Penelope Perkins was born in the Bronx in 1923. Her father was a career diplomat (first ambassador to NATO) and her mother raised three children. Her paternal grandfather was an art collector; Penny recalls wanting to be an artist since she was a child.
For high school, Penny attended Chatham Hall, an all-girls college-preparatory boarding school. After graduating, she attended Bennington College, where she became interested in architecture, especially in rehabbing old buildings. During her sophomore year, she worked at the Union Settlement Association in East Harlem as an art teacher.
Penny moved to Pennsylvania after marrying and settled in Chester County, where she still resides today. She became an elementary school art teacher at Westtown Friends School, where her children attended school. She feels that the most important thing you can teach children in art is how to observe. An art teacher needs to know that everyone sees things a little bit differently.
She became involved at Moore while her daughter was a student at the college. She became a board member in the early 1970s because she was worried about the state of the college. Many changes took place during the years that she’s been involved.
Her most valued personal interest is in education. At Moore, she has always been very interested in improving the facilities and in having the college use the facilities to their fullest potential. She feels very strongly that single gender education needs to be maintained because there are so few schools that offer it anymore. The biggest projects that took place while she was on the board were moving into the new building (Wilson Hall) and renovating the existing structures, like Stahl Hall.
Penny became chair of the board of managers in 1999, the same year that Happy Fernandez became president. Some of the efforts that Penny has been involved with include the Visionary Woman Award, which Penny feels has benefited the college. The Goldie Paley and Levy Galleries have also been some benefit to the college and she has seen them improve over the years. Penny is particularly happy with the success of the commercial arts program. She has always recognized the need to offer more business classes in order to equip the students with the knowledge necessary to survive as artists.
Penny feels that Moore is doing a good job now of teaching art teachers, which is an interest of hers. She is pleased that Moore is giving students the opportunity to student teach because it gives them the experience necessary to get good jobs. She has stayed involved with Moore for so many years through her hopes that things would improve and she is very pleased with the progress they have made, particularly with the facilities, and expanding some programs, like the business end of the arts field, while eliminating programs that are no longer needed. She also thinks the college needs to be flexible enough to respond to the needs of the current student body.
As chair of the board of managers, Penny was instrumental in getting a student representative on the board of managers. Penny was chair of the board of trustees until recently; she is cutting back on her involvement with the board because of a severe hearing loss.
Penny thinks that Moore needs to keep pushing in order to keep up with the future as it comes. Although it is not necessary to be the forerunners of everything, the college needs to strive to be the best that it can. What Moore offers that other colleges do not is single gender education. Nearly every artistic interest that students may have can be met at Moore.
Moore is aiming in the right direction as far as teaching students to be leaders. Students need self-confidence and Moore is small enough to give students the opportunity to build self-confidence through hands-on opportunities.
The legacy that she hopes to leave behind is “a school that’s operable.” She thinks that “they (Moore’s Board of Managers) have come pretty close” to achieving this. She feels that Moore is in an ideal location and that the administration is just learning to take advantage of this. She is very pleased now, after all the progress she has seen, to say, “There’s Moore College!”