Perspectives

Hon. Michael Nutter '75

In April, Hon. Michael Nutter ’75 was part of the 2024 class of inductees into the St. Joseph’s Prep Hall of Excellence. Nutter, who is serving his second term on the Prep’s Board of Trustees, was Mayor of Philadelphia for eight years after serving for two decades in City Council. In both positions, he proudly proclaimed his Prep Alumni status and emerged as one of the school’s most visible alumni.


I will always be grateful to Sr. Maureen James, I.H.M., who suggested that I should look at St. Joseph’s Prep for high school. I never heard of the Prep and was used to staying in my own neighborhood in West Philadelphia but she, I guess, thought something of me or saw something in me to suggest it to my parents. My grandmother was very active in the Catholic Church and St. Peter Claver in South Philly, and she was familiar with the Prep and also encouraged my parents to send me there. And so I went to the Pre-Prep Program and met a bunch of guys, many of whom also ended up going to the Prep and many are still my friends today.

The Prep was a very different experience. Coming to the Prep from West Philly, I needed to take three different modes of transportation: the G bus, the El, and then either the 2 bus or the Broad Street Subway. I’ve always felt that a part of my Prep education was actually getting there, learning how to navigate and negotiate the streets of the city at a time in the early 70s when significant gang activity and turfism was going on. Just being able to maneuver through all of that and stay safe, have a job working at the neighborhood drugstore and learning about responsibility, both in the classroom and outside the classroom.

I’ve never suggested that I was the best student at the Prep but I think I was a good student and I had some fantastic teachers. One in particular I became very close to, Mr. Jerry Taylor was, at different times, a teacher, a spiritual guidance and a bit of a father figure. I also played football for three years and Gamp Pellegrini was another father figure type person in my life. He drove us on the football field and I think we all probably loved him and hated him at the same time, because he was hard but he was also really smart and really fair. Many of the things that he said to us as players were more than just about football, they were about life lessons and the meaning of hard work, putting in effort, and being a part of a team. And those lessons served me so well.

After I graduated, I was fortunate to attend the University of Pennsylvania and to go there with Robert Bynum, my Prep classmate and my best friend to this day. We met freshman year on the football field and have been friends ever since. We worked together at his dad’s nightclub and roomed together at Penn. Through Mr. Bynum and that job at the club, I met so many people in the political circles and the civic community. That’s really how I got involved in politics from working at the nightclub.

When I think back to all of the different people and connections of my life, it really starts at St. Joe’s Prep. And that is a part of the reason for my love, affection, and devotion to the Prep because I have connected those dots, I know how those different people played a role. I know that going to the Prep is what enabled me to go to Penn. I know that going to Penn is what gave me a certain level of credibility to get my first job at Xerox at 17th and Market. And so all of these things are connected, there’s a through line in my life, and with all these people who have continued to make a difference, they are still their voices ringing in my ear.

When I became Mayor, I made sure that I came to the Prep as my first public appearance as Mayor and it was my last public appearance on my final day as well. The Prep has been so important to me. When I was on City Council, many constituents didn’t know where I went to college but they all knew I went to the Prep. That Prep name, that Prep reputation, the authenticity of what this school is and what the Jesuits have built, is embedded in this city. It’s not just the buildings but a culture that 17th & Girard represents.

When I received a call from Prep President John Marinacci telling me that I had been selected for the Hall of Excellence, it was one of the greatest honors of my life. I’ve been very fortunate to have gotten other awards while I was in office and some after office, but this one in particular is tremendously meaningful. My wife and daughter know what it means to me; they’ve heard too many Prep stories to recount. The Prep is a part of my family. The Class of 1975, which I think is well known and recognized as the best class to ever graduate from the Prep, is a great group of guys, and we look out for each other. We have an email chain of about 75 of us, almost close to half of the class. We go to events and activities together, we cut up like we were still in high school from time to time, but it’s all with love and affection. And if any one of us needs something, we know that a bunch of guys would show up.

When I talk to young people who are considering the Prep, one thing I tell them is that you become part of a much larger family. I’ve had innumerable experiences of running into somebody who was, you know, maybe 10 or 15 years older than me, 10 or 15 years younger than me, didn’t matter. The moment you recognize that you are both “Prep guys,” there’s an instant connection, an instant affection, there’s a smile, there’s a knowing, there’s a recognition that you are part of a very, very special group.

So it’s a great honor to be in the Hall of Excellence, to serve on the Board of Trustees, and to be a Prep graduate. And I’m very, very proud to say that “I’m a Prep guy.”