Faculty: David Thornburgh

Executive Director
Fels Institute of Government

David Thornburgh was named Executive Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government in August, 2008.

Before coming to Fels, he has held leadership roles in regional and national organizations that develop and advance creative solutions to community challenges.  Immediately prior to Fels, he served as CEO of the Alliance for Regional Stewardship (ARS), a national network of leaders committed to building globally competitive regions, and as a Senior Advisor with Econsult, a Philadelphia-based economic consulting firm.

Mr. Thornburgh served as Executive Director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia from 1994 to 2006 where, under his leadership, the League became one of the nation’s best regional “think and do tanks”. Their insight and initiatives helped develop more competitive tax policy, improve the quality of the regional workforce, support the growth of arts and culture, and position the region as a center of higher education, entrepreneurship and knowledge-based industries. In the process, the organization grew its revenues to an all-time high and won major grants from the Pew Trusts, the Ford Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation. In that time, the League received nine national awards, and its One Big Campus campaign to connect young college graduates to Greater Philadelphia was recognized by the Public Relations Society of Philadelphia as the best public relations campaign of 2001.

From 1988 to 1994 he served as Director of the Wharton Small Business Development Center, the consulting and training arm of The Wharton School’s Entrepreneurial Center, named consistently as one of the nation's top five programs in entrepreneurship. Under Mr. Thornburgh's leadership the Center helped 20,000 entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, raise $40 million in additional capital, and in the process create 4,000 new jobs in the region.  He also developed and managed entrepreneurial development projects in Russia, China, Hungary, and Japan.

Right after graduate school,he served as Director of Civic Affairs at the CIGNA Corporation in Philadelphia, where he was responsible for the community development work of the CIGNA Foundation and for staff support to CIGNA’s CEO, President and senior officers on civic and public policy issues in Greater Philadelphia.

Mr. Thornburgh has received a number of awards for his professional and civic leadership. In 2006 he was recognized as one of the 101 most trusted and respected civic “connectors” in the Philadelphia area by LEADERSHIP Philadelphia. In 2000, he was awarded an Eisenhower Fellowship and traveled to Australia and New Zealand to learn about entrepreneurial development and public management in those countries. In 1992 he was named one of 34 national finalists in the prestigious White House Fellows Program. In 1991 he was selected by the Philadelphia Business Journal as one of "40 Business Leaders Under 40" and in 1991 and 1992 was named by the Philadelphia Jaycees as one of five Outstanding Young Leaders in Philadelphia.

He has also played an active role as a "civic entrepreneur" having founded or co-founded

  • the Philadelphia 100 project (1988), an annual showcase of the fastest growing private firms in the Philadelphia area
  • the Enterprise Center (1988), a business accelerator in West Philadelphia;
  • Graduate! Philadelphia (2005), a first in the nation inititative to make it easy for adults to return to college to finish their degrees;
  • the Public Policy Challenge (2009) a national competition for student teams tackled challenges in their communities
  • the Knowledge Industry Partnership (2002), one of the most successful initiatives in the country designed to grow the ranks of educated young people in the region.

A frequent commentator on public policy and regional development issues, Mr. Thornburgh has been quoted often in the Philadelphia newspapers and also in the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Inc. and Fortune. He has appeared frequently on radio and television in Philadelphia, and has contributed a weekly commentary on business and public policy to KYW Newsradio in Philadelphia since 2003. He has spoken to over 250 business, civic and policy groups, and lectured at Wharton, Penn, Drexel, Temple and a number of other universities on topics such as higher education and economic development, entrepreneurship and business planning, and marketing, communications and strategic planning.

He holds a BA in Political Science from Haverford College and a Master's Degree in Public Policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He lives with his wife, Rebecca McKillip Thornburgh, a Wharton MBA turned children’s book illustrator, in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Rebecca and David have two twentysomething daughters, Blair and Alice. In all of his spare time, Mr. Thornburgh plays guitar and pedal steel guitar in two alt-country rock bands, Reckless Amateurs and The Miners.  He's been an avid scuba diver since he first watched the Sea Hunt television show at the age of 5.

