Ben announces plan for Stuart Whitsman Hall at the Stuart Whitsman School of Design

The University of Pennsylvania announced today that the Stuart Weitzman School of Design will renovate the historic Morgan Building located on 34th Street and add a new wing on its south side, naming the building after Stuart Weitzman, Wharton Class of 1963, award-winning designer and shoe icon.

“Stuart Weitzman’s participation in this project reflects his belief in the power of design to improve lives and spark creativity,” said Penn Wendell Pritchett, Interim President. “The Weitzman School has a dire need for modern, centrally located facilities and the Morgan Building offers an ideal solution. We are very grateful that Stewart will help make this vision a reality. Naming the building is Stewart in honor of his enduring commitment to the success of Penn students and his continued extraordinary support for the school.”

The renovation and expansion of the Morgan Building to create Stuart Weitzman Hall will create an ideal environment for education and research in art and design. Ben retained world-renowned architecture firm KieranTimberlake, whose founding partners were Weitzman alumni, Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake, former faculty members of the school. Consequently, Stuart Weitzman Hall will also serve as a tangible example of the school’s enduring ability to nurture exceptional talent in the fields of historic preservation and innovative architecture.

In front of the Penn’s Morgan Building on 34th Street.

The current Morgan building was completed in 1892, and is located at the intersection of 34th Street and Smith Walk, directly across from three other Weitzman facilities: the Fisher Fine Arts Library, Meyerson Hall, and the newly renovated Stuart Weitzman Plaza. Originally constructed as an orphanage, the building was acquired by the university in 1899 and later named the Randall Morgan Physics Laboratory after Randall Morgan, a member of the 1873 class of Pennsylvania regent. The building has housed the physics department for more than 50 years. Morgan’s name will continue to be memorialized on the inside of the building.

Converted into Stuart Weitzman Hall, the building will retain the historic architectural elements of the original structure, particularly on the facade, including the terrace and porch above the 34th Street entrance. The completely reimagined interior will serve students and faculty throughout the school, fine art and design studios, and maker spaces students, research facilities, classrooms, faculty offices, meeting and exhibition spaces.

Stuart Weitzman is one of the most recognized names in the luxury footwear industry. He founded his eponymous company in 1986. In the following decades, Stuart Weitzman built it into one of the world’s most famous footwear brands. In 2015, he oversaw the sale of Stuart Weitzman, LLC to Coach (renamed Tapestry in October 2017). He remained as a shoe designer and creative director for the company until May 2017 and remained an honorary president until 2018.

“My education in Pennsylvania has helped me very well during my long and interesting career in design. So, personally, it has been a pleasure to be more connected to the Penn community in recent years,” Weitzman said. “Now, I’m excited to give new life to a gorgeous 19th century building in the heart of the campus.”

Since stepping down from his active role in business, Weitzman has pursued myriad interests. He is a sought-after lecturer in universities around the world, and he also guides many students who seek his advice on starting their own business. He currently supports the development of a museum in Madrid, Spain, dedicated to Spanish-Jewish history, and has also awarded the Stuart Weitzman Scholar Sports Program through New York Junior Tennis and Learning. This program provides opportunities for young people from low-income families to access resources such as guidance for the college admissions process, academic support, and the development of important life skills. He joined others in the production of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “Not Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations.” As a board member of the American Foundation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, he also contributes to the success of aspiring Olympic athletes, and represented the United States in table tennis at the Maccabiah Olympic Games.

“All-Stars have gone along with this project, and with great support from Stuart Waitsman,” said Frederic Steiner, Dean and Bali Professor at The Whitsman School. “The existing structure, designed by the famous Philadelphia firm Cope & Stewardson in 1890, is truly a diamond in the rough. It will be adapted to provide contemporary and flexible facilities to match the caliber of the school’s academic endeavors.

“It is worth noting that this is the most important school building expansion project in 55 years,” he added. “Stuart seizes a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a difference in the daily lives of students and faculty today, and to enable the school to grow and adapt in the future.”

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