Memorial Service for Penny Bender Fuchs, 1962-2012

Memorial Service for Penny Bender Fuchs, 1962-2012

Update: A memorial service for Penny Bender Fuchs was held on Wednesday, September 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Memorial Chapel on the University of Maryland College Park campus. A memorial award fund has been created to honor Penny. Click here for more information.

COLLEGE PARK – Penny Bender Fuchs, a veteran journalist who became one of the most honored teachers at the University of Maryland, died Friday. She had been fighting breast cancer since 2005.

Fuchs, 50, came to the Philip Merrill College of Journalism as a graduate student in 1999 and rose through the ranks to become interim associate dean of academic affairs last spring.

She earned the respect and affection of both colleagues and students with her trademark efficiency, straight talk and sense of humor. Her ability to both challenge and care for her students led to unprecedented honors on campus. Between 2005 and 2012, seven students chosen as Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars named her their top faculty mentor. No other teacher has won this honor more than three times.

“Professor Fuchs taught me to consume news like a journalist, write like a journalist and act like a journalist,” said Josh Fendrick, a 2012-2013 Merrill Scholar.

“Penny Fuchs was beloved by her students and colleagues,” said Merrill College Dean Lucy Dalglish. “She had a profound effect on the lives of everyone at the college.”

Penny’s Lasting Influence
On Twitter, young journalists, colleagues, friends and family posted moving tributes to an amazing woman who touched hundreds of lives. We’ve captured their memories in this Storify.

Fuchs had served the college full-time since 2003 as a lecturer, director of assessment, scholarship coordinator, and director of career placement and professional development. She also served for six years as executive director of the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors, based at the college.

Before joining Maryland, Fuchs spent 15 years reporting and editing. For nearly a decade she reported on Congress and the executive branch as a Washington correspondent for Gannett News Service and a reporter and assistant managing editor at States News Service. She covered the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton and the fundraising activities of Vice President Al Gore.

She also worked for the The (Newport News) Daily Press, the Lynchburg News & Advance, The (Harrisonburg) Daily News Record, and The Hopewell News, all in Virginia. She had a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s degree in journalism from Maryland.

Fuchs was married to Michael Fuchs, an attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Their daughter, Kathryn, 17, is a freshman at the University of Delaware, and their son, Jonathan, 14, a sophomore at Blake High School in Silver Spring.

Update:A memorial service will be held Friday, Sept. 7, at Grace Episcopal Church, 1607 Grace Church Road, Silver Spring, Md. Her family will greet guests beginning at 10 a.m., with the service starting at 11 a.m.

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78 Comments

  1. Posted September 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    It was my honor to hire Penny at States News Service and connect her to the right people when she wanted to join the roster at Maryland’s J-school. But while I talked her up, big time, I never anticipated what a huge and positive influence she would have on the place. She did so much for and meant so much to so many students. She was a major force for good at Merrill. She will be missed enormously.

  2. Kelly Fong
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Penny pushed me to be the best journalist I could be, molded me into the determined and curious learner I am today, and made sure I fully embraced every door that opened for me. She was caring, kind, and always professional. She was my teacher, defender, and guidance counselor for four years. It’s an understatement to say she and her neverending words of wisdom and encouragement will be missed. The only professor I knew who cared enough to check on me when I was 3,000 miles away interning for the j-school, Penny will always be remembered as one of the few consistent guiding forces in my undergraduate career. Rest in peace, Penny.

  3. Brigid Schulte
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I worked with Penny at States News Service in the early 1990s. It was a crazy place – lots of work for papers all around the country, phone calls on everything from the Alaskan fishing industry to legislation that would affect power transmission lines in New Jersey. Lots of deadlines, phones ringing, piles of papers everywhere, people rushing, paychecks bouncing … and in all this madness, Penny radiated calm. She had such grace and confidence under pressure. She worked hard and knew her stuff. She took no guff. And she could crack wise with the impossibly perfect dry and spot-on observation that could defuse any situation and leave everyone either in stitches or suppressing knowing giggles. I was lucky to sit across from her. I was lucky to have known her. I was lucky to be able to call her my friend. What a spirit. I know she will live on in the family, friends and students she loved so well.

  4. Eric Zanot
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, Penny. Don’t flunk me; it was an innocent typo –honest.

  5. Eric Zanot
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    We are all fortunate to have known Penny. We are all diminished by per passing.

  6. Marie Lindberg
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Penny was helpful and kind. Her advice and encouragement were exactly what I needed when I was struggling to get over my nerves about the internship application process and had tons of questions! I am thankful to her for helping me through these times.

    My last writing assignment of my senior year was to complete a Q&A for my magazine class, so I interviewed Penny about journalism and mentoring students. This was right as she was giving up her post as an adviser. I’d like to share her last response, when I asked her if she had anything more she wanted to add to the interview:

    “I would just stress to students that they shouldn’t be too worried about the future because you have no clue how you’re going to change or how your life situations are going to change. We just have to live life and not worry too much about things that are too far in the future and not really in our control. I have complete faith that people in this college are very bright and very talented and will all find jobs. They might be different types of jobs than they thought when they came in thinking they would be anchors on ESPN or going through the clothes closets for Cosmo, but everybody’s going to find their niche. They just need to be confident enough.”

