University officially opens Penny Building

Named for a man who embraced education and served to continually better his community, the Dr. Foster James Penny Building will stand as a testament to lifelong learning and the University of Lethbridge's commitment to the Lethbridge community.

The U of L officially opened the Penny Building on Thursday, May 16, reenergizing the former Capital Furniture building and breathing new life into the city's downtown core. Gifted to the University in 2012 by longtime businesspersons Jim and Hazel Penny, the building is named after their son Dr. Foster Penny, who passed away in 1992 after a five-year illness with Lou Gehrig's Disease. He was only 44 years old.

"It's a wonderful memory for our boy," says Hazel Penny. "He would be so proud to see his name on a building pertaining to education. I can see him smile."

Dr. Foster Penny combined an unbridled zest for life with a kind heart, and always sought out ways by which he could learn more about the world around him.

"Foster said to me once, every time I pick up a book I want to learn everything that's in it," recalls Hazel.

Dr. Foster Penny completed a bachelor's degree in science at Carleton University, and then went on to the MBA program at Queen's University. He finished his MBA but realized his true love was with science, so he returned to school to study medicine, eventually specializing in anesthesiology.

With a long list of accreditations to his name – BSc, MBA, MD, FRCPC – Foster practised medicine and taught at the University Hospital in London, Ont., where he was part of an association of anesthesiologists devoted to research and teaching.

"We've always believed in education. The building is payback for all the years of education our children and grandchildren received. It's a token of appreciation for all the good things our family got out of university," says Jim Penny, who developed Dairy Queen, A&W and TacoTime franchises throughout the country. "The world has been kind to us, and every once in a while there needs to be a payback. It's that simple."

The Dr. Foster James Penny Building will create new and exciting opportunities for the University, its students, faculty and staff, and the local community. In addition to providing a gallery space for Fine Arts students, the Penny Building is home to the U of L's alumni relations and annual giving programs, the U of L Call Centre and eventually a U of L gift store and ticketing centre for University activities.

Located at 324 5th St. S., the 2,862 sq. metre structure also houses two large community meeting rooms equipped with audio-visual components and flexible seating plans.

"We see this space as an excellent opportunity to further our connection with Lethbridge and the southern Alberta community," says University of Lethbridge President Dr. Mike Mahon. "We are extremely grateful to the Pennys for helping us to realize the vision of their late son Foster, and to continue his legacy as someone who loved learning and served his community in so many ways."