Patrick Brett, C’02, W’02, G’07, stays connected to the College through his scholarship fund.

By Lauren Rebecca Thacker
Patrick Brett, C’02, W’02, G’07, and Vida Brett
Patrick Brett, C’02, W’02, G’07, and Vida Brett

Patrick Brett’s academic and professional careers have taken him from the Amazon to London and Hong Kong. But around the time of his 10th reunion, he found a road that led back to Penn: the undergraduate financial aid program.

“I was one of the first recipients of the University’s all-grant aid packages,” he says. “I was grateful to the University and the donors that had made that possible. I had always planned that if I was fortunate enough, I would give back.”

As an undergraduate, Brett, C’02, W’02, G’07, saw his time at Penn as a chance to explore. “I wanted to complement my business degree with something very different. I’d always been interested in anthropology and archaeology and I wanted to study something global,” he says. Brett not only completed his undergraduate degrees in anthropology and finance, he went on to balance a full-time position as an analyst at Citi with the completion of a master’s degree in anthropology at Penn, where he specialized in South American archaeology and worked with Clark Erikson, Professor of Anthropology. At Citi, Brett focused on municipal fi nance, and in his research, he studied a municipality of a much different kind: a region in northeastern Bolivia where, according to conventional wisdom, no large settlements ever existed. His research demonstrated otherwise.

“I was primarily doing mapping and network analysis of a network of pre-Colombian canals and causeways in the Bolivian Amazon,” Brett explains. “I was able to overlay different sources from the U.S. and Bolivia, and show that these canals existed and are still etched upon the landscape. There were probably thousands or tens of thousands of people living in this area.”

Brett’s interests in thinking globally didn’t end with his master’s degree. With Citi, he did year-long stints in London and Hong Kong, and a one-month placement in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where he was recently named an honorary ambassador. This year, Brett will take his experience to Washington, D.C., where he’s been appointed to the governing board of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, a municipal securities regulator.

When Brett learned about the young alumni matching program, which provides a dollar-to-dollar match for gifts of $75,000 for alumni who donate before their 10th reunions, he remembered his own scholarship and saw an opportunity to support students who, like him, forge their own academic paths. “It was a great opportunity—the stars aligned for that gift,” he remembers. “After that, I wanted to get more involved.”

Brett’s first step was to establish the Patrick J. Brett Endowed Scholarship Fund to support students who study in the College and Wharton. Next, he joined the board of the Penn Institute for Urban Research (IUR), an organization dedicated to advancing cross-disciplinary, urban-focused research and instruction, with a focus on civic engagement.

“It overlaps pretty significantly with what I do, working in municipal fi nance,” Brett explains. “I was excited to find a group working in an interdisciplinary way, across multiple schools, on urban challenges.”

In addition to Penn IUR, Brett stays connected by attending scholarship dinners where he can talk with current undergraduates.

“I love attending events where I get to meet the scholarship recipients,” he says. “It’s been great to talk with really passionate, driven undergrads. When you graduate, you lose touch with what students are doing on campus. The scholarship dinners are a way to reconnect with that.” At one scholarship dinner, Brett met Benjamin Gendelman, C’18, W’18, who studied psychology and finance, and was the recipient of the Patrick J. Brett Endowed Scholarship. After that meeting, Gendelman happened to be working in New York City for the summer.

“I’d gotten to know all of my scholarship recipients to an extent, and if they want mentorship, I’ve been there for them. Because Ben was in New York, I got to know him better,” Brett says. “He was so driven, and I wanted to help where I could. I didn’t push him towards working at Citi, but it became clear it would be a good fi t. It turns out the people in my office thought so too.”

Now, Brett and Gendelman are teammates at Citi, working alongside each other. For both, scholarships made a Penn education possible.

“When I was considering making my gift, it was a big commitment, but it was something I’d always wanted to do,” Brett says. “The students I’ve been able to connect with have been a really fascinating set of kids, each blazing their own trail.”