Q&A: Craig Effron, W'81
Co-Chair, Campaign Major Gift Committee
Growing up in Poughkeepsie, Craig Effron knew he wanted to go to college in a city. He chose Penn, and it became the central feature of the rest of his life: his friends, his career, his philanthropy. His three children know the campus as well as their New York City neighborhood, and now he and his wife, Caryn, are Penn Parents as well, of Jared, C'11, and Justin, C'12.
He spoke to us about his role as Major Gift Committee co-chair, and how the campaign will make a difference for Penn... and in individual lives.
Are there things about your Penn experience that you now understand in a new way?
The importance of the friends I made. I learned a lot [as a student]; Wharton was a great experience. But when I look back I realize that the most important things were the bonds I developed with my friends — friendships that are still are strong 30 years later.
What do you find most exciting about Making History?
I’m a big proponent of financial aid. There are brilliant kids who could be so successful here but they’re priced out. By giving them the ability to come to Penn, you’re changing their lives. Secondly, Amy’s emphasis on building up the faculty. I’ve learned a lot about the importance of a great faculty. They’re at the core of everything Penn does, and this campaign will let us strengthen that even more.
Why did you choose to take on such an important leadership role in this campaign?
One name: George Weiss. I met George seven years ago, and he’s become a mentor to me. I’d been involved with Penn, but my friendship with George has inspired me to do so much more. And for me, giving time to Penn isn’t like giving time to some other boards because Penn is part of my daily life.
What about financial aid resonates with you?
It’s so personal. My first student wrote me to say that without this opportunity she might have been a gang member in Watts. I even got a letter from her parents. I still have lunch with past recipients, and my kids get to know them and see how cool they are. When I am in a position to talk to someone about this I say, “Do a scholarship, meet the student, and tell me a year later that you’re not the happiest person in the world.”
What compelled you to endow a PIK professorship?
Amy Gutmann has such a clear plan for Penn’s mission, and I wanted to make an impact in one of her biggest priorities — let her go and get what Penn needed. And it was a good way to honor my father who had just died. My father was a Princeton guy, orange and black through and through, but when he came down for the Penn-Princeton games he sat on the Penn side. He was very proud that I was at Wharton, and I think he’d be happy to have his name on this professorship.
Now you’re a Penn Parent too. What advice would you give to fellow parents?
I’d encourage any parent to give their time, either on a panel or as a parent volunteer, to go and see how amazing Penn is. I was so focused on grades; the kids there now — including my own — are focused on learning. Spend time there meeting the students... it’s a great day.
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