Penny Chenery is best known for her work in Thoroughbred horse racing and as owner of the celebrated racehorse, Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown but she also a name in the alumna book of Smith College here in Massachusetts. Smith has just announced that she will receive the Smith College Medal in 2009 in recognition for her accomplishments in the horse world.
After leaving Smith in the midst of World War II, Chenery took over her father’s stables when he became ill, and she has received many awards including the Thoroughbred industry’s highest award, the Eclipse Award of Merit, in 2005.
Chenery has been dubbed the “The First Lady of Racing.” Those who know her talk about her class, determination and integrity – and her commitment to the horses. Upon the retirement of Secretariat to Claiborne Farm, she insisted that he would be available to the public for viewing as she felt he belonged to the United States and the world.
Chenery has served on numerous boards, both in the horse racing industry and outside of it. She has worked to promote equine research and Thoroughbred retirement and rehabilitation. Of note, she helped found the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), an organization dedicated to the prevention of the slaughter of retired racehorses, which finds them new careers. The TRF works with prisons to retrain the horses and has a positive impact on the inmates.
As president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association from 1976-84, Chenery was the first woman to lead a national horse racing organization. In 1983, she was one of the first three women elected to membership in the previously all-male Jockey Club.
Smith tells us that Chenery graduated in the class of 1943; nher mother, sister and two cousins also attended Smith.
The Smith College Medal was established in 1962 to recognize alumnae “who, in the judgment of the trustees, exemplify in their lives and work the true purpose of a liberal arts education.”
The college is also horse-friendly and has an equestrian center on its beautiful campus in Northampton, Massachusetts.