Penn Dean Reveals Third Student Suicide Since End of Last Semester

In the wake of the high-profile suicides of Penn students Madison Holleran and Elvis Hatcher, Philadelphia magazine has learned that a third university student had committed suicide since the end of last semester. Dean Richard James Gelles of the university’s School of Social Policy and Practice said he made no announcement through the university because he believes in the “privacy concerns of the family … and the possibility of contagion.”

While Gelles would not reveal the name of the student, he says he is revealing the suicide out of concern for student welfare.

The unnamed social policy graduate student, who committed suicide off campus over semester break, can now be added to the list of Penn students who recently committed suicide, including Holleran, a freshman who took her life on Jan. 17, and Hatcher, a sophomore who killed himself just weeks later.

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Walt Keller, Leukemia Survivor, Has Passed

Walter Robert Keller, 1953-2014

In late 2011, I saw a story in the New York Times. A clinical trial of a new kind of cancer therapy at the University of Pennsylvania had jolted two elderly leukemia patients into apparent remission. The therapy had never been tried before in humans, only in mice. Developed over 25 years by a team of Penn doctors, it used genetic techniques to give new powers to a patient’s own cells, transforming them into “serial killers” able to attack and eliminate tumor.

It seemed to be one of those rare moments in cancer science when an experimental treatment actually worked. I wanted to know more, so I asked Penn if they’d connect me with a patient. They pointed me to Walter Keller, a cabinet refinisher in Southern California, the seventh adult to ever receive the therapy.

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Tortas Frontera Opens at Penn


tortas frontera signChicago chef Rick Bayless did a whirlwind tour of Philadelphia over the last day as he was in town to open Tortas Frontera at the ARCH building on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

This is the first Tortas Frontera outside of Chicago. The quick-serve Mexican concept promises local ingredients in tortas, cazuelas (Mexican meals in a bowl), caldos (soups) and molletes (flatbreads). The menu also features a breakfast section. The University of Pennsylvania’s Tortas Frontera is located in the recently restored ARCH building (3601 Locust Walk), The all-day spot is open to Penn students and the public.

Check out the Tortas Frontera listing for hours and more information. The menu is located here.

Where did Rick Bayless hit in Philadelphia? »

Locust Walk Wind Tunnel May Be Due to Architectural Error

Photo by J. Fusco for GPTMC

Photo by J. Fusco for GPTMC

An engineering professor at Penn has weighed in on the Locust Walk Wind Tunnel. The pathway along the university’s campus gets positively hurricane-like after the 38th Street bridge, claiming lives of umbrellas and loose-fitting hats. And it’s not just windy — it’s cold.

Howard Hu tells the Daily Pennsylvanian: “The air, like water, needs to have a channel to flow through … so you need to have tall buildings lined up to experience strong flow.”

In this case, the tall buildings are three high-rise dorms that are perfectly aligned with the easterly wind — an architectural misstep, Hu says. “Usually, for tall buildings, the architect will evaluate what kind of winds the building will experience.”

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Malcolm Gladwell’s Big Idea on Higher Ed Reform: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Malcolm Gladwell.  Photo | <a href="" target="_blank">Kris Krug</a>

Photo | Kris Krug

In his 4:30 p.m. talk Wednesday at Penn, celebrity journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell steered clear of making controversial comments about the university — at least until the Q & A started. When asked what he would do if elected President of the United States, Gladwell, who is Canadian, said that he would split the country into pieces (“It’s four countries already!” he playfully insisted) and initiate some higher education reform.

“Are you ready to hear my idea, in one sentence?” he asked an eager audience, which was made up entirely of Penn students, faculty and staff. “Don’t ask, don’t tell — on the name of your undergrad institution.”

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Morning Headlines: No, Singer Deniece Williams Does Not Own a Plastic-Wrapped Mansion in Cherry Hill, NJ

cherry hill mansion

Google aerial view

Denise Williams had everyone fooled. The owner of an unfinished mansion that’s now wrapped in plastic and surrounded by a metal fence told pretty much everyone she came into contact with, it seems, that she was Deniece “Let’s Hear It for the Boys” Williams, and for some reason residents and general contractor, among others, seem to have taken it on faith. Why this should have made everyone trust her is unclear unless Deniece Williams has a very good reputation for being an honest dealer. At any rate, Benson seems not to be an honest dealer — or at least, she’s unable to behave so regarding this house.

The mansion is in a state of suspended animation, with no work being done. The general contractor is owed thousands of dollars. But Williams/Benson is paying taxes on the house, and told officials she plans to keep working on it. The Inquirer was unable to locate her, but did discover she had past judgments ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

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Rare Retail Space Opens Up for Lease at Penn for January 2014

3610 sansom street

Photo of 3610 Sansom Street from

MSC is marketing 3610 Sansom Street as a “rare retail opportunity” at Penn, and that’s not inaccurate. Many of the commercial spots on and around that block have been there for a long time: Urban Outfitters, Cosi, POD, American Apparel, Blue Mercury, Penne, and Barnes & Noble. That particular space, which is around 2,000 square feet, is now occupied by Penn’s Computer Connection. It has 75 feet of frontage on Sansom Street.

The complex in which it resides is called the Inn at Penn, which is the kind of fact you know but don’t realize you know until you see it written down in its logo. (It’d be a good Penn-themed Quizzo question, in fact.)

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A University City Sequel: The Hub, Part Deux

The Hub is the apartment building on the corner of 40th and Chestnut distinguished by its impressive ground-floor restaurant: Distrito, the Philadelphia outpost of Jose Garces’ popular celebration of Mexican cuisine. The building has a distinctive look: brown and yellowish rectangles make the exterior look woodsy, while the addition of bright green and sleek gunmetal gray spices things up. It’s not for everybody, necessarily, but for those who like it–and for those who simply want more space–good news: A Hub 2 is in the works.

The new building will be designed, again, by Piatt Associates Architecture, and will be attached to Hub 1. It will require the demolition of the Thai Singha House, but the restaurant isn’t going out of business–it’s just moving down the street to 3900 Chestnut. It’s on hiatus for a month or so while that happens.

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