A leading lady with a musical mind

Introducing the leading lady

19-2-_page_07-leading-ladyJoe Dennis

Senior Reporter


Joan Penney, new associate vice president of advancement and development director, views her career in the arts as great preparation to connect donors to the needs of students and faculty.

Born at Providence Hospital in Everett and growing up on an 80-acre third generation dairy farm in Marysville, Penney considers herself a Washingtonian who was raised with a strong work ethic.

Through her love of music as a signer and choral conductor, Penney has made great strides in the musical world and has performed in many concert halls such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Shostakovich Hall and the Stravinsky Hall.

“My mom made sure that I listened to classical music like famous pianist Van Cliburn,” Penney said. “My brothers, on the other hand, were listening to 1960s rock’ n’ roll, and with television broadening, there were always musical groups on variety shows. Whether it was The Andy Williams Show, The Partridge Family or The Lawrence Welk Show, all of them had music specials.”

After attending Seattle University and Western Washington University, Penney earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and vocal performance as well as different certifications in group fitness and K-12 teaching.

According to Penney, she wanted to move from instruction to advancement. Finishing a certification program in non-profit leadership from the University of Illinois, Penney soon came across an opening for the advancement position at Pierce College. As an administrator, Penney is inspired by seeing students find themselves in the educational process.

During her first week at Pierce College, Penney was focused on meeting and interviewing Pierce employees, student leaders and community members. She plans to attend community events and meet existing partners of Pierce, including donors and Foundation board members. Her focus is to specifically connect faculty and curriculum, along with the interactions between faculty and students, back to the community so the donors know what is taking place at both Pierce College campuses.

“My first week here I interviewed 16 people. This week is 18 and next week I hope to have about 22-23 people on the list,” Penney said. “Just to go, visit and learn about their work. What the Pierce culture is on both campuses, and how I can bring momentum to the good work that’s already going on.”

Penney has worked in advancement before, doing an $18 million project at Skagit Valley College on the decade old McIntyre Hall Performing Arts and Conference Center. She is working with the advancement team on bringing new ideas toward upcoming events at Pierce College.

Having cultural competency is an important skill set to Penney, especially when dealing with cultural adversity. In the world of music, Penney has had to face nationalism. During her time at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, Penney dealt with a vocal coach who hated Americans.

“Studying as a singer under a vocal coach who absolutely hated Americans was quite difficult, especially with the lingering anti-Semitism in the air, given the German that I sang with had a Jewish east-coast influence which was a great concern to him,” Penney said. “It was a very important experience for me to have as a young adult in shaping the understanding of global issues as well as my self-awareness of dealing with situations like that.”

Penney has done an innumerable amount of tours in Europe; as a result, her advocacy for arts and humanities is stronger because of these experiences. In her spare time, she spends time with her golden lab, Bailey, as well as gardening and running. Penney finds fitness to be quite crucial in her daily schedule.

“Fitness is very important. I’ve been a group fitness and personal fitness trainer, and as I look at the Affordable Care Act everybody’s personal lifestyles are going to impact the budget,” Penney said. “I hope to find a running group and gym that suits my fitness interests.”


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A leading lady with a musical mind

by admin time to read: 3 min