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Gov. Rendell receives Musser Award


The Fox School of Business at Temple University always has an exciting event for its annual Musser Awards for Excellence dinner.

I remember just a few years ago when Lew Katz astounded the audience by announcing a gift of $25 million to his alma mater, the largest gift in the history of Temple. The university decided to name the medical school in Lew Katz’s honor. Unfortunately, it subsequently became in Katz’s memory, after Katz perished in a plane crash. But his name lives on in Temple history.

Warren “Pete” Musser is the founder of Safeguard Scientifics, the innovative company he founded in 1953 and led for decades, investing in technology companies.

Now not all the Musser Award winners are Temple alumni, but they are all distinguished members of the business community. And they are all leaders.

When Gov. Rendell, who served eight years as governor after having served eight years as mayor of Philadelphia, got on stage to the microphone to accept his honor, he repeated one of his favorite themes: that government cannot create jobs. But, he added, government can work with the private sector, and jobs may result.

He gave an example of something he created in the early 2000s. He gave us a history lesson, that Pennsylvania during World War II was an industrial leader. The problem was that the sites were polluted when the sites were abandoned after the war.

So when he was governor, Rendell created a fund to clean up the sites. As a result, 72,000 new jobs were created. But now, he said, we have the highest poverty rate in the nation, despite all the good news.

He laid out a plan to fight poverty: Provide two quality years of pre-K education for every child. Currently, only 45 percent are enrolled in pre-K. And Reading by Fourth is another plan, to have volunteers work with elementary school students so that they are all proficient in reading by fourth grade. Rendell asked employers to encourage their employees to tutor and to donate money and books.

His idea to get a buy-in for raising the minimum wage from $7.15 to $15 is to have every cabinet secretary live for one month on minimum wage. That is, have them try to live on that small amount of money for a whole month, let alone for a year. Rendell had raised the minimum wage to the $7.15 level, but in all the years since he left Harrisburg, the minimum wage has remained the same. And that really galls him.

PA Workforce Development Association