.

Plans include the development of two upstairs seminar rooms and a cyberlibrary with computer terminals in the current dining room.

"The house has captured our imagination and our hearts," Steinberg said, adding that he intends to preserve the building's "gracious proportions and elegant details."

Writers House Faculty Director and English Professor Al Filreis read from the Writers House Constitution and explained that Kelly's donation will allow the goals of the house's formation to become reality.

"Paul Kelly's interest and generosity has given a rare opportunity to make into something where there was nothing before," he said.

And Walker compared the building to a poem.

"The Writers House is a metaphor for that which it seeks to promote," she said. "The students are both the writers and the poems themselves."

College junior Josh Schuster, who often visits the house, said Kelly's gift will benefit the entire campus.

"The donation is a gift for everybody here," Schuster said. "The most important thing is that everybody gets to share it."

Filreis said the donation coincides with four new initiatives in the house this semester.

These include seminars and workshops in the house, live radio broadcasts on WXPN-FM (88.5) beginning February 15 and a coordinated effort with University alumni working in publishing-related fields in New York City.

"I look forward to October 15, when we can open this home to the entire Penn community and writing community," Filreis said.

Kelly, a 1962 University graduate, received his MBA from Wharton in 1964 and serves as an overseer for the School of Arts and Sciences and as co-chairperson of the Agenda for Excellence Council. He is currently president and CEO of the New York and Connecticut-based banking firm Knox & Co.

Many students said the monetary donation complements the time and energy that students have continued to commit to the house.

"So many students are here donating time and energy to the house all the time," Goralnik said. "The donation shows that it's worth investing in."