    She was just helping me complete a school assignment, but this sure did make me feel better too.

    Class of 2011.

  7. Janki Patel
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I work in the Student Services Office in the Journalism school, so I worked with Penny from time to time. She was so nice and sincere, and I always enjoyed talking to her. Thank you Penny for making me feel more welcomed in the Journalism School.

  8. Hannah Morgan
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Penny was my first journalism professor, and the only one whose name still makes my heart race when I hear it. Penny pushed me harder than any professor ever has, and is the reason I am still in journalism today. Thank you, Penny.

  9. Beth Ward
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    As an undergraduate I was lucky enough to receive Penny’s advice and encouragement when applying for internships and eventually my first journalism job. It’s hard to imagine the J-school without her. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.

    Class of 2006

  10. Kate Yanchulis
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    As a journalism professor, Penny took on many personas. Playing the police chief, the politician, the company spokeswoman, she put on her best dramatic performances while students peppered her with interview questions for the latest reporting assignment. But her best role by far was that which came naturally – teacher. With her care and guidance, she helped shape us into budding reporters with a passion for our work and for life. Penny, you will be missed.

  11. Heather Bartholomew
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Penny was a wonderful teacher, mentor and friend. I will certainly miss her presence and passion.

    I remember the first News Writing and Reporting class (J201) that I took with her – which I remember to be more like journalism bootcamp. She would definitely use that red pen to scribble over everything I wrote – but to this day, I can certainly credit her for making me a better writer. She had that passion for journalism that she wanted to share with each of us – and helped all of us through the writing of resumes, our internships, and all of the other journalism classes we would take before graduation. Even in the most stressful of moments, she made time for her students – including me who needed that pep talk to get through it all.

    Penny always had a soft spot in my heart – and we certainly bonded over the shared breast-cancer-in-the-family experience. Because my mother had battled breast cancer, I always wanted to check in on the ever-so-strong Penny as she was battling and healing. It was certainly a bonding experience.

    After finding out that I went to Blake High School, and when Katie was starting there, she always wanted to chat all about it. She always was excited to share both Katie and Jonathan’s experiences, and was certainly proud of them. It was great to see her light up every time we talked!

    I am sad for all of our losses, but know that Penny is smiling down upon all of us – and making sure that we have good spelling, grammar and punctuation in the process.

  12. Jody Beck
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I have my job because of Penny. I was a lecturer at the journalism college, but I was being laid off because of budget problems in May 2003. She told me about a job she had applied for and suggested that I do so, too. Of 100 or so applicants, we were both among the five finalists. She ended up withdrawing when Maryland offered her a full-time job. I’m not sure I would have been so kind as to tell someone else about a job that I wanted, but that was typical Penny. She told me that her proudest achievements were her children, but she loved her students and fellow faculty members, too.

  13. Chris Callahan
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Penny made a difference in the lives of so many students fortunate enough to have her as a teacher, an adviser, a mentor, a role model. Her passion for her students was unmatched, and an inspiration to those of us blessed with the opportunity to work with her. Our hearts go out to Michael, Katie and Jonathan, and Penny’s extended College Park family. You will be missed more than you could have imagined.

  14. Tamara M. Henry
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I consider myself fortunate to have worked with Penny this summer. It had been a year since I taught a Jour201 course but I had little trouble jumping right in with Penny’s guidance. I get tickled when I remember how she sweet talked the Session 1 students into agreeing they needed MORE news quizzes, not fewer. I am certain she acquired those skills being both a parent and a journalist! I will miss Penny!

  15. Ruben Gomez
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Penny was instrumental in guiding me during my college career. I considered her advice invaluable, and am grateful for her impact!

  16. Steve Crane
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Penny, for everything you gave all of us: Tough love when called for, clarity and focus and commonsense when it was in short supply elsewhere, and always, always, always, even when things weren’t going well for you, a smart-aleck joke and a laugh I can stil hear years later and a glowing smile I will always see when I think of you. Thank you Michael and Jonathan and Katie for sharing her with us.

  17. Elissa
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Penny helped me find my very first magazine internship, at a national magazine. She put in a call and next thing I knew, my parents were reading my byline as they sipped their coffee. She was a great help to me as I got started on my career, and I am very sorry to hear that she’s gone. My thoughts are with her family.

  18. Hong Zhao
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Penny and I only met once, but this time will leave me warm and beautiful memory for my whole life. I came from China to UMD as a visiting scholar. Penny is the first teacher who received me. I remember that on my first day to the campus, she talked with me in her office, showed me around the building, and then wrote down some important notes and gave them to me so as to let me get familiar with the university as soon as possible. Just on the second day, she asked a librarian to contact with me in order to help me get to know the library and the resources. She is so considerate and kind that after seeing her, I didn’t feel lonely any more in the new place. Now my life in UMD has been on its regular track. I have planned to visit Penny and give her a special Chinese gift to express my thanks. But to my sadness, I can not see her anymore. This is an irreparable lifelong regret. Thinking of this, I can’t control my tears. Penny, I miss you!

