Penny wrote more than 30 plays and 300 poems. He moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Hill District as a toddler, where he was raised. A 1957 graduate of Central Catholic High School (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Penny had childhood aspirations of joining the priesthood.
Penny was in the first cohort of faculty hired in 1969 by Jack Daniel, vice provost for Academic Affairs and dean of students at the University of Pittsburgh. "In terms of his professionalism, he was as close as someone can get to be an unrecognized genius. He appeared to be a simple man, but was actually quite complex," Daniel said.
"As a person, with his theatrical influence, he was genuinely in touch with the human side of all of us. He was thought-provoking, forever challenging, dedicated, sincere and warm, with a kind of stick-to-itiveness -- someone who always kept his eye on the prize." He was always encouraging and helpful. As a poet myself, I can say he also was a fine poet, in the black poetic tradition, who inspired others to write, especially through the Kuntu Writers Workshop.
And he was a man who was an inspiration to young people in terms of his activism and community activities." Dr. Vernell A. Lillie founded the Kuntu Repertory Theatre in 1975 as a way of showcasing Penny's plays. Penny was the playwright-in-residence for the Kuntu Repertory Theatre. Today, the theatre continues to hold performances of Rob’s plays.
In 1976, he and Wilson co-founded the Kuntu Writers Workshop, which Penny coordinated until his death on March 16, 2003. The Pittsburgh City Council honored Penny by presenting the Penny family with a key to the City of Pittsburgh for his commitment to social activism, dedication to encouraging youth, and contributions to the greater Hill District community. July 29, 2008, is officially the city of Pittsburgh's Rob Penny Day.
Take on an Up to.
Penny was also a founding member of the Africana Studies Department.