Thankful Thursday: The Penny Edition

by - Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm taking a page out of Ali's book this morning and borrowing her "Thankful Thursday" series in hopes that it will boost my mood today.

Last night was Penny's memorial service at Maryland, and while it certainly wasn't as emotionally tough for me as the funeral, I still woke up this morning feeling a little glum. So I decided that instead of being sad all day, I would flip the switch and be thankful instead. After all, my motto moving on from the funeral was "more happy times than sad times."

I'm thankful that I got to know Penny as well as I did during my three and a half years at Maryland and I'm thankful we stayed so close after graduation.


Penny was a great teacher, mentor and most importantly, friend. I was lucky enough to be one of a very small group of kids to take her "fast track" intro to reporting class as a freshmen. At the time, most kids didn't take that class until they were sophomores, except for a select few who had really rocked their first semester on campus. I was lucky enough to be one of those kids.

In her class, she gave me my fair share of F's on assignments. At the journalism school, if you misspelled a proper noun, made a typo in an address, etc. it was an automatic F no matter how great the rest of the story was.

I once got an F because I typed an address as 123 NW A Street, instead of 123 A Street NW (in DC those are very, very different things). But despite my F's, I still managed to pass her class with an A.

But more important than a great grade, I had found a great mentor. I constantly popped into her office to say, "hi" or more often to stress/vent about internship and job decisions. Penny was a great sounding board and gave honest, practical advice all the time. She helped pave the road to a ton of great opportunities for me, and that didn't end when I graduated.

She continued to bring me back to campus to speak to her classes about using social media since it's what I did/do in my current job. We'd stay in touch through email, and I knew I could reach out to her and ask her advice on anything I needed. When I'd visit her classes, we'd grab lunch in between and catch up on life.

Last night at the memorial service her husband read a passage from one of her journals, where she talked about being scared, not so much of being sick, but of not living life to the fullest and not getting to accomplish all she wanted. She wrote that she was scared that there would be no legacy to remember her.

I was so surprised hearing those words because if anyone left a legacy at the journalism school, it was Penny. She was the rock that professors and students alike turned to for advice and guidance, and her legacy certainly lives on in all of the students whose lives she touched.

So while I miss her immensely and feel like there's a giant sad hole in my heart, I'm going to try to focus more on being thankful. Thankful that I got to spend the time I did with her. Thankful that I learned so much and grew so much as a person because of her guidance. Thankful that her family was willing to share her with us even when she was sick because they knew we needed her too.

And I'll do my small part, whatever that may be, to make sure her legacy lives on.

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