  19. Alicia BrooksWaltman
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Penny sat across from me when we worked at States News Service, in D.C., and she was a hoot! Always organized and prepared to my disorganized and broke, she fondly called me “minnie the mooch” when I hit her up for a lunch loan, which believe me, was often! A very avid fan of her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University, and a huge fan of her husband’s hometown neighborhood, Sheepshead Bay, she constantly had something new and fun to talk about. She was a dynamite journalist and editor, and assisted me often with the benefit of her broad journalistic knowledge and street smarts. I am so sorry to hear she’s gone, I really can’t believe it. She was witty and fun and bright. My deepest sympathies to her family.

  20. John Wist
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing journalist, educator and person. Penny’s door was always open for advice, constructive criticism or just a casual chat. She pushed us to be the best storytellers in the business and did it with class, elegance and grace. I know she was a blessing in my life and in so many others. Penny will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.

  21. Ryan Guirlinger
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    On a Merrill College faculty filled with award winners, Penny was always the students’ star, or at least that’s how most of us saw her. Though I later worked with her regularly as the internship coordinator and a mentor during my undergraduate studies, I first met Penny in 2003, when she was my instructor for the infamous Journalism 201 class, the so-called “boot camp” or “weed-out course” of journalism majors at Maryland. At that time, Penny only taught one section of it to a group of second-semester freshman who passed certain requirements to take the course a semester earlier than the majority of other students. I don’t remember what the criteria were, but those of us who qualified could have felt we were decently special for having done so. That kind of attitude didn’t last the first week in Penny’s class. I clearly remember that the first and only “F” that I received on an academic assignment in my entire life was courtesy of her strict and humbling—but fair—enforcement of her unwavering insistence on total factual accuracy, down to the smallest detail (e.g. one letter in a name). Another teacher might have rewarded the otherwise good effort without failing the student’s entire work, but another teacher might not have cared as much about motivating her students. She was tough because she knew we could and would respond to it—in learning carefully to double- and triple-check every word I wrote, I never failed an assignment for her again. I worked harder than I ever had to earn a B from her, something in which I took more pride than any higher final grade I could have received in any other class. Years later and though I work in a different field, I still have her to thank for instilling in me that same desire for accuracy in everything I write.

    Of course, once she put down the editing pen, she was always ready with a smile and a laugh, whether during class or in her office. Her desire to see her students succeed carried over into career support, and she was always thrilled to hear of the next internship or job that one of us had landed. I have nothing but fond memories of her, and there’s sadness in my heart knowing she’s taught her last students. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.

    Ryan Guirlinger
    Class of 2006

  22. Chris Hanson
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I will remember Penny as one of the bravest and most decent people I ever knew; as a teacher who cared deeply enough about her students to demand the best from them;, as a colleague I came to depend upon for a smile and pat on the shoulder or heart-to-heart talk. I cannot imagine what Merrill will be like without her.

  23. Tim Herchenroeder
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I remember attempting to turn in an unedited (or slightly edited) log about my internship as part of Penny’s assignment for the summer. But she wanted me to put in more effort, so I met her in her office to discuss and she asked me to dig a bit deeper–to really give more than just a “once-over.” Her name is well-known at the school and the Washington region in general, this is very sad news and I wish the best for her family.

  24. Jackie Congedo
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Penny was such an asset to the UMD program. I’m just one of hundreds who have the privilege of saying I wouldn’t be where I am today without her guidance. Sad, sad day for Journalism, and Terps.

  25. Marlene Cimons
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    As an adunct, I never knew Penny quite as well as many of my teaching colleagues. Still, I often would pop into her office to say hello, and we often would trade stories about the perils of raising teenagers. (and where I had to try exceedingly hard not to allow that ever-present basket of sweets on her desk to distract me.) It was clear that family was everything to her. I was shocked at her passing; I’d never even known she was ill. She never spoke of it to me. Moreover, even though I never knew her as a teacher, I was aware of her glorious reputation and how much her students loved her. One of my former feature writing students, now in law school, wrote the following about her last night on Facebook. He said she was one of the few teachers “who could give me an F and make me laugh…at the same time.” Rest in peace, Penny, you left us way too soon.

  26. Lee Thornton
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    There was never–never–a time when Penny didn’t say something that was witty, wise, thoughtful, kind; when there wasn’t a bright smile and a hug after I’d left the college. She knew that I stood in absolute awe of her mentoring awards and her classroom teaching, which I’d observed. Young people carry memories of mentors for a lifetime and I know she’ll live in so many hearts forever. We were in touch, briefly, when I sent her an email. I never expected a response but, being Penny I guess, even so ill, she did respond. And I’ll keep that message always–a reminder of her grace.

    Lee Thornton

  27. Ron Yaros
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    When I arrived here five years ago, Penny was deep in her assessments of our courses and curriculum. She always wanted Merrill students to graduate with an education second to none. The tributes already posted exemplify how hard Penny worked to make that happen. Hundreds of additional tributes to Penny are now working in the field. Thank you, Penny, for the countless ways you have touched us all.

