The Penn Humanities Forum (PHF) is enjoying wide new horizons thanks to a gift from Noelle and Dick Wolf, C’69, PAR’15. The gift will endow and make permanent the PHF, enabling the already renowned program to continue to bring the humanities into conversation with a diverse and expanding array of disciplines and with people from Penn and the Philadelphia community.

By Elizabeth Pokempner

Dick, C’69, PAR’15, and Noelle Wolf
Dick, C’69, PAR’15, and Noelle Wolf

“We are delighted to support Penn’s thriving humanities center and help it extend its reach across disciplines and communities,” said Dick Wolf. In honor of this gift, the program will be renamed the Wolf Humanities Center.

The endowment will provide a perpetual source of funding for the PHF, a major part of whose programming was previously supported by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This will bolster the distinguished fellowship program that has been a core endeavor of the PHF, drawing undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, Penn faculty, and regional faculty together to investigate an annual theme through their individual research and collaborative weekly seminars.

The vibrant public program of thematically linked lectures, conferences, performances, exhibitions, and film series—which last year attracted more than 2,500 people to campus and venues throughout Philadelphia—will expand as well.

The Wolf Humanities Center will pursue additional avenues for innovative humanistic inquiry and scholarship. “Our Humanities At Large (HAL) program, which consists of collaborative events unrelated to our annual theme, enables us to put together some terrific events on fairly short notice when ideas and opportunities pop up during the year,” says English. “The HAL program has been a success since we launched it several years ago, but its funding has been very limited.” The endowment may also allow for expanded programming in the performing arts, which he says is expensive but can be galvanizing for the humanities community.

“The Wolf Humanities Center is defined not just by the incredible programming and scholarship it generates, but also by its commitment to constantly pushing boundaries,” said Penn Arts and Sciences Dean Steven Fluharty. “Thanks to the Wolfs’ gift, innovation will continue to be one of the center’s most distinctive hallmarks.”

“We are enormously proud of what this center has become: a hub where humanities and a wide range of disciplines intersect in revealing and relevant combinations, a catalyst for broader public appreciation of humanistic research, and a model for how one center can make it all happen,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Noelle and Dick’s generosity will ensure that the Wolf Humanities Center will continue to do this ambitious and exciting work. We are very grateful.”

Dick Wolf is a writer and producer best known for his Law & Order and Chicago television franchises. He has won two Emmys and a Grammy, among a host of other awards. He and his wife, Noelle, are generous supporters of the Cinema Studies program.