Portrait of Penny Petrone, Courtesy of Magnus Theatre

Dr. Penny Seraphina Petrone

Dr. Penny Seraphina Petrone

  • Date of Birth: 1925 in Port Arthur
  • Date of Death: August 22nd, 2005 1
  • Accomplishments related to: Indigenous literature, Italian literature, and Canadian Literature, Historiography, Education, Philanthropy
  • Major affiliations: Lakehead University, Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council, Gull Bay First Nation, Magnus Theatre

Petrone is a well known surname in the Thunder Bay area, due at least in part to Dr. Penny Serafina Petrone. As a writer, educator, and philanthropist, she left a lasting legacy on Canadian literature. Born in 1925 in Port Arthur, she attended St. Joseph’s School and Port Arthur Collegiate Institute before receiving a doctorate in English Literature from the University of Alberta.

Dr. Petrone wrote five books and spent a lifetime of scholarly study on Canadian, Indigenous, and Italian works of prose. Her first two books focused on Indigenous literature, and Native Literature in Canada in particular was the first full book length history surveying the writings of Canada’s Indigenous people. For these accomplishments, she was made an honorary chief by the Gull Bay First Nations.2 Her latter three books focused on more personal matters, recalling her life and teaching career in the north; the last was only finished in the final months of her life.

Dr. Petrone’s contributions to writing and culture have been honoured by many different groups and organizations. She received the Corporation of the City of Thunder Bay Citizens of Exceptional Achievement Awards in 1981, 1984, and 1989, and multiple other medals and honours between 1981 and 2004, including the Order of Ontario.3

Even after her passing, Dr. Petrone’s life and influence linger across the city. Magnus Theatre is now known in full as Magnus Theatre – The Dr. S. Penny Petrone Centre for the Performing Arts, in honour of her contributions to the arts. The facility housing the Northern Ontario School of Medicine’s west campus also bears her name as thanks for providing over a million dollars in scholarships and bursaries for Lakehead students.4



Chekki, Chen (2005-08-24). "Arts supporter Penny Petrone dies". The Chronicle Journal. Archived from the original on 2006-10-31. Retrieved 2006-12-08. https://archives.lakeheadu.ca/index.php/dr-penny-petrone-fonds

OAC (Ontario Arts Council) Remembers Board Member Penny Petrone, Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine

Hill, Laurie. "Penny Petrone's Legacy Lives On", Lakehead University MAGAZINE. p. 12, Volume 23, Number 2, FALL/WINTER Lakehead University CANADA, 2006.

Petrone, Penny. Schoolmarm: A Memoir. The Thunder Bay Historical Society, 2007

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