Tony Penn

2021 Greater Tucson Leadership Tucson Man of the Year

By Mary Minor Davis

Tony Penn always makes time for his staff and donors. That is why, when he was planning to work from home one day, he instead went into the office at the urging of his chief development officer, Jeff Petrovic, for an important donor meeting.

Much to his surprise, his entire operations team, resource development department and recently retired Chief Impact Officer LaVonne Douville were there to share in the news that Greater Tucson Leadership had named him Man of the Year.

GTL’s Man of the Year is awarded to an individual who has contributed significant time, energy and spirit in the community beyond his professional life without regard to personal gain and whose recent contributions to the community have made a significant, positive impact on the quality of life for the community. It also acknowledges excellence demonstrated in leadership and rewards someone who is a positive influence and inspiration for others.

In his 10 years at United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, Penn has “led the effort to fight for education, financial wellness, equality and healthy communities for every person from birth to end of life,” wrote Alison Titcomb, United Way’s chief impact officer and senior VP for community development, when she nominated Penn. “He has bolstered our role as a community convener that enables us to form strategic partnerships, mobilize the best resources and be the catalyst for needed, positive change.”

Penn’s leadership was further demonstrated during the pandemic, Titcomb noted. United Way established the United for Southern Arizona COVID-19 Fund, which has raised more than $550,000 to provide more than 21,000 individuals and families with rental and mortgage assistance, food and diapers through collaboration with 29 local partner agencies.

Penn said United Way’s mission to serve more than 170,000 children, families and seniors is what drives him every day. He has served on the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Sun Corridor Inc., the Pima Community College Chancellor’s Advisory Council and the Tucson Airport Authority. Penn was chairman of the board with the Tucson Metro Chamber. In 2018, Penn was honored with the Father of the Year Award, presented by Father’s Day Council Tucson. Through all of his service, he’s been able to collaboratively build programs that address the needs and challenges of all ages. Some of these include the Women United affinity group, early literacy programs and the Young Leaders United for younger professionals. 

When Penn took over United Way, it was facing financial and management challenges that had tarnished its reputation and ability to carry out its mission. Working with the community, he turned the organization around and made it a leader in providing services to the underserved. 

“What impressed us all in those early days is how Tony set out to meet hundreds of people in this community and to learn about the needs, desires and aspirations of people to ensure he was using the wisdom of the community to forge the path for United Way,” wrote W. Mark Clark, president and CEO of Pima Council on Aging. “He continues to make sure that he is leading the organization with the voices of the community at the heart of decisions for United Way.”

United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona celebrates 100 years in 2022. To commemorate the anniversary, it has established the Centennial Endowment Fund with a goal of reaching $25 million.

“An endowment of this size will support our community impact for the next 100 years,” Penn said. “Ensuring that our United Way is thriving and sustained for the future of Tucson and Southern Arizona is the legacy I would like to leave behind.”

“Tony has brought United Way through many challenges and has seized on opportunities to make Tucson and Southern Arizona a better place, even in the face of a global pandemic,” said John C. Amoroso, executive director of The David and Lura Lovell Foundation. “He leads efforts to convene community members to work together to address our difficult problems, and he continues to raise resources from multiple sources to ensure our community will thrive well beyond his time.”

Penn said he is grateful for the support of his wife, Linda, and for GTL acknowledging the dedication that he puts into his work daily.

“It is as humbling as it is gratifying to receive this honor. Tucson has been good to us and it is a privilege to pay it        forward.

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