In Memoriam: Gwendolyn Gordon, 1980-2021

Gwendolyn Gordon, an assistant professor in the department of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a secondary appointment in the School of Arts and Sciences’ department of anthropology, died late last month. She was 41 years old.

Dr. Gordon earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cornell University and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, where her research focused on social and economic rights for indigenous groups. At Harvard, she served as a research assistant for the late professor and civil rights theorist Lani Guinier.

After law school, Dr. Gordon worked as a corporate attorney in the London and New York offices of Shearman and Sterling. She also interned for the United Nations Tribunal for Rwanda, working on a team responsible for prosecuting military leaders on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. She then earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from Princeton University. Dr. Gordon joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013.

“Gwen was a dedicated scholar, but moreover, a tremendous person,” said Erika James, dean of the Wharton School. “She brought passion and purpose to her research and extended that commitment into the classroom to impact students. Our community was enhanced by her presence, and she will be deeply missed.”

Related Articles


  1. Condolences to the Gordon family. What I find very striking is that Erika James can espouse about how “our community was enhanced by her presence” which is nothing but another politically correct statement. Hey Erika, why don’t you share with everyone how Gwendolyn specifically enhanced their experience for native born Black American. For the record Erika, you’re the first Bermudan-African to hold the position of Dean at Wharton. In other words, Wharton still have not had a native born Black American as their Dean. I’m not too surprised with Erika’s political correctness considering that she hails from a British colony called Bermuda.

    • I don’t know Prof. Gordon but it is always a sad day when anyone is taken in the prime of their life. From what I have read in her bio, it seems as though she was of service to a wide spectrum of people — not just native born Black Americans. And of course, the Dean who happens to be Black (whether native born or not) represents the academic community and students of the school so is duty bound to make statements that reflect that administrative role. This is coming from someone who is known to make comments that JBHE would never publish. The number one beneficiary of affirmative action benefits that were intended for “native born Black Americans” are millions of people who simply walked across the border, and who cannot provide an iota of justification for receiving such benefits, I don’t see those people getting the same kind of vitriol that the comparatively few Blacks with Caribbean and more recently continental African ancestry get. Yet, it is those people that have literally eaten ADOS reparations–not Black immigrants!

      • Hey “Pet Charles”,

        Based upon your emotive rant you’re definitely and “African or Caribbean immigrant”. You need to recognize that the “native born Black American” community is not going to allow anyone to appropriate our distinct history and legacy in this country called the USA. Further, simply because someone contextually and intellectually challenge you does not qualify as “vitriol”. Also, you need to read some more on “Affirmative Action” because the number beneficiary is both “White American men and White American women”. I know you can’t be that obtuse. Then again, maybe you really are!

        For the record “Pet Charles”, the overwhelmingly majority of “African and Caribbean immigrants” within a USA context Do Not come to the USA to seriously establish any sort of substantive alliance with native born Black Americans’. Many of these persons hailing from these Third World countries have the same racist and ignorant proclivities as their neocolonial master’s in their war torn and underdeveloped countries. Most of these individuals literally maintain the White American status and just happy to be in the USA along with being ignorant of the native born Black American community.

        Further, the only time African and Caribbean immigrant interact with the native born Black American community is when they’re trying to sell them some third rate products on the “Black side of town” in a disheveled store or on a “vending table”. So spare me with your “blood clot” foolishness!

  2. It’s so sad to hear about young people passing away. The impact they made while they were here won’t seen be forgotten. The academy can be a stressful place.

    • Hey “Mr/Mrs. Hampton”,

      You need to stop with the politically correct narrative that “[t]he academy can be a stressful place” and tell the TRUTH. In other words “Mr/Mrs. Hampton”, the overall environment at the MAJORITY of these Historically White Colleges and Universities (HWCUs) are implicitly and explicitly racist along with being particularly hostile towards Native born Black Americans.

      I just bet you have been on the receiving end of disparate treatment and literally keep your mouth shut. Spare me with your pseudo analysis about the academy and start tell the truth in the public sphere.

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Black Film Project and Film Studies Fellowships Established at Harvard University

Henry Louis Gates Jr., professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, will direct the newly established Black Film Project, an initiative aiming to support independent films focusing on Black history and culture.

Higher Education Grants or Gifts of Interest to African Americans

Here is this week’s news of grants or gifts to historically Black colleges and universities or for programs of particular interest to African Americans in higher education.

Yale Library Acquires Digital Collection of Langston Hughes Papers

In a recent December upload, the Yale University Library added a collection of papers from Black poet Langston Hughes to the school's online archive. The collection contains correspondence between Hughes and other authors and civil rights activists of his time.

Academic Fields Where Blacks Earned Few or No Doctoral Degrees in 2022

In 2022, African Americans earned 1.2 percent of all mathematics and statistics doctorates, 1.2 percent of all doctorates in computer science, 1.7 percent of all doctorates in chemistry, and only 1.7 percent of all doctorates awarded in engineering disciplines.

Featured Jobs