List of presidents of the University of Pennsylvania

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The following is a list of the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania, which began operating in 1751 as a secondary school, the Academy of Philadelphia, and added an institution of higher learning in 1755, the College of Philadelphia.

A 1777 portrait of Benjamin Franklin, Penn's founder, by Jean-Baptiste Greuze.
The Rev. John Andrews, D.D., Provost 1810-1813
Provost[note 1] Birth–death Years as provost Name of institution Notes
1 The Reverend George Whitefield[note 2] 1714–1770 1740–1749 Unnamed Charity School[note 3]
2 Benjamin Franklin[note 4] 1706–1790 1749–1754 Academy of Philadelphia
3 The Reverend William Smith 1727–1803 1754–1779 College of Philadelphia American Revolution
4 The Reverend John Ewing 1732–1802 1779–1802 University of Pennsylvania American Revolution
5 The Reverend William Smith 1751–1820 1802–1806 University of Pennsylvania
6 The Reverend John McDowell 1732–1802 1807–1810 University of Pennsylvania
7 The Reverend John Andrews 1746–1813 1810–1813 University of Pennsylvania
8 The Reverend Frederick Beasley 1777–1845 1813–1828 University of Pennsylvania
9 The Right Reverend William Heathcote DeLancey 1797–1865 1828–1834 University of Pennsylvania
10 The Reverend John Ludlow 1793–1857 1834–1852 University of Pennsylvania
11 The Reverend Henry Vethake 1790–1866 1853–1859 University of Pennsylvania
13 The Reverend Daniel Raynes Goodwin 1811–1890 1860–1868 University of Pennsylvania
14 Charles Janeway Stillé 1819–1899 1868–1880 University of Pennsylvania
15 William Pepper 1843–1898 1881–1894 University of Pennsylvania
16 Charles Custis Harrison 1844–1929 1894–1910 University of Pennsylvania
17 Edgar Fahs Smith 1854–1928 1910–1920 University of Pennsylvania
18 Josiah Harmar Penniman 1868–1940 1923–1930 University of Pennsylvania
Presidents of the University of Pennsylvania Years as president
1 Thomas Sovereign Gates 1930–1944
2 George William McClelland 1944–1948
3 Harold Edward Stassen 1948–1953
- William Hagan DuBarry 1953–1953, Acting President
4 Gaylord Probasco Harnwell 1953–1970
5 Martin Meyerson 1970–1981
6 Sheldon Hackney 1981–1993
- Claire Fagin 1993–1994, Interim President
7 Judith Rodin 1994–2004
8 Amy Gutmann 2004–present


  1. ^ Penn became a degree-granting institution of higher learning in 1755. In preparation for this expansion in mission, William Smith was hired in 1754 to become the new provost. Neither George Whitefield nor Benjamin Franklin formally held this title.
  2. ^ Benjamin Franklin is the founder of the institution which grew to become the University of Pennsylvania. Franklin first convened a board of trustees for an organizational meeting on November 13, 1749. They opened a secondary school, the Academy of Philadelphia, in 1751. A collegiate charter was obtained for the College of Philadelphia in 1755 and post-secondary instruction began shortly thereafter. It was the College of Philadelphia which ultimately was renamed the University of Pennsylvania in 1791. Penn considered 1749 to be its founding date until 1899, when the board of trustees voted to retroactively revise its founding date to 1740 in order to make the university older than Princeton University, which had been chartered in 1746. The 1740 date was selected because, in that year, a group of Philadelphians joined together to build a large preaching hall for the use of traveling evangelist George Whitefield who toured the American colonies delivering well attended open air sermons. The grand building was erected but, due to a shortage of funding, the interior was not furnished and the hall sat unused until Franklin's group purchased it in 1750. Thus, Whitefield himself was not involved in the school which eventually became Penn, but is listed here as a placeholder to signify the period that the preaching hall raised by his followers sat dormant between 1740 and 1750.
  3. ^ As described in more detail in the appended notes, a charity school was planned by followers of George Whitefield but it never opened before the building was purchased by Benjamin Franklin's group in 1750. The structure itself was known as the "New Building" but the associated educational trust itself was never named.
  4. ^ Franklin's formal title was president of the board of trustees, first of the "Academy and Charitable School in the Province of Pennsylvania" until the college was founded, and then of the "College, Academy and Charity School of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania."