Robert Parry, G’61, GR’67, supports the Graduate Fellowship Fund because funding made his own education and career possible.

By Lauren Rebecca Thacker

Brenda and Robert Parry, G’61, GR’67
Brenda and Robert Parry, G’61, GR’67

It was a fortuitous road that brought Robert Parry to Penn. A Harrisburg, Pa., native whose parents were born and raised in South Philly, he had always felt connected to the city. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College, Parry was drawn to Penn’s outstanding economics department, but with a wife and young child, he wasn’t sure graduate school was a financial possibility. An international event, however, had set in motion steps that would not only make Penn possible, but change the course of his life and career.

That event? The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957. One of the many U.S. responses was the passage of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in 1958, which provided funding to educational institutions and people pursuing degrees in science and mathematical fields. In 1960, Parry started at Penn as an NDEA fellow. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. in economics.

“This was a tremendous program,” says Parry, G’61, GR’67. “There’s no way I could’ve gone to Penn without having had this significant support. And if I didn’t get the first-rate education and training that I had at Penn, my career would’ve turned out differently.”

Parry’s gratitude for the support he received for the education that drove his career has made him a longtime supporter of the Graduate Fellowship Fund.

“I feel strongly about supporting the Graduate Fellowship Fund because education can be so expensive,” he explains. “I hope that by supporting the Fund over the years, I’ve perhaps helped students who otherwise could not have afforded the superb education provided by the University of Pennsylvania and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.”

At Penn, Parry had the chance to study alongside giants in the field, including the late Irwin Friend, his doctoral dissertation supervisor and the Edward J. Hopkinson Professor of Finance and Economics at Wharton, and the late Lawrence Klein, Benjamin Franklin Professor of Economics, who went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Then, Klein was a young professor whom Parry remembers fondly. “He was a fantastic teacher and a great source of stimulus and incentive to all the students,” Parry says.

Though Parry remained interested in research, he pursued a career in banking and became involved in monetary policy. As President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, he was a member of the Federal Open Market Committee, something he calls a tremendous experience. For nearly 20 years, Parry worked with economists including Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan, both Chairs of the Federal Reserve, to set national monetary policies.

Reflecting on his educational and professional accomplishments, Parry says that he and his wife, Brenda, share values and an appreciation for Penn. “We’ve been married for over 60 years and she’s traveled the same journey I have,” he says. “We support other things—The Nature Conservancy and Doctors Without Borders, for instance—but education is our main priority.”

Parry has designated the Graduate Fellowship Fund as the beneficiary of an insurance policy. “It’s a very fortunate thing that I was able to go to Penn,” he says. His support makes it possible for other students to say the same. 

For information about gift planning, contact Lynn Ierardi, J.D., Office of Gift Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, at 800-223-8236 or 215-898-6171, or