A record crowd of more than 600 people showed up to honor C.R. “Chuck” Pennoni ‘63, ‘66, Hon. ‘92, as Drexel University’s 52nd Business Leader of the Year in an inspiring ceremony December 1 at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue.
The event raised more than $400,000 for scholarships and program support for students in Drexel’s LeBow College of Business. As the founder and head of Pennoni Associates Inc., an engineering firm with more 700 employees that practices in the U.S. and abroad, Pennoni is a major figure in the Philadelphia business community, but he has also played a tremendous role at his alma mater.
While serving on the Board of Trustees in a time of challenge and transition, Pennoni served as President and CEO during 1994 and 1995. He accepted just $1 a year in salary, dedicating the rest to scholarships. Pennoni went on to serve as chairman of the Trustees from 1997 to 2003. He continues to serve as a Trustee. In 2003, The Pennoni Honors College that year was named for him and his wife Annette.
“Chuck helped stabilize the University’s finances and operations,” University President Dr. Constantine Papadakis told the crowd at the event. “When I arrived in 1995, he handed over the reigns of an institution that was ready to succeed again.”
When considering just how far Drexel has come since then, and how significant the University is to the region, consider an Econsult Corporation survey cited by Dr. Papadakis that estimated the University generates nearly $1.6 billion in economic impact on the five-county Philadelphia metropolitan area.
“Chuck Pennoni is an inspiration to our students and faculty and great friend to Drexel University,” said LeBow College Dean George Tsetsekos. “That friendship continues today with the establishment of a scholarship in his name, funded by the proceeds of this event. The scholarship will provide support to honor students in LeBow College of Business.”
Pennoni’s immigrant parents had little or no education, but they gave him the values that helped him to succeed: pride in his work, honesty and the love of family. He said that when he decided to start his own engineering firm, in 1966, he was warned that he was “too honest.”
“I took it as a challenge,” Pennoni said.
It can safely be said that he met that challenge. His company has offices in seven states, as well as abroad, and has posted 40 consecutive years of profit.
Pennoni described the “the basic tenants for a successful career” as being: focus, optimism, courage, teaming, communication, and relentless preparation.
“These goals, along with honesty and integrity, are truly the secret to success,” he said.
Pennoni’s speech capped an exciting event that began with the master of ceremonies, Christopher Woehrle, acting senior vice president of institutional advancement, driving into the ballroom on a scissor lift in homage to Pennoni’s industry.
The co-chairs of the Business Leader of the Year Committee were Kathleen Chimicles, chair, Dean’s Advisory Board, LeBow College of Business, Nicholas DeBenedictis, chairman and president, Aqua America, Inc. and Charles Pizzi, president and CEO, Tasty Baking Company.