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Mart​in Meyerson, 84, Former President of Penn

June 28, 2007
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Martin Meyerson, 84, president emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania, died June 2 in Philadelphia.

As an administrator, faculty member, volunteer and mentor, Meyerson served the university for more than five decades. As Penn's fifth president from 1970 to 1981, he drew upon his expertise as one of the nation's pre-eminent city planners to articulate an integrated vision of "One University," in which all of Penn's schools would collaborate to produce leading-edge teaching and research to benefit society.

During Meyerson's presidency, the college, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, College for Women, College of General Studies and the social-science departments of the Wharton School of Business were consolidated to create what is now known as the School of Arts and Sciences.

Meyerson's tenure was also marked by the creation of what later would become the College House system, as well as the practice of responsibility center budgeting, the boards of overseers, the freshman seminar program, the university's first affirmative action program, a significant fundraising campaign and the transformation of the campus core with the creation of the Blanche P. Levy Park.

He also summoned the university community to turn its attention to the challenges of West Philadelphia. For these and other accomplishments, Meyerson Hall was named in his honor in 1983.

Meyerson began his academic career in 1948 at the University of Chicago before coming to Penn in 1952 as an associate professor of city and regional planning. In 1957, he left for Harvard University, and later served as dean of the College of Environmental Design at the University of California at Berkeley. While at Berkeley, he served as acting chancellor during the student unrest of the Free Speech movement. He then served as president of the State University of New York at Buffalo before returning to Penn as president in 1970.

After leaving the presidency, Meyerson remained active at Penn as University Professor of Public Policy Analysis and City and Regional Planning and as chair of the University of Pennsylvania Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania Press, the Institute for Research on Higher Education and the Monell Chemical Senses Center.

He was also co-chair of Penn's 250th-anniversary celebration.

He served on the boards of the Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences, the Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies, and the Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response.

He also chaired the university's Fels Center of Government program until February 1996. With his wife Margy, he was co-president of the Friends of the Library, in which capacity they served on the library's Board of Overseers.

As an expert on national, regional, urban and industrial development, Meyerson was a United Nations advisor and delegate, as well as a consultant to several West African nations and to the governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. He founded London's Centre for Environmental Studies and Japan's International Centre for the Study of East Asian Development, and was also an advisor to France's Institut National de la Communication Audiovisuelle.

He served as chair of the International Institute for Education and president of the International Association of Universities, and held leadership positions with dozens of American organizations dedicated to urban affairs, education, science, foreign policy, conservation and the arts.

He served on several White House task forces and on the councils of a number of government agencies.

Meyerson was also a trustee and senior fellow of the Aspen Institute, and held planning positions with the Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago's Michael Reese Hospital, and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

His books included Politics, Planning and Public Interest; Housing, People and Cities; Face of the Metropolis; and Boston: The Job Ahead. With Dr. Dilys Winegrad, director and curator of the Arthur Ross Gallery, he wrote Gladly Learn and Gladly Teach, a history of Penn.

Meyerson was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society of Arts in Great Britain, and the American Institute of Certified Planners and an academician of the European Academy for Arts, Sciences and Letters.

In addition, he was a member of the executive committee of the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Academy of Education. He was also decorated by the governments of France, Italy and Japan, and received numerous prizes and honorary degrees, including a doctor of laws degree conferred by Penn in 1970.

Meyerson is survived by his wife of 61 years, Margy Ellin Meyerson; sons Adam Meyerson and Matthew Meyerson; and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by daughter Laura Meyerson.

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