Philly native, urban scholar named Penn provost

Wendell Pritchett, a former member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and an expert on urban policy, education, civil rights, and race relations, replaces Vincent Price, who is leaving to become president of Duke University.

The University of Pennsylvania has selected Wendell Pritchett, a native Philadelphian, a law and education professor, and a former chancellor of Rutgers-Camden, as its next provost.

Pritchett, a former member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and an expert on urban policy, education, civil rights, and race relations, replaces Vincent Price, who is leaving to become president of Duke University.

Penn president Amy Gutmann, in making the announcement Wednesday afternoon, called Pritchett “an accomplished leader and administrator and a passionate advocate for academic excellence and civic engagement.”

Gutmann in recent years has faced criticism as not having enough minority members in her top administration. The appointment of Pritchett places an African American scholar in the number-two post at the Ivy League university; he is Penn's first African American provost.

“His deep experience, impeccable judgment, inclusive manner, and warm style will help us further increase Penn's eminence and momentum,” Gutmann said. “Wendell has been a standout and a star in every role he has inhabited — teacher, scholar, senior academic administrator, policymaker, and political adviser among them — and he will surely shine as our university's provost, helping to propel forward our shared and ambitious vision for Penn.”

Pritchett, 52, who was selected from a field of 60 candidates and six finalists, will assume his new post July 1, pending approval by Penn’s board of trustees.

Pritchett has his doctorate in history from Penn, his law degree from Yale University, and his bachelor’s in political science from Brown University.

He served as interim dean of Penn Law in 2014-15. From 2009 to 2014, he led Rutgers-Camden, and in 2012, he became president of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, a national consortium.

Pritchett started his academic career at Baruch College, City University of New York, where he taught history courses. He joined Penn Law in 2002 and remained there until he left for the post at Rutgers-Camden. His research has focused on the development of post-World War II urban policy, including urban renewal, housing finance, and housing discrimination.


The son of public school teachers, Pritchett served on the governing body of the Philadelphia School District from 2011 to 2014. In 2008, he was appointed deputy chief of staff and director of policy for then-Mayor Michael A. Nutter. He also has held a variety of other public posts, including chairing the board of Community Legal Services from 2005 to 2008.

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