Larry Penley brings educational and managerial background to Board of Regents

Since his childhood, Arizona Board of Regents member Larry Penley has had a steady dose of managerial experience.

“My father was a small business owner,” he said. “I learned a great deal from my father about customer service, the kind of hard work that he demonstrated as a small business owner, and as well, I found myself in various leadership roles in organizations that I was a part of.”

Now, Penley is reprising his leadership role, this time as the newest regent on the Arizona Board of Regents. Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Penley to the board following the resignation of Mark Killian.

His past experience includes both leadership and educational roles.

“I worked at a Boy Scout camp, and beginning when I was 13 I started out teaching Morse code, and went on to manage the trading post, and then ultimately to manage all the academic and scout programs at the camp,” Penley said.

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Penley, who was born in Virginia but grew up in Tennessee, attended Wake Forest University as an undergraduate majoring in psychology. He also competed with and coached the debate team while he earned his master's degree in communications. He received his Ph.D from the department of management within the business school at the University of Georgia.

Penley also said he has a strong interest in Latin American culture and international understanding. He learned Spanish, and took teaching positions at Monterrey Tech in Mexico and the Universidad de Carabobo in Venezuela. He also worked with the Center for Latin American Studies during his time at ASU, and promoted more international engagement within the business school at ASU.

“I also have a collection of folkloric art from various locations in South America,” he said. “When I get a chance, I read the newspapers, both from Spain and from certain locations in South America.”

As dean of the School of Business at ASU, Penley said his proudest moment was overseeing William P. Carey’s endowment of the school, which transformed it into the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Now, as a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, Penley said he has a clear idea of the problems that Arizona faces from an educational standpoint.

“Higher education matters, in my view, for the quality of our democracy, for the quality of our labor force and for the state’s prosperity,” he said.

Penley said he feels the levels of educational attainment and freshman persistence need to be raised.

“We also need to take what is already high quality education in this state and improve it further — to raise the quality of the educational experience, both from a point of view of critical thinking skills, from a point of view of fundamental mathematics and communication skills, and also from a point of view of disciplinary knowledge,” he said.

Beyond business and education history, Penley is also a devout Roman Catholic and part of the parish that encompasses St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix. At one point, he served on the Finance Committee of the Phoenix Catholic Diocese.

He said he is also personally invested in the sustainable use of energy and environmental resources, which he writes about in his blog “Penley on Education and Energy."

During his time at ASU, Penley worked with several faculty members who said they feel they can testify to his performance and character.

Amy Hillman, the current dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business, worked under Penley while he was dean.

“I feel he set a very compelling vision for the business school and how we would advance, and was very successful in getting the business school and getting more faculty and students to come into the organization,” Hillman said.

She said she thinks his most important contribution to the business school was creating a culture that promoted excellence, as well as changing the mindset about the business school and ASU in general, which elevated it from what was then seen as a commuter school.

Hillman also worked with Penley when he was the president of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, which was recently integrated with the W. P. Carey School under Hillman’s leadership.

“The extraordinary care that he showed as a leader for his organization, and the loyalty he showed to it was really outstanding,” she said. “That was a very challenging situation to be in as the president of Thunderbird and at the same time to be working with an organization of which he was an emeritus.”

Dennis Hoffman, who is currently the director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at the W. P. Carey School also worked closely with Penley. During Penley’s tenure at ASU, Hoffman was a faculty member in the Department of Economics and then Associate Dean for Graduate Programs.

He wrote in an email that Penley’s ability to set lofty goals and position people to achieve them, garner resources and foster connections with the business community were key in elevating the business school to one of the top fifteen among public schools, and top thirty nationwide.

He was particularly impressed with Penley’s facilitation of Carey’s gift to the school.

“Perhaps my fondest memory was when we were informed that Bill Carey had decided to name the school with a gift that set records when it was announced,” he wrote. “It was a great feeling of accomplishment and reward for the hard work we all put in, but in fact it happened because of the dedication and leadership of Dean Penley.”

Hoffman wrote in an email that he feels Penley’s experience in dealing with external groups, faculty labor markets, donors and decreasing funding make him a great fit for the Board of Regents.

“Larry strongly believes that developing a strong organizational culture is the key to a successful enterprise,” he wrote. “He will bring humor, intellect and a drive to achieve lofty goals at his new position on the Arizona Board of Regents.”


Reach the reporter at Arren.Kimbel-Sannit@asu.edu or follow @akimbelsannit on Twitter.

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