  28. Rafael Lorente
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    It’ the height of understatement to say that Penny will be missed. From her family to her students and so many in between, her presence has meant so much. Over the years, I learned so much about being a teacher from Penny. Nobody held students to a higher standard. And yet she did it in a way that left them gushing about her for years. I can’t count the number of times a CNS student would use her name when they talked to me about how a story should be reported, written or edited. Thank you Penny for being such a great reminder of why teaching is so important.

  29. Sue Kopen Katcef
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Penny truly epitomized you get as good as you give. And Penny gave a lot to the Merrill College of Journalism. There’s a piece of Penny woven into every piece of fabric that is the Merrill College quilt. A truly extraordinary legacy for a truly extraordinary individual. I will so miss her warmth, wit and wisdom. We have all been made richer for having had her as a part of our lives. We are so much poorer at having lost her. My thanks to Michael, Katie and Jon for having shared her with us. We were truly lucky.

  30. Katie
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Penny was a straight shooter, and very passionate. There are few jobs more important than teaching, and how many can say they directly helped their students obtain jobs afterward? Our success is very much because of Penny. I was thinking the other day how lucky I am to have had the opportunities to work with professionals in the D.C. Metro area. Thank you, Penny. Your work will not be forgotten.

  31. Adrianne
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I will miss you, Penny. You were selfless and strong, devoted and warm — a superstar teacher and a terrific friend. I really can’t add to the accolades already written here, but I did want to wish peace to your family, friends and colleagues. Good-bye, Penny. Put in a good word for us now and then.

  32. Sonia Dasgupta
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    It’s because of Penny that I’m teaching a class this semester.

    I’ve only known Penny since early 2011, but I watched her create a class for the students about hyperlocal journalism and watched her dedicate time to teach them and have them succeed. I saw the difference one class made for her students and had the privilege of mentoring those students with her for two semesters.

    I will miss her dearly. I hope her family can find some solace in the peace she must finally feel. Thinking about you Michael, Katie and Jonathan.

  33. Chris Harvey
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    So much has been written about Penny the teacher and administrator, and it is all true. She was an absolutely terrific teacher who cared deeply about this college and her students, and who worked very hard to make both successful. But what I loved most about Penny was how proud she was of her wonderful husband, Michael, who provided her with unswerving support; and how deep her love was for her amazing children, Katie and Jon. Penny had so many stories to share about her kids’ musical and theatrical gifts; about their funny interactions with their teachers; about their applications for college and summer programs. And to a parent often struggling to make the right choices for my own daughter, she gave me advice that often helped me to do the right thing. I loved talking to Penny, joking with Penny, sharing in her family’s successes and occasional foibles. I loved seeing her dance joyously at her 50th birthday party, as beautiful as a movie star in her slick up-do and slinky black dress, so moved by the tributes from her family and friends. I loved her wicked sense of humor and her well-placed one-liners, her winks at a not-always-just world. I will miss her tremendously, but I am so, so glad to have known her.

  34. Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Tough, kind, irreverent, whip smart; funny, flirtatious, with a twinkle in her eye–we all loved Penny, we all miss her, and we always will.

  35. Alan Goldenbach
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Penny was, and will always be, my role model as an instructor. She proved it was possible to leave one passion – the newsroom – for another – the classroom, and thrive. School, she said, was the last place she thought she’d land. She said she couldn’t imagine how fulfilling, rewarding and enjoyable the environment would be.

    Not only did Penny enjoy teaching, but, oh my, was she good at it. She was even better at teaching and inspiring people like me, trying to make the same transition she did. When she would sit in on my class, her nod of approval from the back of the classroom was heavenly affirmation. Penny’s approach to teaching the craft is evident in every single class I teach, and for that I am grateful. I will miss her, and hope she understood how much both students and colleagues admired her.

    -Alan Goldenbach

  36. Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s a sad moment when the college loses a trooper like Penny. I have had occasion to work with her on too few occasions, but her reputation traveled far. What she gave her students was legend. She was the kind of teacher/mentor that academia needs many more of. Her passing will leave a gaping hole in the psyche of the college.

  37. Valerie Bonk
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Penny was an absolute inspiration to many and she will be greatly missed. Her no nonsense attitude made me push myself in her classes and in my writing as a professional journalist. I’ve always been a perfectionist but she took it to a new level. Sending prayers to her family. Thank you so much for sharing her with the Merrill School for so many years.

  38. Kalyani Chadha
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    As I think of Penny, I am struck yet again by all that she did with so much seeming
    effortlessness, determination and grace. She always had a million balls in the air and never seemed to drop one. Yet even as she juggled so many things, her door was always open to students who lined up outside her office and it was evident from everything that she did, how much she cared about them, even if it meant an occasional dose of tough love ! As a friend and colleague too, she was always
    ready to listen, provide counsel or just laugh (which she loved to do) at the ironies of life. Penny was one of the bravest people I’ve ever encountered and Iwill miss her greatly. It still seems hard to imagine that we won’t see her brewing her usual cup of tea in that clear mug every morning but she will always be a part of the Merrill College and its legacy.