Email: david_thornburgh@sas.upenn.edu

Phone:  215-746-2800

Courses Taught

The Practice of Economic Development (Spring 2012)

Spring 2012
Course Section: 
001
Thursday
5:00-8:00 pm
Instructor: 
David Thornburgh
Fels Sweeney Room
Full-Time
Executive

This course analyzes and challenges strategies for encouraging economic growth nationally and in states and metropolitan areas, with the goal of helping students become effective practitioners of the art. After reviewing key concepts and context, the course will ask students to evaluate and make choices about economic strategies and investments in a political context. This course satisfies an elective requirement in the Master of Public Administration program and a core requirement in the Certificate in Economic Development and Growth program.

Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (Spring 2013)

Spring 2013
Course Section: 
001
Thursday
5:00-8:00 pm
Instructor: 
David Thornburgh
Fels Sweeney Room
Full-Time
Executive

This course analyzes and challenges strategies for encouraging economic growth nationally and in states and metropolitan areas, with the goal of helping students become effective practitioners of the art. After reviewing key concepts and context, the course will ask students to evaluate and make choices about economic strategies and investments in a political context. This course satisfies an elective requirement in the Master of Public Administration program and a core requirement in the Certificate in Economic Development and Growth program.

Politics and Public Leadership (Fall 2012)

Fall 2012
Course Section: 
001
Wednesday
4:30-7:30 pm
Instructor: 
David Thornburgh
Instructor: 
Anuj Gupta
MCNB 286-7
Full-Time

This course is designed to orient students to the constraints that characterize leadership and management in the public service. The course traces the origins of these constraints, illustrates their durability, and suggests ways in which public agents may deal with them more effectively. Key historical documents and recent classics are examined for their bearing on contemporary views on topics such as the public goods argument, the role of science in governing, individualism and the theory of rights, factions and interest groups. The main areas of inquiry are the environment of public service, policy analysis, politics, and political realism.

 

This course satisfies a core requirement in the Master of Public Administration and Certificate in Politics programs.

Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (Fall 2013)

Fall 2013
Course Section: 
001
Wednesday
5:00-8:00 pm
Instructor: 
David Thornburgh
Fels Sweeney
Full-Time
Executive

This course analyzes and challenges strategies for encouraging economic growth nationally and in states and metropolitan areas, with the goal of helping students become effective practitioners of the art. After reviewing key concepts and context, the course will ask students to evaluate and make choices about economic strategies and investments in a political context. This course satisfies an elective requirement in the Master of Public Administration program and a core requirement in the Certificate in Economic Development and Growth program.

Politics and Public Leadership (Spring 2014)

Spring 2014
Course Section: 
002
Wednesday
4:30-7:30 pm
Instructor: 
David Thornburgh
Instructor: 
Anuj Gupta
COHN 402

This course is designed to orient students to the constraints that characterize leadership and management in the public service. The course traces the origins of these constraints, illustrates their durability, and suggests ways in which public agents may deal with them more effectively. Key historical documents and recent classics are examined for their bearing on contemporary views on topics such as the public goods argument, the role of science in governing, individualism and the theory of rights, factions and interest groups. The main areas of inquiry are the environment of public service, policy analysis, politics, and political realism.

 

This course satisfies a core requirement in the Master of Public Administration and Certificate in Politics programs.

Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (Fall 2014)

Fall 2014
Course Section: 
001
Wednesday
5:00pm-8:00pm
Instructor: 
David Thornburgh

This course analyzes and challenges strategies for encouraging economic growth nationally and in states and metropolitan areas, with the goal of helping students become effective practitioners of the art. After reviewing key concepts and context, the course will ask students to evaluate and make choices about economic strategies and investments in a political context. This course satisfies an elective requirement in the Master of Public Administration program and a core requirement in the Certificate in Economic Development and Growth program.