Dr. Serafina Penny Petrone

Dr. Penny Serafina Petrone  was born in 1925, on August 22nd, in  Port Arthur, Ontario, now part of Thunder Bay)  She was a Canadian educator, writer, , patron of the arts, and philanthropist.

She was the daughter of Luisa Sisco and Luigi Petrone and brother to the recognized and distinguished lawyer Alfred Petrone.

She attended St. Joseph's School and the Port Arthur Collegiate Institute, where she won the first Canadian Federation of University Women scholarship given to an outstanding Grade 13 female student in the Lakehead.

She received her Doctorate in English Literature from the University of Alberta.

Her research on the Canadian poet Isabella Valancy Crawford resulted in two books: The Selected Short Stories of Isabella Valancy Crawford and The Fairy Tales of Isabella Valancy Crawford.

Petrone also pioneered the critical study of aboriginal literature in Canada with her landmark books First People, First Voices and Northern Voices.

Her Native Literature in Canada was the first book-length history of the literature of Canada's First Peoples. For this ground-breaking research, Petrone was made an honorary Indian Chief by the Gull Bay Ojibwa and gained international recognition.

After her retirement from Lakehead University, Petrone's scholarly focus shifted to the study of her Italian heritage. She formed 'I Literati', a local reading group which focused on Italy's cultural heritage in the fields of literature, art, music, history and film as well as on the Italian immigrant experience in North America.

She also wrote two memoirs, Breaking the Mould (1995) and Embracing Serafina(2000). Her book Breaking the Mould was translated into Italian and launched at the University of Rome, La Sapienza in July, 2005.

 Her latest book, finished during the last months of her life Schoolmarm (2007), (pictures below) where Penny recalls a teaching career that began at North Bay Normal School, her time spent in one-room schools in rural Port Arthur, and culminated at the Lakehead University Faculty of Education where she taught teachers. 


Dr. Penny Petrone, Elysia, Alfred Petrone, and Rita Ubriaco.

At the booklaunch for
"Breaking the Mould"

She also served on the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council. Over the years she held various executive offices in teachers' organizations and in the Canadian Federation of University Women.



Her contributions to the arts in Thunder Bay is noted in the renaming of Magnus Theatre in Thunder Bay to Magnus Theatre - The Dr. S. Penny Petrone Centre for the Performing Arts.

Artistic Director Mario Crudo
and Dr. Penny Petrone
opening the doors to New Theatre - 2000

During her lifetime Petrone has received many honours and awards: The Corporation of the City of Thunder Bay Citizens of Exceptional Achievement Awards (Culture) in 1981, 1984, and 1989, 'L'ordine d'onore' from the National Congress of Italian Canadians (1994); the 'Order of Ontario' (1992); Canada 124 Medal (1992); Honorary Citizen of Piane Crate (1997); the Golden Jubilee Medal (2002); the F. G. Bressani Literary Award (2002); the Kouhi award for 'her outstanding contribution to writing in Northwestern Ontario' (May 2004). Petrone was also the recipient of Lakehead University's first 'Distinguished Teacher' Award in 1989 and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations teaching award (1988).

In honor of her commitment, through the endowment of scholarships and bursaries of over 1 million dollars for students at the Lakehead University campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, (NOSM), the NOSM Library is now called the Dr. Serafina "Penny" Petrone Health Information Resource Centre.


School Marm_Dr. Penny_Petrone


Linda_DeBaker_book_Dr. Petrone

Left to right

"Thunder Bay FOUNDATION Members"

Linda DeBaker, Colleen Tiboni (Editor), John Cyr, Gina Rimanich, John Cyr

Il Literati_Book_Club

Left to right

"Il Literati" members at the booklaunch

Caesar J. B. Squitti, Teresa Squitti, Philip Hamel, Director Mario Crudo,
Professor Livio Di Mettio, Angie Maltese


Left to right

"Monica Belluz @ Thunder Bay Museum's Bookstore"

Monica Belluz and Teresa Squitti

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