  39. Posted September 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I never really had the opportunity to get to know Penny very well, but her reputation spoke for itself. She was a constant presence in the College of Journalism, and her rapport with many students who did have the opportunity to learn from her was obvious. What a life; what a loss.

  40. Jad Melki
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I was Penny’s first RA when I started the doctoral program at UMD back in 2004, and she was an awesome mentor. I know students at the J-college will be missing her dearly.
    May she rest in peace.
    jad melki

  41. Arelis R. Hernández
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    When I realized I was on a path to flunk my first journalism class, I cried — like a baby. I’d never receive a grade lower than an A on anything but Penny Bender Fuchs gave me three (maybe more) fat F’s. After receiving the honor of fast-tracking through my journalism major, my surging self-esteem came to a screeching halt in Journalism 101, news writing and reporting. Anything lower than a C- would have me repeating the class.

    It was my moment of reckoning. I chose a profession that no one in my family understood; to the point that my father joked he would open a savings account just for me because he wasn’t sure journalism was a real or sustainable career. (That’s what happens in a family full of science nerds) I didn’t want him to be right but insecurity weighed heavy on me and for the first time, I thought he might be right. So, I cried, in Penny’s office. I was woefully unprepared, steeped in self-loathing and terrified of failure. She gave me a tissue and told me to sit up. Penny said my grades weren’t pretty and my writing needed work but then she asked me how bad I wanted it. So bad, I ached. That was what she wanted to hear. She told me what I needed to do and gave me a piece of foil-wrapped chocolate. At the end of the semester, Penny called me back into her office to show me my grade hiding the grin beneath her legendary no-nonsense countenance, a B-.

    After that, she helped me make every major career move in college. She handed me an application in 2007 for the New York Times student journalism institute. Again, I didn’t think I was qualified but at her urging, I mailed the application, cutting out my first and only newspaper clip out from the Diamondback at the post office and stuffing it in the envelope. Miraculously, I got in and the experience changed my professional life. She was the reason and I never stopped thanking her. Grabbing a chocolate from the basket in Penny’s office became my routine and excuse to spend time with her the next four years. Each success came with a big hug, smile and a reminder of how much I had doubted myself at the beginning. Apparently, she never did.

    Penny pushed me hard, hard enough, that now I am doing exactly what she told me I could always do. My prayers are with her husband and children, the loves of her life. I hope they know how singularly spectacular she was in life.

  42. Deb Nelson
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I’ll miss Penny’s wide smile of encouragement — and her angry squint of outrage over injustice. They’ll forever be in my heart. Both moved people to action, and the world’s a better place because of her.

  43. Rob Wells
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I admired Penny on many levels and was very grateful to have her guide me as I made my transition from the newsroom to academia. She had an intensity, a will to fight, which I saw in her battle with cancer. She consistently pushed us to set high standards for our students — “Really? An F for misspelling a name?” — and yet showed that such rigor was in the students’ best interests in the long run. She always found time to help me as I learned the ropes even with her many other responsibilities, including raising her children. She was the backbone of the Merrill College in so many ways and I’ll never forget her. Thank you for everything Penny, we won’t let you down.

    –Rob Wells

  44. Steven
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    One of the things that was most loved and feared about Penny was the fact that she held students to high standards and didn’t mince words about whether you were coming up short. What became so clear to me as I got to know her better and better was that those high expectations were all about students reaching their unrecognized potential. She wanted the best for every student, and I know she worked tirelessly to do what she could to make that happen. I went to Penny for advice after each internship offer, and again when I received my first job offer. Each time, she was mindful of my career aspirations and personal goals. When she asked me to join Merrill as an adjunct last semester, she provided the guidance and confidence I needed to get through my first teaching experience. I owe a lot to Penny and her generous spirit, and I am sure many alumni and adjuncts share that appreciation. Thank you for everything, Penny, the College will not be the same without you.

  45. Susan Moeller
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I’m stymied about where to start to talk about Penny: to talk about her natural gifts as an administrator who could both manage people and multi-task across projects; to talk about her keen intelligence and ever-on-target strategic assessments that served students so well in class and faculty so well in our direction of the College; to talk about her as the friend we all hope to have: funny, empathetic, interested, a great advice-giver if asked, a great listener if not, someone who focused on you when she was with you.

    Penny was always, always present. Even when swamped with work and life herself, she would turn her laser attention on to whatever you were saying, on whatever project you were presenting, on whatever problem you were wrestling with. And then she’d give her considered response, idea, solution, and it was always informed by her depth of experience, her moral and ethical standards, and her assessment of what was doable with the time and resources available.

    My children are roughly the same ages as hers–I have one starting college this fall and another in high school–and we would often stand in the hall, perch in the doorway of one of our offices, and talk in the faculty lounge about our kids’ triumphs and challenges, the unfairness of some of the bureaucratic and other impediments they faced, the thrills when those impediments were breached or otherwise worked around. She was never so sparkling as when she was relating a story about her children, who she so clearly loved so dearly and who gave her back so much.

