William Penn Foundation names Wharton vice dean as new leader

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 Peter J. Degnan, Vice Dean of Finance and Administration at the Wharton School, will be the new Managing Director at the William Penn Foundation. (Image courtesy of the William Penn Foundation)

Peter J. Degnan, Vice Dean of Finance and Administration at the Wharton School, will be the new Managing Director at the William Penn Foundation. (Image courtesy of the William Penn Foundation)

Wharton School vice dean Peter J. Degnan has been selected to lead Philadelphia’s most powerful regionally-focused foundation.

William Penn Foundation board chair David Haas made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

“We’re really excited about Peter coming on board,” Haas told NewsWorks. “He’ll not only bring his strong management skills and experience, but we think he’s going to be the ideal leader to work with the board and the family to really strengthen the foundation’s work.”

Degnan’s appointment comes 15 months after the abrupt departure of past president Jeremy Nowak. Degnan’s first day on the job is March 3, according to Haas.

Degnan will be the first William Penn Foundation leader to assume the “Managing Director” title. The foundation announced organizational tweaks as it set out to find a new leader last September. The foundation’s primary focus will remain on the region’s water supply, access to quality education and supporting cultural institutions and great public spaces, according to a release.

“[Degnan] does not have subject expertise in the specific areas of grant-making that the foundation pursues,” Haas said. “What he will bring is an ability to strengthen institutional functions and the effectiveness of the work we’re doing.”

Degnan has served in a number of roles at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School since 2002. He was profiled in a 2003 BusinessWeek article as the “Jobs Wizard of Wharton.” He currently serves as the vice president of the board at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. Earlier in his career Degnan worked in banking at both UBS and Lehman Brothers.

In a statement, Degnan said: “I look forward to joining the stellar staff at the William Penn Foundation in confronting some of the most difficult issues in the region.”

The William Penn Foundation holds about $2 billion in assets and issues about $80 million in grants every year.

Disclosure: The William Penn Foundation has supported WHYY/NewsWorks.

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