John "Rick" Rockwell, W'64, WG'66, PAR'00Tell us a little bit about your life before Penn and how you came to be interested in the University.
I was born in West Chester, PA. When I was young I lived in South Jersey, as my father had a job there, and we later relocated to Wilmington. After Penn I lived in Philadelphia and consider myself a Philadelphian, even though these days I live in the Baltimore area. I got interested in the University at a very young age as my grandfather was class of 1906 at the Vet school. He loved Penn football and used to take me to games quite often and, in fact, only missed one game in 57 years, but luckily I attended that one so I was able to tell him about it. Really I guess you could say I come by my interest in Penn athletics naturally.

What sort of activities were you involved in while on campus?
When I was a student, I was involved in a multitude of activities on campus―Friars, Kappa Sigma, Kite and Key, Crew, ROTC, and the Red and Blue Party, which is a now defunct campus political group. In fact Ed Rendell was President of the group while I was Treasurer, so I was there as he started his political career! I loved crew, too, it was fantastic exercise, but I think what I enjoyed most was my involvement with Kite and Key. I was a guide, and I logged hundreds of hours showing people the campus and also accompanied sports teams as they visited Penn. So if the football team came down from Cornell, I was the guy that took them around. 

Does anything in particular stick out about your Penn experience?
One thing that sticks out in my mind about my time at Penn was the incredible enthusiasm for sports that existed on campus at the time. We would go on long road trips for basketball and football games, and there was always a huge crowd at the Palestra. The brothers in Kappa Sigma, my fraternity, comprised a good part of both the football and basketball team, so we were always more inclined to attend games. You just couldn’t get away from it, and I didn’t really want to.

You have a keen interest in the arts at Penn and personally. How did that start?
I’ve always been fascinated with the museum. As I mentioned before, I would go to football games with my grandfather and parents, but before they would start I would explore the museum on my own. And I was 8 years old at the time! They would never allow that now, but it was great. I loved the place and I still think that it is a terrific institution and one that has been a pleasure to be involved with since I retired. I am also on the board of an art museum here in Baltimore. Art and history are not subjects I had an opportunity to study while at Penn, so it’s been really fun later in life to explore those things.

You just celebrated your 50th reunion. As President of your class, how did that go?
I find that the planning for reunions starts almost three years before they actually happen. A lot of people work extremely hard to make them come together. Alumni Relations was a tremendous support for us, and we definitely could not have made it happen without them. We had a great reunion and the great part about it is people are still excited, even after it has passed. I’m looking forward to our 55th.

How would you encourage your peers to get engaged, or re-engaged, with Penn?
If they want to be engaged with the University, a lot of times it’s as easy as opening your email. Penn does a great job of letting people know what’s going on, and you just need to find something that interests you. All you need to do is volunteer―there are dozens of jobs, committees, and activities going on all the time and there is no shortage of opportunity for alumni to get involved. It’s important to give back because for me, it all returns to the four years I spent at Penn. Some of my greatest friends are still the ones I made while at school, in fact, I can trace my professional history back to a friend I made at Penn! I feel that I have a lot to owe to the University of Pennsylvania and if those that came before me hadn’t given back, then I might not have had the opportunities I did.