John PennJohn Penn, 95, of Grand Forks, ND, passed away Monday, November 16, 2009 at Valley Memorial Home Woodside Village.
John Penn, 95, of Grand Forks, ND, passed away Monday, November 16, 2009 at Valley Memorial Home Woodside Village.
Dr. John Stanley Penn was born January 11, 1914 in Portage, Wisconsin to William Penn and Alice (Inks) Penn. He was the youngest of five children. He attended public school in Black River Falls, Wisconsin.
Education was of extreme importance to him, and became the focus of his professional life. He earned his B.A. from Carroll College in History with a minor in Speech. He received his M.A. in Speech and his Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Public Address from the University of Wisconsin. He began his teaching career as a high school teacher in Baraboo, Wisconsin in 1936. Two years later, he was hired as the head of the Speech Department at the Muskegon, Michigan Senior High School. In 1940 he joined the University of North Dakota faculty as an assistant professor.
Dr. Penn took a hiatus from teaching from 1943-1946, when he joined the U.S. Navy and served as an officer in the South Pacific during World War II. He was a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves from 1946-1954.
When he returned from his military service overseas, he became an Associate Professor at UND. As a professor, he maintained high standards and demanded the best of his students. He became the chairman of the Speech Department, a position he held for 19 years.
The list of his accomplishments is great. He married Margaret (Hjortson) Thorleifson, who taught dance at UND. They lived in the middle of "fraternity row," at 2610 University Ave. for many years. He coached the UND debate team from 1940-1957. He developed UND's speech therapy program and was active in organizing the North Dakota Speech and Hearing Council. He originated negotiations with a commercial television corporation to activate an educational television station for the university.
Dr. Penn met and coordinated the visits to UND of John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. He developed and supervised the design and construction of two theater buildings on campus, the Burtness Theater and the Fritz Auditorium. He was a chairman and a member of innumerable committees at the University throughout his tenure there. He retired in 1979, but was often called upon for advice and assistance by various University presidents, even after retirement. He was a recipient of the Sioux Award in 1999.
Outside of his work at UND, he presented a number of papers at the Speech Association of America, and served two terms on the Grand Forks School Board and three years on the Board of Budget Review for Grand Forks. He was a long-time member of the Wranglers Club and the Elks Club and was honored as the Elk of the Year in Grand Forks in 1987.
He is survived by: sons-in-law Bob Sunderland and John Mason, nephews Bill Turner, Tom Penn, and Jim Penn, granddaughters Angela (Penn) Antinoro, Jill Sunderland, Kelsey Sunderland, Leslie Sunderland, and Tracey Woiwode, grandson Tom Woiwode, great-grandsons Dennis, Matthew, Christian, Christopher, and Ryan, and great-granddaughters Leslie, Hayley, and Michaela.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his sisters Mabel, Lois, and Marian, his brother Keith, his wife Margaret, his son Stan, and his daughters Leslie and Pamela.
Graveside Services are planned for 2:00 p.m., Thursday, November 19, 2009 at Memorial Park Cemetery of Grand Forks, ND.
A Memorial Service will also be held in late December in the Federated Church of Grand Forks and will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions should be sent to the UND foundation at 3100 University Ave, Stop 8157, Grand Forks, ND, 58202-8157.
Online guest registry available at www.amundsonfuneralhome.com
Arrangements are with Amundson Funeral Home of Grand Forks, ND.