As President of Drexel University, Fry is helping change the face of civically minded universities.
When John Fry stood on the podium in front of Drexel University students and faculty to make his first address as president eight years ago, he promised the school—and the city—that Drexel would become the most civically engaged university in the country. Although the weight of that promise was not lost on Fry. “I had experience working with different neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Lancaster, so I had a sense of the magnitude of that commitment—but I also knew that, given the needs of the neighborhoods around Drexel, it was something we should commit ourselves to doing. I think a huge amount of progress has been made.”
That progress includes grants from PECO to support the Drexel-PECO Community Education Collaborative, which has helped local schools with literacy, math and science education. It also led to the expansion of the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement, where students are gathered to volunteer and provide outreach to the community; and the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, a place where the university and the surrounding neighborhood work together to address community concerns. Students at the Kline School of Law give free legal advice to neighbors, and business majors help them launch small businesses. “We have a broad base of knowledge to share, and it’s our job to provide expertise and support to our neighbors,” says Fry. “It shows that when universities and communities come together, we can make a difference and do great things.”