1052. Using Her Talents as Author, Journalist and Philanthropic Executive
“I was working at the Miami affiliate for PBS as the producer for Arts and Culture with a lot of hands-on work, and I loved every minute of it. But I had an experience while working there that was life changing. Just before getting this job, I was doing some freelance work and did a project with Burger King headquarters. They reached out to me, after I started my producer job, to see if I wanted to come and do in-house communications for them––at 4 times the salary of what I was making at the TV studio. I am not exaggerating! Four times my current salary made a big difference to our young family, so I took the job. I went to Burger King on the first day and they took me into a screening room, sat me down with a projector and a lot of “films” about Burger King, and that was how I was supposed to spend my day: learning what they had already done with their in-house communications and what their messaging was. At about four o’clock that afternoon, I called my husband Ray and said ‘I can’t do this. This is just not ever going to be where my heart is. I can’t write about hamburgers every day.’ And I quit that job at the end of my first day. Fortunately. the TV station took me back. But I learned a life lesson: you have to do what you love. You have to be able to get up every day and be excited about what you are doing, or you can’t be your best. That was a major turning point for me.”
Penelope McPhee is an author, journalist and philanthropic executive. She is President Emeritus of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in Atlanta, GA, where she served as president from 2004 until her retirement in February 2021. From 1996 to 2004, she served as vice president and chief program officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, FL. A national leader in the arts, she joined Knight Foundation in 1990 to launch its Arts and Culture Program.
Penny has also had a distinguished career as an author and television producer. She co-authored “Martin Luther King Jr., A Documentary: Montgomery to Memphis,” which was recognized in 1980 as one of the “Best Books of the Decade” by the American Library Association. Her 1986 book, “King Remembered,” received the New York State Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom. Her PBS documentaries and performance programs won five Emmys, as well as prestigious awards from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Association of Television Program Executives.
Penny has a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and graduated with honors from Wellesley College.
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