Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta
MHSA Archival Description Record
Title and Physical Description
Penner grew up in the Mennonite Brethren (MB) congregation in Vineland, Ontario and was an active member of many other congregations as his life took him to many parts of Canada. He studied at Eden Christian College, Beamsville High School, Vineland Mennonite Brethren (MB) Bible School, Prairie Bible Institute, St. Catharines Collegiate Institute, MB Bible College (Bachelor in Religious Education and Bachelor in Theology), University of Western Ontario (Bachelor of Arts), and McMaster University (Masters degree and PhD in History). For the doctoral degree he read in British and British Imperial history, Canadian, and Renaissance and Reformation (including Anabaptist) history. After retirement in 1992 he was honoured with the title Emeritus Professor of History.
During World War II, Penner did alternative service as a conscientious objector (1943-1945), planting trees at Vancouver Island's C2 Camp; working on the Alvin/Isaac Culp farm in Vineland Station, Ontario; and at Canada Packers in Toronto. He was ordained to the Gospel ministry by the Kitchener MB Church in 1954 and served in two MB home mission fields (Lindal, Manitoba - 1955-1957 and Toronto - 1962-1964). He taught at East Chilliwack Bible School (1957-1959) and Mennonite Educational Institute (Clearbrook, BC - 1959-1960), Mount Allison University (Sackville, New Brunswick, 1965-1992). He left the ordained ministry for university life, and focussed on British India, British, and European history, including Russian and Soviet history. In retirement, he also taught history at Lithuania Christian College, Klaipeda (the former Memel) briefly in 1997.
Penner wrote and published throughout his life. He was a frequent contributor of reviews and articles to MB and inter-Mennonite papers and other journals. He published various books: Reaching the Otherwise Unreached (1959), Robert Needham Cust: A Personal Biography (1987), The Patronage Bureaucracy in North India: the Robert M. Bird and James Thomason School, 1820-1870 (1986), No Longer at Arm's Length: MB Church Planting in Canada - 1883 to 1983 (1987), The Chignecto 'Connexion': The History of Sackville Methodist/United Church, 1772 to 1990 (1990), Russians, North Americans, and Telugus: The MB Mission in India, 1885-1975 (1997); and edited two other books on British India, 1983, 1984. Another book is underway: the history of the Rotary Club of Calgary South for its 50th anniversary to be observed in 2005.
Penner's service record includes fostering the Anabaptist presence of Mennonites in the Atlantic Provinces (MAP) and helping to establish the Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research in Sackville, New Brunswick; sitting on the Boards of Mennonite Publishing Service (1981-1990), Westmorland Historical Society (President 1975-1977), Rotary Club (Sackville), Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (Calgary Branch), and Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. He has also done volunteer service in Lithuania and taught English as a Second Language in Barnaul, Altai, Western Siberia. In 2000, Penner was made an "honorary Calgarian," in a White Hat Ceremony.
Source of Supplied Title
Source of Acquisition
1 - Letter to Carole Brawn - 2002