Adrian Zadeh, C'93, and Perla Hanfling Zadeh, C'95, GAR'98, are sharing their Penn experience through the endowment of an international scholarship.

By Susan Ahlborn

(L) Adrian Zadeh, C’93, and Perla Hanfling Zadeh, C’95, GAR’98, on campus in 1993. (R) The Zadeh family at Penn in 2011.
(L) Adrian Zadeh, C’93, and Perla Hanfling Zadeh, C’95, GAR’98, on campus in 1993. (R) The Zadeh family at Penn in 2011.

During the fall of 1992, on the Locust Walk bridge over 38th Street, Perla Hanfling, a freshman from Bogota, Colombia, would cross paths with Adrian Zadeh, a junior from Buenos Aires, Argentina. This meeting was the beginning of their life together. The couple married in 1999 and now lives in Panama with their three children: 16-year-old Shana, 14-year-old Ilan, and 12-year-old Raffy. Their commitment to Penn and to Latin America has led them to endow the Zadeh Family Scholarship to support a College student from Latin America.

“Penn is a very important part of our history,” says Adrian, C’93. “We value education, and our families value education. Perla and I have had the privilege to be accepted to this amazing institution, where we got a world- class education that prepared us for a constantly changing world.” Not only did they get a wonderful education, they found each other.

Living in Latin America, they see how hard it is for many of the kids in the region to have the opportunity to attend such a prestigious university. “Inequality affects the access to quality of education, and we recognize that the key to a better future is giving back through education to those who cannot access it,” says Adrian. “This is our way of taking a step forward.”

The Zadehs wanted the scholarship to support a College student because they value the lifelong learning skills and the broad foundation of knowledge that the College of Arts and Sciences gave them. They feel that the best way is to reward academic excellence and recognize the potential in students. Giving students the opportunity to gain knowledge enables them to then decide which area they want to focus on.

“I can really say that my education at Penn changed the way I view the world,” explains Perla, C’95, GAR’98. “The professors, the facilities—to be able to go to the multiple libraries and have access to all the material made it a really amazing experience.” When a student is exposed to quality education, the Zadehs believe, he or she will have the right tools to be able to learn to do things in the future with excellence.

The Zadehs also know the importance of having a diverse and global student body. “When we were attending Penn, there were a lot of international students,” Perla says. “We met people from all over the world, and that enriched the environment and the learning experience. We believe that diversity is also an integral part of a good education.”

Adrian Zadeh and Perla Hanfling Zadeh have stayed involved with Penn as they moved from Philadelphia to New York and then to Miami. They are now members of the growing Penn Alumni Club in Panama City, where they recently hosted at their home a presentation given by Emilio Parrado, Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor of Sociology. The event was open to alumni from all Penn schools. “We’re always happy to reconnect with alumni we’ve met, and to meet other alumni that live here in Panama,” says Adrian.

“The endowment fund is very inspiring to us. Giving back to Penn and supporting talented youth makes us feel connected to the University and happy,” they say.

“We have three kids growing up in Latin America and we try to give them the best opportunities,” says Perla, “and to be able to do this for others is really exciting.” They hope the scholarship will bridge opportunities, by empowering and encouraging young future leaders from Latin America.