UVA Alumna, Former Provost Liz Magill Inaugurated as Penn President

October 26, 2022
Liz Magill speaking at a podium

Former UVA Provost Liz Magill delivers remarks at the ceremony marking her inauguration as the ninth president of the University of Pennsylvania. (Photo by Eric Sucar, University of Pennsylvania)

Marking a “renewal of our aspiration for Penn and all that it can be,” University of Pennsylvania Trustees Chair Scott Bok extended a ceremonial welcome and congratulations to Liz Magill as Penn’s ninth president on Oct. 21.

The occasion was Magill’s inauguration to the highest office of the Ivy League university – a post achieved after a remarkable higher education career that already has included service as the University of Virginia’s executive vice president and provost, and previous time serving on the faculty of the UVA School of Law.

“We are just the latest in a long and celebrated line of individuals who have been given the privilege and the solemn responsibility of determining how Penn will meet this moment,” she said during the ceremonies. “How can the future be made better by what we do in the days to come?”

Magill highlighted some of Benjamin Franklin’s foundational scientific theories and contributions, including his “kite and key” experiment of lightning and electricity, which led to the invention of the lightning rod. And she referenced his work at the same time in establishing the University of Pennsylvania.

“Franklin knew that knowledge solved problems. It is the single most powerful force for improving life and our understanding of it,” she said.

For all universities, Magill said, “opportunity and truth” are the modern equivalent to Franklin’s “kite and key” in terms of how they are positioned to serve and improve society.

“At our most fundamental, we seek truth and we convey it,” she said. “And at our most aspirational, we enhance opportunity and we hone the tools for attaining it.”

Among those who delivered remarks at the inauguration ceremony was UVA President Jim Ryan, a longtime friend and colleague of Magill’s. Ryan and Magill served as UVA Law School faculty members, starting together in 1998, and he spoke warmly about her friendship and role as a trusted adviser and family friend. (Ryan and Magill also are alumni of the UVA Law School.)

Ryan was named UVA’s ninth president in August 2018, and a year later, convinced Magill to depart her post as dean of the Stanford University Law School and join his team as UVA provost.

President Ryan and President Magill standing together in graduation attire

Liz Magill served as UVA’s provost before ascending to the presidency of Penn. She and Ryan previously were members of the UVA Law School faculty as well. (Photo by Eddy Marenco, University of Pennsylvania)

“In every community she has been in, or in those she has been invited to join, people have looked to her to lead, and for good reason: Liz is, in a sense, a natural leader, as her track record attests,” Ryan said. “But that’s an incomplete and in some ways diminishing description, because it misses the fact that few people, if any, work harder than Liz Magill. She is an effective leader because she works hard at it. I saw this time and again when she was in the Provost’s Office at UVA, but especially during the COVID crisis.”

Ryan also highlighted the connections between Franklin and Penn and Thomas Jefferson and UVA. Franklin and Jefferson were close friends, and Franklin served as a mentor in the relationship. (Watch Ryan’s full remarks from the inauguration ceremony here or read them on the president’s website.)

“While Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Franklin served as editor, supplying the critical and immortal phrase ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident,’” Ryan pointed out.

“Jefferson referred to Franklin as his ‘beloved and venerable’ friend. And so it is with Liz, for so many of us at UVA,” Ryan told those gathered for the inauguration on Penn’s campus in Philadelphia. “I hope and trust that all of you at Penn will come to appreciate, if you have not already, just how incredibly fortunate you are to have as your president our beloved and venerable friend, Liz Magill.”


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