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10 Questions for Gloria Penner, KPBS director of public affairs and host of KPBS Radio’s “Editors Roundtable”

Penner began her radio career in San Francisco in the 1950s as associate producer of a program called “Housewives Protective League.” The Washington segment of “The Today Show” gave Penner her first associate producer television job. After a stop in Hawaii and a return to Washington, D.C., she moved to San Diego and took a few years off for family life. She joined KPBS Television in 1969 as director of community relations. From 1993 to 1995, she was the host and writer for KPBS “Weekend Edition,” which featured highlights from “The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour.”

She has won seven Emmys, five Golden Mikes and two Gracies from the American Federation of Women in Radio and Television. The annual Gloria Penner Award for Civic Service was established in 2003 by the League of Women Voters of San Diego County.

Penner lives in La Jolla with her husband Bill Snyder, who is a retired manufacturer.

Q: What brought you to La Jolla?

After life in Brooklyn, Syracuse, San Francisco, San Antonio, Washington, D.C., and Honolulu, a move to San Diego seemed a good balance between the East Coast and the Islands, between a crowded, busy metropolitan setting and a resort atmosphere, and between old/traditional and new/fresh.
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Q: What makes La Jolla special to you?

When I arrived in San Diego, I thought all of it was like magnificently-situated La Jolla. But circumstances required that I settle in Chula Vista, then Bonita, and it was clear they weren’t La Jolla. I still can’t believe that life has finally brought me to this spectacular community. It’s more beautiful than Italy’s Amalfi Coast, the proverbial dream come true.

Q: If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

A special sidewalk on Avenida de la Playa just for kayakers carrying their gear.

Q: Who or what inspires you?

Without question, my mother is my inspiration. She retired from her job in New York City at 85, moved to San Diego five years later and is thoroughly enjoying a very long life in a very beautiful retirement community in Encinitas where she loves visits from friends and family, playing bingo, watching her daughter on TV or listening to her on radio, and reading, reading, reading.

Q: If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

This political junkie absolutely must include Barack and Michelle Obama and John and Cindy McCain, who would be delighted to break bread with my mother, my husband and whichever of my 18 children, step-children and grandchildren wins the toss.
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Q: Tell us about what you are currently reading.

“Presidential Ghosts” by Robert Schlesinger. It’s a riveting rundown on the men (not a woman in the group so far) who wrote those speeches and “spontaneous” remarks uttered by our presidents. What a thankless job – except when words became policy, often determined by a speechwriter who was just filling space on a teleprompter. Unbelievable!

Q: What is your most prized possession?

My Day Runner organizer, which includes an address book that goes back at least 20 years. It’s pretty banged up, but it still holds together. I break into a cold sweat just thinking about misplacing it. I’d rather lose mywallet. Well, maybe not.

Q: What do you do for fun?

Four times a week, I spend 45 minutes to an hour on the home treadmill. That’s fun? No, not really. The fun part is watching TV shows I’d never just sit down to watch: “Desperate Housewives,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “Boston Legal.” Summer reruns are a challenge.

Any suggestions?

Q: Describe your greatest accomplishment.

Except for one cousin, no one in my family had gone to college before me. When I was awarded a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College, then a master’s from Syracuse University, those degrees represented a breakthrough for my family, a source of pride and hope for my mother’s generation, and a model for my younger relatives.

Q: What is your motto or philosophy in life?

Here’s a rough paraphrase of a line from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that pretty well sums up something that resembles a motto for me:

Live all the questions now so that you may someday live into the answers.


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