Hershey’s Is First to Sign on to Pennovation Center

View from the University Avenue Bridge

View from the University Avenue Bridge

Things are going to be a little chocolatey on the banks of the Schuylkill River.

Today Penn announced that the Hershey Company — yes, the candy company — was the first to sign on as the corporate sponsor for its Pennovation Center in South Philadelphia.  Read more »

Penn Grad Accused of Being “The Vegan Bernie Madoff”

Sarma Melngailis in a Tuesday, October 18, 2011, file photo.

Sarma Melngailis in front of Pure Food and Wine with her restaurant’s most popular dish — a local heirloom tomato lasagna featuring basil pistachio pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, macadamia pumpkin seed ricotta and zucchini —  in an October 18, 2011, file photo.

Sarma Melngailis was born in Massachusetts, and her grades were good enough to get her into the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated in 1994 — with a dual Wharton/College degree. Like many Penn graduates, she moved to New York and went into finance. In the booming 1990s, she worked at Bear Sterns, then moved to Boston to work at Bain Capital.

She shifted careers in the late ’90s, however, graduating from the French Culinary Institute and eventually becoming an advocate for the vegan lifestyle. She opened Pure Food & Wine in 2004, New York City’s first restaurant to serve “gourmet renditions of organic, vegan [and] raw food.” Though the restaurant had its critics — “I’ve certainly taken some criticism from raw-food purists,” she told the Village Voice — it was popular, and Melngailis seemed to be doing well.

Then things changed. The staff walked out en masse in January of last year over unpaid wages, with Melngailis offering various explanations for the paycheck delay. The restaurant — along with a companion business, One Lucky Duck — re-opened, but workers walked out again last summer due to unpaid wages.

Then, Melngailis disappeared. Or, she disappeared until she and husband Anthony Strangis were caught by authorities in Tennessee — after they’d ordered a Domino’s Pizza. The horror! Read more »

WATCH: Lin-Manuel Miranda Gives Commencement Address at Penn

At the start of his speech, Lin-Manuel Miranda apologized for mentioning Philadelphia just once in the smash hit musical Hamilton — “one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Liberty Bell reference,” he called it. He also apologized, in character as Alexander Hamilton, for advocating to move the nation’s capital from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.

“But take the long view, Motownphilly,” Miranda said. “Who really won that deal in the end? Look at D.C.: It’s synonymous with institutional dysfunction, partisan infighting and political gridlock. You are known as the birthplace of Louisa May Alcott, Rocky Balboa, Boyz II Men, Betsy Ross, Will Smith, Isaac Asimov, Tina Fey, cheesesteaks and you can have scrapple, soft pretzels and Wawa hoagies any time you want.

“You win Philly! You win every time! Water ice.” Read more »

The Star Runner on Penn’s Track Team Wears What During Races?

Tommy Awad - Penn Relays

Photo by Don Felice/Penn Athletics

When Tommy Awad passed runners from Indiana and Georgetown in the final 100 meters to win the 4xMile at the Penn Relays last month, it was Penn’s first Championship of America relay win since 1974 — and the team’s first win in the 4xMile since 1950.

Awad has picked up quite a few accolades in his running career at Penn. He finished third in the mile at the NCAA indoor track championships this year. He helped Penn to a No. 21 rank nationally in cross country, and the team’s first berth in the NCAA cross country nationals since 1975. He holds the school record in the outdoor 5,000 meters, the indoor mile and the indoor 3,000 meters. He could run in both the 1500m and the 5000m at NCAA East Regionals and Championships, held later this spring.

And he runs in glasses. Read more »

Petition Demanding Penn Mental Health Reform Approaching 5,000 Signatures

On April 11th, Penn junior Ao “Olivia” Kong was killed by an oncoming SEPTA train near 40th Street Station. The death was later ruled a suicide. Now, a week-old petition imploring university officials to address the problems plaguing the school’s mental health resources has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures.

Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price released a statement addressing the community’s concerns and providing updates on the steps the school is taking to ramp up its mental health resources. Gutmann has called for the school’s Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare to reconvene — it completed a year-long study on the subject in 2015 following several high-profile suicides at the school. The school had vowed to fight a culture of “destructive perfectionism.”

“We have asked the chairs of the Task Force, Anthony Rostain and Rebecca Bushnell, to immediately reconvene the Task Force to determine as expeditiously as possible what additional steps can be taken to help ensure the health and well-being of our students,” Gutmann and Price’s statement reads. The school has extended the hours of its counseling service (CAPS) in the wake of Kong’s death, but some Penn students have expressed extreme discontent with the school’s ability to treat students effectively.  Read more »

Woman Killed by SEPTA Train Was Penn Student

By I, Mtruch, ">CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2513365

40th Street Station on the Market Frankford Line. Photo | Mtruch via CC BY-SA 3.0,

Around 7 a.m. this morning, a woman was pronounced dead at the 40th street SEPTA station after being struck by an oncoming train on the Market-Frankford line. In an email to Wharton undergraduates from Vice Dean Lori Rosenkopf, the victim has been identified as 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student Ao “Olivia” Kong, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Read more »

What Villanova’s Win Means for a Philly Hoops Fan

Former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino (right) with head coach Jay Wright after the Wildcats beat North Carolina in the NCAA championship game.

Former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino (right) with head coach Jay Wright after the Wildcats beat North Carolina in the NCAA championship game.

The very first time I went to the Palestra, I almost got run over by Bill Cosby.

My dad took me to the Atlantic 10 tournament. This was a doubleheader with a TempleSaint Joseph’s game and another quarterfinal. As we went up the walkway toward the gym, an older man was laughing with his friends and clowning around. He crashed into me. It wasn’t a big deal — I wasn’t knocked over or anything — but my dad turned to the guy ask him to knock it off. When he did, he realized it was Cosby.

I guess I eventually got Cosby back for this, but I remember what happened afterward much better: Temple beat Joe’s by 15 points, and I got my first introduction to Big 5 basketball.

That was not my only Atlantic 10 tournament. My dad took me again the very next year. St. Joe’s looked like they were going to lose to Rutgers. They trailed by 13 at one point. But the Hawks rallied and won it on a Bernard Blunt three-point play with just seconds left. I had never heard a louder crowd. Read more »

Study: Yelp Pretty Good at Helping Patients Pick Hospitals


Want to figure out how to get the best health care in town? Check out Yelp.

New Penn research — published in April issue of the journal Health Affairs — suggests the crowdsourced review site offers hospital assessments that line up closely with more formal, government-approved appraisals, and is often more comprehensive in its outlook.

“Yelp reviews are in real time and often written by patients for patients,” Dr. Raina M. Merchant, director of the Penn Social Media and Health Innovation Lab, said in an announcement of the research results. Read more »

65 Years Ago Today, Philadelphia Helped Birth the Commercial Computing Revolution

UNIVAC I control station on display at the Computer History Museum. | ArnoldReinhold, shared under a Creative Commons license.

UNIVAC I control station on display at the Computer History Museum. | ArnoldReinhold, shared under a Creative Commons license.

Today is the anniversary of a major development in computing history — and it happened right here in Philadelphia.

On this date in 1951, the U.S. Census Bureau signed a contract for the first commercial computer in the U.S. with J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly, who had designed the ENIAC computer at the University of Pennsylvania for the U.S. War Department toward the end of World War II. The two formed their own company after the war, which became the Philadelphia-based subsidiary of Remington Rand Inc., where the computer was developed and manufactured. Read more »

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