The Drexel University Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday, May 4 to extend President John Fry’s contract by another five years. The announcement, made by Board Chair Richard A. Greenawalt, will extend Fry’s tenure through June 30, 2028 — making him the longest-serving university president in Philadelphia.
“The accolades for John are many,” said Greenawalt. “He continues to transform the University, while also navigating the University through a pandemic, creating a more inclusive institution and confronting the many challenges of the rapidly changing higher education landscape. He is the ideal leader to move the University forward successfully in the coming years.”
Since being appointed Drexel’s 14th president in 2010, Fry has implemented a dynamic vision for how an urban university can attract and inspire excellent students, conduct groundbreaking research and serve the surrounding neighborhood.
“It has been my privilege to lead an institution with such outstanding students and alumni, talented faculty, dedicated professional staff and a supportive and generous Board of Trustees,” said Fry. “Their commitment to innovation and civic engagement has been integral to elevating Drexel not only in the Greater Philadelphia region but throughout the country and globally.”
Under Fry’s leadership, Drexel has set a national example for the execution of public-private partnerships and become a powerful force for economic development in Greater Philadelphia. He has championed major neighborhood partnerships, including the creation of a multi-faceted university extension center in Mantua — the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships — extensive economic development efforts and significant partnerships to support local schools. He negotiated a groundbreaking affiliation with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and launched the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship to foster entrepreneurial learning.
During his tenure, Drexel also has seen a significant increase in fundraising and a growing number of philanthropic partners. Landmark gifts in recent years include $50 million from Thomas R. Kline to support the Kline School of Law and $45 million from Dana and David Dornsife to support the Dornsife School of Public Health. In November 2017, Drexel publicly launched a campaign which recently surpassed its $750 million goal in support of scholarships, faculty chairs and other academic initiatives.
Fry has also set the University on a course to be a driver of inclusivity and equitable economic growth in its community. A focal point of Drexel’s latest strategic plan is fostering and strengthening an inclusive and equity-driven culture by retaining more faculty, professional staff and students of color; demonstrating commitment to equity through University investments; and embedding antiracism in pedagogy and evaluations.
To support this mission, the University launched the Center for Black Culture, which serves as a hub of information, activity and community for Black students, faculty, professional staff and alumni, while also offering programs for the entire Drexel community to gain a greater understanding of the Black experience. Drexel also founded the Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity — supported by a major gift from Dana and David Dornsife and housed in the Dornsife School of Public Health — to unite diverse partners to generate and translate evidence, accelerate antiracism solutions and transform the health of communities locally, nationally and globally.
As Drexel aims to become an even greater engine for the equitable economic growth of Greater Philadelphia, Fry’s vision is to create a vibrant presence and ecosystem of innovation in and around University City, while delivering on the University’s public purpose as an anchor institution for Philadelphia. This ecosystem will ultimately benefit students, through co-ops and career opportunities; faculty, through collaborative research and training; and the surrounding community, through the creation of pipelines to employment.
This commitment is at the heart of Schuylkill Yards, a $3.5 billion mixed-use project with development partner Brandywine Realty Trust on University real estate adjacent to Philadelphia’s Amtrak 30th Street Station. In partnership with Wexford Science and Technology, Drexel is also extending uCity Square, a multi-billion-dollar development, through a facility that houses K-8 public schools and an academic building that will relocate the College of Medicine and College of Nursing and Health Professions to the University City campus.
Most recently, Spark Therapeutics announced plans to invest $575 million in the creation of a new, state-of-the-art gene therapy innovation center on Drexel’s campus. And through a partnership with Gattuso Development Partners, the campus will also boast what is expected to become the city’s largest life sciences research and laboratory building.
For his contributions toward the betterment of the region, professional accomplishments and commitment to charity, as well as to the community, Fry has been named the 2021 recipient of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s William Penn Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a business executive in Greater Philadelphia.
Fry remains steadfast in his commitment to community service. He served two years as chair of the Chamber of Commerce, concluding his tenure in October 2018. He is currently serving on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the Kresge Foundation, the Wistar Institute, Lafayette College and the Philadelphia Orchestra Association.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Fry graduated from Lafayette College and earned a master’s degree in business administration from the New York University Stern School of Business. He and his wife Cara, an art historian, have three children: Mia, a recent graduate of Penn Law who is completing a federal clerkship in Boston; Nat, who runs his own woodworking business at the Bok Collaborative; and Phoebe, an undergraduate videographer studying at Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.