David Silfen, C'66, and Jean-Marie Kneeley
David Silfen, C'66, and Jean-Marie Kneeley

It is hard for me to find the words to say what David Silfen meant to Penn—to express how a volunteer as engaged, committed, and dedicated as David becomes part of the fiber and the fabric of the School and the University.

I worked with David for more than 20 years, and it was obvious how much the University and Penn Arts and Sciences meant to him. He was a College alumnus and parent, a donor, and an Arts and Sciences overseer. In 2009 he became the chair of the School’s Board of Overseers. He credited his education for his success and saw the liberal arts as the foundation for life.

David also served as a University trustee, and he headed the Trustee’s Development Committee during Penn’s Making History campaign. He would focus all his skills and talents on a project, and he always pushed us to be a little bit better, challenging all of Penn to be the best it could be. David was our partner through thick and thin, from the recession in 2008 to the ultimate success of the campaign.

His classmate and fellow overseer Bill Constantine summed David up as “a true class act: thoughtful, intelligent, empathetic, a listener, elegant, and courtly.” I couldn’t agree more! For me, David was a mentor, role model, advocate, co-conspirator, and friend. Relationships like this are one of the best fringe benefits of my work. I feel privileged to have shared that time with David and proud of all we accomplished together.

And now I am delighted to be working with Andrea Mitchell as the new chair of the Penn Arts and Sciences Board of Overseers. As this new partnership begins, I am reminded of what I have learned from David and so many others: our alumni can be counted on to know what to do, how to do it, and to get it done. I feel certain that together we will build on David’s wonderful legacy.

Yours in partnership,
Jean-Marie Kneeley
Vice Dean for Advancement