    I will miss you every day, Penny. Thank you for being part of my life.

  46. Tracy Lucht
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I am so sorry to hear of Penny’s passing. My heart goes out to her family, friends, students and colleagues. There are people who make the world better simply by showing others what’s possible. Penny was one of those. She set an example I wanted to emulate. As a young doctoral student, I was inspired by her commitment; as a journalist, I was inspired by her humanity; and as a parent, I was inspired by the deep connection she had with her kids. She seemed to face the world so squarely, yet she never lost her warmth or sense of humor. I always left my conversations with Penny wanting to be more like her.

  47. David Oliver
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Penny, you helped me realize my true potential as a journalist and guided my writing and career opportunities in a way I didn’t know possible. Thank you for everything. Rest well.

  48. Katie Shaver
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I am so incredibly sad to hear of Penny’s passing. We sat next to each other as reporters at States News Service in 1991. She was one of the more experienced reporters there. As a neophyte right out of college, I looked up to Penny and learned so much from her. I’d listen to how she conducted interviews — always polite but always firmly pressing for more information. When she invited me to speak to her class this spring, it was immediately apparent what a great rapport she had with her students and how much they respected, admired and genuinely liked her. Our field has lost a wonderful teacher and friend.

  49. Carol L. Rogers
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Penny was and remains an example of the best that journalism – and we as people — have to offer. She was smart, funny, talented, demanding, compassionate — never willing to settle for second best but always willing to put in the extra effort to help her students and colleagues excel. She packed a full life into her all-too-brief time and she leaves a legacy that I hope will give her very special family comfort in the days and months ahead.

  50. Leslie Walker
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Penny had an innate gift for teaching and was so generous at sharing that gift with new faculty like me. I remain deeply appreciative of her advice when I was new and all the time she volunteered to help me. I loved guest lecturing in her classes, too, because I learned so much from her active questioning and uncanny ability to distill what was important. Her contribution to our college was beyond immense!

  51. Lucinda Fleeson
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Penny packed a full life into what turned out to be a too-short one. Her epitaph could read: She lived.

  52. Posted September 1, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Penny was totally dedicated to her craft and also to having her students succeed. And that dedication extended beyond graduation. If she saw you were passionate, committed and willing to do the work, you could count her in your corner.

    She took a keen interest in my education and career, from talking me up at an internship fair when I was an undergrad, to offering me invaluable advice after I had been in the field for a few years. I’m thankful we had an opportunity to reconnect last year when I visited one of her classes. She was focused on making sure her students could find opportunities and wanted to talk about ways they could forge career paths in a rapidly changing media landscape.

    Hopefully we can each find a way to pay homage to the her selfless dedication and service.

    Her family is in my prayers.

    (class of 2006)

  53. Posted September 1, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    In this rapidly evolving world of journalism, Penny inspired hundreds of students who will go forward, innovate and lead, imbuing them with the bedrock principles that must also carry forward if journalism is to continue to have value. She was the best kind of colleague, selfless in her willingness to help, generous with her time, creative in her thinking, and effective in action. She was also a friend, offering support, insightful feedback and problem-solving advice. And topping it all was her laugh. That is how I choose to remember her now, with her great sense of humor and her infectious grin. Thank you, Penny, for everything.

  54. Patrick Quinn
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Journalism can be intimidating. Especially for the bright-eyed transfer student who’s not quite sure he’s where he supposed to be, doing what he’s supposed to do. Sometimes you just need that “Mom” figure to give you that gentle urge. And Penny certainly filled that role for me. It’s so cool to read all of the comments…and the re-occurring memory of Penny is her smile. I, too, can’t picture Penny without her big, warm smile. More than anything, Penny Fuchs taught me that being a journalist is a privilege. And that’s worth smiling about. Thanks for everything that you did for me Penny. You certainly are missed!

  55. Kelsey Hughes
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    My very first class with Penny was my third ever of my freshman year. I was young, new, and terrified to begin studying for my future career. It was my birthday, which someone whom I had recently met happened to mention as we waited for class to begin. She overheard, and as we all waited in the hallway outside 3202 Knight Hall, she led my new classmates, none of whom knew my name, in a round of “Happy Birthday.” It is still one of my favorite memories of freshman year.

    That was exactly one year ago today. I went on to take 201H with her in the spring, the most difficult and stressful class I’ve ever taken. It was hard work, but for once it actually felt important. Though I spent most of that class feeling as if I knew absolutely nothing, I left on the final day feeling renewed, confident, and ready.

    I owe a lot of that to Penny. I’ve never met a woman so inspiring, so tough, and yet so impossibly warm. Hearing her experiences as a journalist helped me find my own strength (Especially the story of the “Penny Fuchs Memorial Door.”)

    I am saddened that I will not be able to learn more from Penny as I continue in my journalism career. I had looked to her as a mentor and hoped to come to her in the future for guidance and support. Her passing is a great loss to many students at this school.

    My heart goes out to Penny’s family. May she rest in peace, and may her legacy carry on in the hearts of the students whose lives she touched.

