In Memory of Penny Villegas

Monday, August 23, 2021

Retired Professor of English Penny Villegas passed away on Saturday, August 14, 2021, after a short battle with kidney failure, in the home she loved surrounded by her children who designed and built the house many years ago for her and her husband Frank.

Originally hired as part-time faculty, English in 1978, she was then hired full time in 1985. She retired in 2005 but returned to teach part time only two months later until she left the College in 2013.

Penny was a dedicated advocate of peace and justice wherever she found it lacking. She founded the Peace Studies curriculum at Valencia and was a founding member of the Peace and Justice Institute.

“Penny gave students and the faculty she mentored a new way of seeing the world through the practice of nonviolence, shared Rachel Allen, director, Peace and Justice Institute. “Affectionately known as the Mother of Peace Studies, East Campus has a tree dedicated to her legacy, which lives on through the lives she touched and the work of the Peace and Justice Institute.”

Penny was dedicated to her students, and since her passing, some past students have posted tributes to her on Facebook.

“When I write, Penny’s loving and straight talk kind of encouragement pushes my mind into typed words,” explained a past student. “She was my English Comp Professor. That’s when I first met her. She asked me to come by her office to discuss my first graded essay in her course. I thought she was going to offer constructive criticism. Instead, she told me to never ever not write and to know that I had gifts yet to be discovered. She said she saw them, but, that I needed to find them on my own.”

Another past student shared, “In the fall of 2010, my best friend, Chelsea and I signed up for a course at Valencia College called ‘Introduction to Peace Studies.’ We just thought it sounded cool. It absolutely was. Peace Studies was more than ‘cool’ though because of the instructor, Penny Villegas. What a woman. Because of her, the course was eye-opening, moving, fun, sad, pure joy and so much more. Sometime in the semester, Penny gave me back one of my assignments with a note written in her beautiful handwriting: ‘Would you be interested in an internship with the Peace and Justice Initiative?’ I had no idea what PJI was at the time, but I said yes because Penny asked me.”

Penny was a lifelong seeker of spiritual inspiration, drawing wisdom from Catholicism, Sufism and Buddhism, among other paths. She drew to her many seekers like herself, and her daily life was characterized by conversations about the transparent beauty of nature and the search for wisdom.

She was a member of Amnesty International for 20 years and also studied conflict resolution at the Eastern Mennonite University. She co-chaired numerous community outreach projects to educate and engage on the principles of peace and fairness.

A celebration of her life will be held later this year. The family wishes to thank the men and women from Visiting Angels and VITAS who cared for their mother with such skill and tenderness. Those who wish to honor her memory are requested to make a donation to the charity of their choice.

To read her full obituary, click here.

1 Comment

  • Edie Gaythwaite said:

    Always curious, kind, and such a joy to be around. Her devotion to PJI and the Women's League is how I will remember Penny.

    PMTue, 24 Aug 2021 18:22:52 +0000Tue, 24 Aug 2021 18:22:52 +0000pm21,6:22 pm

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