Not since Ben Franklin has an individual worked as hard as Arlen Specter has to improve Pennsylvania. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980 and represented Pennsylvania for 30 years, longer than anyone in the state's history. Bright, pragmatic, fiercely independent, and most comfortable in the political center, Specter spent much of his tenure in the U.S. Senate warning of the dangers of political intolerance. His vote could be one of the hardest to get, and often the one that made the difference. During his storied political career, he served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, participated in the confirmation hearings of 14 Supreme Court nominees, and was Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, among other committee appointments.
A lawyer by training, Specter's career in public life began as an influential young investigator of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, where he originated the single-bullet finding. Before law school, he served in the Korean War as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. During his last term in office, he was selected by Time magazine as one of the nation’s Ten Best Senators.
After graduating from high school, he first attended the University of Oklahoma, before winning a scholarship to study at the University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, he majored in International Relations and was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. In 1951, he earned his bachelor's degree from Penn, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.
In 2011, Specter was appointed to his alma mater's faculty as a Visiting Professor of Law. In this role, he taught an upper-level course on the relationship between Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, focusing on the separation of powers and the confirmation process. Notably, for this course the National Jurist named him one of the "23 professors to take before you die."
Following his death in October 2012, many members of the Penn community were quick to honor his legacy. “Arlen Specter was a giant in American politics, dedicating his life to public service,” said Michael A. Fitts, Dean of Penn Law. “He had unsurpassed experience in how Congress worked in relationship to the White House and the courts, and he was committed to passing this knowledge on to our students in his course on the separation of powers; Arlen continued to teach here until just over a week ago . . . We will miss him greatly.”