  56. Noah Niederhoffer
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    I never had Penny as a teacher but she guided and counseled me. Like Josh said, she told me to think and act like a journalist. Any time I saw her in the halls of Knight Hall, I was always greeted with a smile. She always wanted to know what I was up to and what I planned on doing in the future. She always told me that she looked forward to the next time she saw me and I always looked forward to the next time that I would see her. I wish I could have seen her one last time because I feel like I never got to tell her how much I appreciated her advice and our talks and the work that she did for the Merrill College of Journalism. I will miss her very much and I hope she is at peace. Thank you Penny for all that you did.

  57. January Payne
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    Penny was my professor as an undergrad, my mentor, my supervisor when I adjunct taught, and a friend. She was tough, to be sure, but also always had an encouraging word when I needed one. My heart goes out to her husband and children. I know she’s watching you & cheering you on. Hugs & prayers to you.

  58. Klive Oh
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Penny was a colleague, a friend, and a mentor to me. When I started teaching in the college, I talked to her often – she always greeted me with a genuine smile and had the most helpful things to say. I admired her teaching philosophy, love for the students, and passion toward journalism education. Every time I came across an outstanding student in my classes, it seemed like Penny was a part of their lives. I sit here and ponder about the standards by which I will measure myself in the future as a journalism educator, as I have seen one of the most outstanding in Penny. She will be missed.

  59. Mark
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    Sometimes, when you hear of someone passing, your first reaction is a smile — not because they passed, but because you remember how important they were. Penny was tough on me, and gave me not only the first F I’d ever gotten in school, but several of them. But the lessons stuck with me. I’ll never forget how she told us an editor would throw a dictionary at her when she needed to look up a word, and she always added in his voice: “Look it up, Bender!” We’ll miss you, Penny.

  60. Caryn Taylor
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Penny was (and is) so much of what I aspire to be. She was profoundly ethical; her motives and judgment were the gold standard. I could turn to her for advice in any situation and know, without doubt, that her moral compass pointed true. She was tough, but she was fair. She was witty and cynical, but she was never callous. She was universally respected- because she was smart, hard-working, brave, honest, and undaunted by the challenges before her. She was, simply put, one of the finest journalists I have ever met.

    She was also a natural administrator, a maestro at multi-tasking, a selfless denizen of the College. She relentlessly worked to meet the needs of her students, colleagues and the College.

    What I’ll remember most about Penny, though, is how ardently her family and friends loved her- and how much she adored them in return. I was lucky enough to witness her 50th birthday- to see her sister, husband, and children embrace her on what she dubbed as her “lucky to still be here” birthday. I know that she’ll live on through her children who have inherited, no doubt, her pluck, wit, and enthusiasm for life. She leaves behind a vast network of family and friends, all of whom are aching for their loss. My heart is with each of them.

    The last time I saw Penny she told me not to cry for her, to keep calm and carry on. That she could be so selfless in one of her darkest hours says volumes to me about a woman I was blessed to have known, if even only for a comparatively short time. I wish I could have thanked her then, so I’m taking the chance to do so now. Thank you, Penny. For being you: real, genuine, funny, exacting, nurturing, devoted. You were (and are) an incredible woman, and I’ll miss you. As a truth-teller, mentor, leader, administrator, sister, wife, and mother, you are the gold standard.

  61. Jackie Incollingo
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Penny was so encouraging and helpful when I returned to teaching 201 last fall. Her implementation of high standards for students were so tough, but also completely fair. Most of all, I enjoyed talking with her about her kids and mine. I grieve for her family, and am grateful to have known Penny.

  62. Maurine Beasley
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Penny’s office in the old building was across from mine. I saw how hard she worked – how many hours she put in even when she was undergoing debilitating treatment for cancer. She was determined not to give up when there was a chance she could lick the disease. She wanted to tell people about cancer and to help others survive. That was Penny – thinking about others, her family, and her students, more than about herself. She came to work after getting chemo when most people would have gone home to rest. She brought her children with her to the office on holidays, so I had the pleasure of watching them grow up. She wanted to tell other women about the challenges of combining a career with family life and shared her personal story with me for my book on the experiences of women in journalism. She loved teaching journalism because it was a way of communicating, of reaching out, of inspiring others. She loved us and we loved her. She can never be replaced.

  63. Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I knew only Penny through registering for the math test, but she was kind and supportive every time we spoke. I delivered flowers from her husband on her birthday before one of the math tests and will never forget how happy she was when she got then. I wish I had gotten to know Penny better and she will certainly be missed.

    -Kelyn

  64. Linda Steiner
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    One of Penny’s many virtues was that she really knew how to keep her eye on the ball, to prioritize, to figure out what was most important to her, and not get sidetracked by things that were unimportant. We had a very long chat when I got to Maryland about whether she wanted to resume work on the Ph.D., since clearly she had the smarts, and she had a good topic. She decided that what mattered most to her were her children, husband, family; singing in the choir, and, of course, her job. Within the job she could do the same: get the work done, and not get hot and bothered by silliness. I’ll miss her good humor, and her supreme sanity.

