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Drexel University Libraries Helps Connect Dragons During Virtual Day of Giving Event

June 29, 2020

On Wednesday, June 24th, the Drexel Libraries united with Dragons from around the world for 24 Hours of Impact, the University’s annual Day of Giving. 

Now in its fifth year, 24 Hours of Impact is Drexel’s single-day fundraising campaign designed to help its colleges, schools, units and other groups around campus bring together alumni, faculty, staff, students, friends and other supporters to raise awareness and donations for the University.

This year, the theme of the Day of Giving was “The Power of Dragons,” and all activities, challenges and events held throughout the day (virtually of course) were dedicated to showcasing the strength and expert support within the Drexel community.

The Libraries contributed to the festivities by connecting the University’s past with the present through a special Day of Giving edition of its “Films from the Archives” event series. During the online event, Digital Archivist Sarah Newhouse shared a rarely screened archival video of a skit* written and performed for the University’s 100-year anniversary in 1991. Hosted by Livingston Ludlow Biddle Jr. (one of A. J. Drexel’s descendants), the theatrical production takes a musical, comedic look at the University’s founder and his family and associates.

Two men wearing tuxedos stand on stage
Livingston Ludlow Biddle Jr. served as the emcee for a skit written and performed for Drexel University’s 100th anniversary.

“One scene in the skit depicts A. J. Drexel and J. P. Morgan (his business partner) receiving a visitor from the future—a man in sunglasses and a bright colored jacket named Michael Milkin,” Newhouse explained during her introduction to the archival video. “In 1990, Milkin engaged in illegal junk bond trading, which caused the collapse of a Drexel financial firm. In the fall of 1991, when this skit was produced, this was still very much in the news and on the minds of the Drexel Community.”

We speculate that other actors in the skit may be other Drexel family members or Drexel’s Board of Trustees. Since the video did not make it to the Archives with a cast list, staff continue to look for authoritative identification and welcome any insights from viewers who might recognize the actors, Newhouse also noted.

Following the screening, Drexel Archives and Libraries staff answered questions from the audience and spoke about the University’s founder and his family and the impact they continue to have on Philadelphia.  

“One of my favorite aspects of researching A. J. Drexel as part of my job with the University Archives is that it’s clear he was very philanthropically minded and wanted to give back to Philadelphia,” Newhouse said. “You see that in everything he did. I think one of the biggest ways he gave back to the city was to start Drexel University.”

Although the video is not currently available via IDEA, Drexel’s online repository, the University Archives recently created a research guide about A. J. Drexel and his family’s history. The guide—which was created as part of a new project to create a Drexel Family Digital Archive—includes family tree PDF files, information about individuals, and links to multiple Drexel family collections finding aids at Drexel Archives and other institutions.

 “We are pleased to pull this video gem from the Archives collection to illustrate the evidence of our University’s founder’s value, character and contributions,” noted Dean Danuta A. Nitecki, as she recognized the generous support given by members of the Drexel Family Committee for the Libraries to explore creating a Drexel Family Digital Archive. “There is so much to do to locate, digitize and preserve news clippings, reports, videos, photo albums and other images, and we are grateful and always encouraged to continue our project with the support of our founder’s descendants as well as those who have admired his leadership.”  

*Drexel Family Skit, 19 October 1991, UR.10.006, box 2006-125-03, cassette 00-00807, Office of University Relations videos, Drexel University Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.