Archives > Historical Features > Exhibits


Images in Flux:
The 20th Century Development of the Undergraduate Experience at Penn
About this project

James Ermarth, a senior at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a 1999 Summer Research Fellow at the University Archives and Records Center. He conducted his research in the extensive institutional collections of the University Archives, both in the primary sources of once-confidential administrative files, public relations office files, Trustees minutes and supporting documentation and in a host of secondary sources, including student newspapers and yearbooks, faculty and administration publications, the alumni magazine, university directories, Philadelphia newspaper clippings files, and published histories of the University.

His essay appears here without footnotes, bibliography, and other source documentation. A printed copy of the full text is available in the reference collection of the University Archives. All intellectual property rights, including copyright, are reserved by the author and the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.


This essay focuses on the undergraduate experience at three periods in University history:

  • the late 19th and early 20th century
  • the years just after World War II
  • the Ivy League years of the most recent decades.

Collegiate education at Penn is traced from a gentleman's school of classics to the big-time athletics, undergraduate professional school of mid-century and finally, to the elite, academic institution of today.