Transformational Philanthropy

Alumnus supports financial aid because of what Penn was for him and is for new students.

Monday, October 30, 2017

By Lauren Rebecca Thacker 


(L-R) R. Duane Perry and Arthur Kaplan, C'67 (courtesy of Arthur Kaplan) 

Arthur Kaplan, C’67, fondly remembers his time at Penn and is happy to see how it hasprogressed. Arthur, who studied history at the College and went on to earn a law degree from Harvard, remembers, “It was the first time that I was really encouraged to engage in creative thinking and I loved that. It was an epiphany to be at Penn.”

He looks at Penn now and sees positive changes: a more diverse student body, a growing number of first-generation college students, and increasing attention to community service and engagement. “The Penn undergrads I meet seem smarter, more diverse, more public-spirited, and more interesting year by year,” he says. “They restore my optimism.”

Supporting the Undergraduate Named Scholarship Program means that Arthur contributes to those changes and benefits from them. His first endowed scholarship gift was in 1979, and beginning in 1997, Arthur and his husband, R. Duane Perry, established four additional endowed scholarships supporting students in the College. Arthur and Duane consider the relationships they build with their scholarship recipients to be a learning experience, a continuation of the Penn epiphany Arthur experienced when he arrived on campus in the fall of 1963.

Arthur and Duane’s scholarship funds support students studying history, students with a demonstrated interest in public service, and LGBT students. Over the years, Arthur has found that these students share his and Duane’s passion for their communities and eagerness to learn.

He and Duane meet with scholarship recipients regularly, chatting about classes and campus life over lunch, taking in an off-campus performance or attending events. “The interactions that we have with the scholarship students have a real impact on us. They expand our world,” Arthur says.

Arthur and Duane’s giving, in turn, impacts many in the Penn community, as well as people across Philadelphia. In addition to undergraduate financial aid, they support the Penn Program for Mindfulness at Penn Medicine, and the University’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center. Outside of Penn, Arthur is a member of the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union and the boards of arts and environmental organizations, while Duane is on the board of the Philadelphia Foundation and the Claneil Foundation, in addition to founding the Food Trust.

Arthur and Duane are passionate backers of Philadelphia’s Project HOME, an organization that empowers individuals to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness. They are particularly interested in Project HOME’s outreach to LGBT homeless youth. Duane sees this work as connected to their support of Penn students: “These are young adults, they're all building new lives. They’re seeking support. They’re creating affirmative change.”

Arthur and Duane’s generosity benefits many worthy causes, but their support of undergraduate financial aid at Penn is truly transformational. They have chosen to support undergraduate financial aid in their estate plans, calling it “a wonderful opportunity.” When asked why they give, Arthur reflects on the relationships they’ve created with students and the opportunities those students now have. “Generosity is its own reward,” he says.  “Seeing growth and happiness in others brings a lot of happiness to oneself.”

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