Fontaine Society

Fontaine Fellowships support the education of the most underrepresented groups in PhD education.

Fontaine Society

Fontaine Society

In 1970, an endowment was established at the University of Pennsylvania in honor of Dr. William Fontaine, professor of philosophy for twenty-one years and the first African-American to become a fully affiliated professor at the University. From its inception, the endowment, known as the “Fontaine Fellowship” has been used to advance the University’s goals related to diversity. Originally restricted to U.S. students from groups “traditionally and historically underrepresented” in higher education — specifically African American, Native American, and Hispanic students – diversity is now more broadly defined to include economically disadvantaged and first-generation college students, and others from backgrounds underrepresented in a specific discipline or field. Fontaine funding is used by the schools, in combination with other resources, to recruit a diverse class of PhD students. Regardless of the source of a student’s funding, schools are encouraged to nominate their “underrepresented students” for membership in the Fontaine Society, which provides a supportive scholarly community.

Today, the Fontaine Society is comprised of more than 230 PhD students in programs across Penn. The “Fontaines” in the biomedical fields have founded the “EE Just Society” honoring the pioneering African American scientist.

The governing body for the Fontaine Society is the Fontaine Coordinating Committee (FCC). Members serve on a voluntary basis to organize and implement a wide range of events during the year. The FCC also administers the Fontaine Travel Fellowship competition, which allocates funds to assist Fontaine Fellows as they progress through their doctoral programs, with preference to individuals presenting at and/or attending conferences in their field of study. Awardees may request reimbursement through their home department using the Concur system (see instructions). To contact the Fontaine Coordinating Committee, e-mail

We encourage you to join the Fontaine Society’s Facebook page to network with your fellow Fontaines and be the first to know about upcoming events.

Students with questions about the Fontaine Society are welcome to contact:

Karen Lawrence, Associate Director for Education
Office of the Provost, 120 College Hall,
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
Phone: 215-898-1842