September ’49 in the Exponent: Peiser Takes Key Post at Penn

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Stassen Hails Peiser

The announcement that Kurt Peiser was becoming the University of Pennsylvania’s director of development — and resigning as executive vice president of the Federation of Jewish Charities and the Allied Jewish Appeal — led the Sept. 16, 1949 Jewish Exponent.

The appointment was hailed as groundbreaking in two ways.

First, Peiser’s role made Penn the “first great institution of higher education to have an outstanding community planning expert to work closely with the president,” according to the article.

In addition, there was the Jewish angle.

“Selection of Dr. Peiser for this assignment marks a new high level of Jewish attainment in an over-all administration of a major university. Outstanding Jewish contributions in higher education in this country in the past have been concentrated largely in the fields of teaching, scholarship, and science,” the unnamed author wrote.

Peiser was slated to work closely with Penn President Harold E. Stassen, who effusively praised Peiser in a separate front-page item.

Stassen’s name might ring a bell: He was a former Minnesota governor and a leading Republican presidential candidate in 1948. Stassen, who was Penn’s president from 1948 to 1953, later became a perennial presidential candidate, running nine times in all. He also ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Philadelphia in 1959 and governor of Pennsylvania in 1958 and 1966.

Despite leaving his role with the Federation of Jewish Charities and the Allied Jewish Appeal, Peiser pledged to remain active in the organization.

In 1951, Peiser was named a vice president at Penn, according to a JTA article. It isn’t clear how long Peiser, who was credited with converting part of West Philadelphia into a “university city,” stayed at Penn, but another JTA article noted that he died in 1967 at the age of 72 in Miami Beach.