Advancing the quality of public leadership for nearly 80 years
It was March 1937. Pennsylvania was mired in the Great Depression and overtaken by a wave of public corruption and mismanagement.
Samuel S. Fels was a leading Philadelphia entrepreneur and philanthropist. Fels-Naptha soap had earned Mr. Fels his fortune—and funded his interest in cleaning up government. He met with the Dean of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to organize a conference of government experts. Their vision was to address the pressing question of public sector leadership.
Several months later, as the lead donor to the University’s bicentennial fundraising campaign, Mr. Fels made a gift to found what is now known as the Fels Institute of Government. His intent: to improve the quality of government by developing and disseminating promising practices in public management, and by training professional managers in those practices. The Fels Institute quickly became the nation’s leading school for city and county managers and helped pave the way for the field of public management and administration.
The practical focus that Samuel Fels hoped for remains to this day. For nearly 80 years, the Fels Institute has prepared graduates for a broad range of public leadership positions in city, state, and federal agencies; elective politics; nonprofit organizations; and private firms that serve the public interest.
Fels students and alumni continue to answer Samuel Fels’ call for effective public leadership.