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Honoring the Legacy of AU Alum Dr. Penn and Phi Delta Kappa (PDK)

December 20, 2019

In 1968, Dr. Thomas L. Penn was one of 66 candidates inducted into American University’s charter chapter of Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) International. PDK International was established in 1906 as a professional education honor society dedicated to supporting teachers and education leaders throughout the arc of their careers.

Dr. Penn, who recently passed away, served on the first executive board of AU’s PDK chapter nearly every year since being inducted, and he was the only charter member who remained an active chapter member throughout his life. Dr. Penn was serving as president of the American University Chapter when he passed away this past October.

Dr. Penn’s remarkable life-long membership and extensive contributions are a significant part of the history of PDK at American University. He became the first African American president of the American University Chapter in 1971, and he managed a successful two-year educational partnership between AU and the William F. Bolger Management Academy. Dr. Penn also helped establish PDK chapters at Howard University, the University of the District of Columbia, and Virginia Tech.

Dr. Penn was born and raised in Brunswick County, Virginia. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Paul’s College and a Master’s Degree from Virginia State University. Additionally, Dr. Penn earned a Masters of Arts degree and a Doctor of Education degree from American University.

PDK continues to be a strong organization on AU’s campus, recently launching new programming that support current and aspiring educators. The newly commenced Educators Rising Collegiate program provides future educators (i.e., undergraduates) with access to a variety of professional development opportunities and career building activities. Members engage in discussions around hot-button topics in education, reflect on ways their actions can make an impact at the local level, and prepare for real-life, K-12 classroom experiences.

Tamir Harper, who is an education undergraduate student, serves as AU’s Educators Rising chapter president and interns at the PDK International headquarters . He finds it deeply satisfying to see firsthand the positive impact the program has on future educators.

Any student who wants to learn more about PDK and/or the Educators Rising Collegiate program, please attend an interest session on January 22, 2020 from 6:00–7:30 p.m. in the Mary Graydon Building. More information about the interest session will be announced in January.