  65. Kimberly Davis
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    What I remember most about Penny was her willingness to spend time with me and help me out. I was so scared to teach News writing and Reporting a couple of years ago, but she reassured me and told me that I would do a great job. I remember when she came to the class to see how I was doing; her feedback was genuine and made me feel like I had really done something for the students. She was selfless and totally giving. I will miss her hallway greetings and her smile. I will miss her honesty and her grace. God bless Penny and her family.

  66. Michael Koliska
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    I mostly ran into Penny in the faculty lounge when she heated up her lunch. She always seemed to be on the run – in and out within a blink of an eye – rushing from on place to another. But she always found the time to make fun of her not so nutritious food while waiting for the microwave to do its job. Besides her accomplishments as a teacher and journalist I will remember her for her humor, her clarity, and her strength. Penny, you will be missed.

  67. Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Penny was very tough on me and pushed me pretty hard. I appreciated that. She also helped me get through an internship that I couldn’t stand. She was no nonsense for sure. Very sorry to hear of her passing. She definitely made an impact on me, and I’m obviously not the only one.

  68. george solomon
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Penny Fuchs was the complete professional. No one cared more about the university, the Philip Merrill College of Journalism and its students than Penny. She was utterly devoted to our students and we will miss her dearly.

    –George Solomon

  69. Andy Siegel
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    The worlds of journalism and education lost an incredible person. Penny was an inspiring figure for me during my time teaching at the College – and was one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known. I will miss her dearly.

  70. Hilary Weissman
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Penny was an amazing educator, mentor and friend to many of the students in the program. She had a fierce desire to help students in any capacity, whether it fell within her duties as a teacher or went beyond. She was always supportive and there to lend an ear. It was so refreshing to have a positive, optimistic guide in a time when many us were faced with an uncertain future. Her presence at the school will be missed for certain, but her impact is evident in the successes of the students she helped to mold.

  71. Diana Huffman
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Penny was 13 years older than me but she was my mentor as a teacher. I learned so much from her and will miss being able to pop out of my office and ask her to interpret a style rule or give me a suggestion on how to be a better teacher. I am glad I am left with the image of Penny at her 50th birthday party…all dressed up in a sexy black dress…her hair in a glamorous updo..dancing the night away. She was quite someting. I will miss her dearly.

  72. Kathryn Quigley
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    I am crying for Penny’s family but glad she is out of pain. Penny and I were grad students together at UMD. We were both on the “returning journalist” track and had many classes together. She was funny and wise. Whenever I think of Al Gore, I think of Penny and her stories about him.
    And oh, how she loved her kids! They were little when we were in grad school in 1999-2000 and I loved hearing her talk about them.
    I was so proud of her for her rise through the ranks at UMD, getting her doctorate, kicking butt as a professor, and becoming interim associate dean.
    She also kicked my butt in Words With Friends.
    Rest In Peace, Penny. I hope you are doing lots of interviews with JFK, Reagan, Nixon, Ford etc.

  73. Elia Powers
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Penny was a kind and genuine person who cared very much about her work — and most importantly about her students. She was tough. She was professional. She was a pleasure to be around. If I had to create a journalist or journalism professor from scratch, she would be the mold. I’m extremely saddened by her passing but will do all I can to carry on her legacy this fall and beyond. (I’m reading this note several times through before posting to avoid the Merrill F. She’d want it that way.)

  74. Emily Witty
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    My first teacher in my first course at Maryland. I wish she could have seen me graduate this may. Merrill will miss it’s favorite teacher.

  75. Katie Smith
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    By getting to know Penny during my freshman year as a professor, I was blessed by her continued guidance throughout my time at Merrill. She warmly welcomed me whenever we ran into each other and we would laugh as we caught up about what was going on. Her sharp sense of humor accompanied her ability to advise on tough situations. I trusted Penny and her judgment and I love that she transcended the classroom for me and so many others. Penny, we love you and will miss you.

  76. Gary Stein and Dana
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Penny was just a wonderful lady. Smart, compassionate, sensitive yet direct, a good listener…and fun. The handful of times we shared her company in social settings with her hubby Michael (my childhood friend), she left an indelible impression. Our regret is that we did not get to know this extraordinary lady better than we did. God bless, Penny. Gary and Dana, NYC

  77. Frank Quine
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Penny was the bravest of the brave. I suspect she didn’t really let on how
    bad things were during the last few months I was at Maryland. She touched
    the lives of many, many students, who will always be grateful for her caring
    approach and her career guidance. She contributed so much to making
    the Merrill College what it is today. That unswerving dedication remains her legacy.

    Frank Quine and Mary Ellen Doran-Quine

  78. Posted August 31, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Penny, you will be missed.

4 Trackbacks

  1. By בוטוקס ידיים on September 6, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    בוטוקס ידיים…

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    בוטוקס בית השחי…

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  3. By Not Running Through Sadness - Jess Runs on September 5, 2012 at 8:08 am

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    [...] Friday, a friend and “mentor mom” of mine died. Her name was Penny Bender Fuchs, and she had been living with and fighting breast cancer for several years. She leaves behind a husband, a son and a daughter, and I cannot fathom the hurt and pain they must [...]

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