Established engineer, founder of Pennoni Associates, and proud family man, Chuck Pennoni will receive the 2016 William Penn Award at a banquet on April 21. The award is the highest honor bestowed upon a businessperson in the Philadelphia area and has been given annually since 1949. With over 60 years of experience in the field of engineering, Pennoni prides himself on overcoming the challenges that accompany opening a business and maintaining his core values of honesty, integrity and service.
The son of an immigrant coal miner, Pennoni says he never expected to accomplish all that he has. He moved to Philadelphia with his wife in 1960 and was working for a private industry before starting Pennoni Associates in 1966. With funds tight, Pennoni struggled to make sure he could put food on the table for his family, while still supporting the rest of his team.
“No one ever missed a paycheck and I’m pretty proud of that,” he says. “Except me, of course. When you start your own business, you put your staff first.” Pennoni put his staff for 60 years, successfully growing his business from one person to 100, while surviving seven recessions.
When Pennoni came to Philadelphia in 1960, he had never seen a subway or a high-rise. “We just thought that the history of Philadelphia was awesome and fascinating,” Pennoni recalls. “We were very impressed with the culture.” Pennoni and his wife now reside in Bryn Mawr, but he remains an influential member of the Philadelphia community.
An interim president at his alma mater, Drexel University, from 1994-1995, and again from 2009-2010, Pennoni has authored 47 papers on engineering, planning, and ethics, spending great effort to educate communities on how to succeed without sacrificing values. Pennoni also served as the President of the American Society of Civil Engineers and was inducted into the elusive Academy of Engineering in 2000.
“Winning the William Penn Award is basically putting me in a category with the greater leaders of the Philadelphia community,” Pennoni saus. “Putting me at the same level as the prior winners is just very awesome.” Prior winners include David Cohen, executive vice president of the Comcast Corporation, Joseph Frick, former Independence Blue Cross President and CEO, and Constantine Papadakis, former president of Drexel University.