Helen Bates "Penny" Chenery received the Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree.
Chenery-Tweedy to view a slideshow of photos from the degree presentation and
the classroom panel discussion.
Kate Tweedy is co-author of Secretariat's Meadow.
Helen Bates “Penny” Chenery was presented the Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree during
a special ceremony at Randolph-Macon College on Monday, March 28, 2011. Chenery
will also be recognized during the college’s Commencement ceremony on Saturday,
May 28, 2011. She is the owner and breeder of Secretariat, winner of the 1973 Triple
Crown of racing. Chenery's story was featured in the Disney Film Secretariat,
with actress Diane Lane portraying this pioneering woman.
Ms. Chenery is legendary for her unprecedented success in the male-dominated field
of horse breeding and racing. In 1968, when she was known as Penny Tweedy, she took
over management of her family’s farm and breeding enterprise at Meadow Farm in Caroline
County, Virginia, now the site of the Virginia State Fairgrounds. She learned the
business while raising a family, distinguishing herself as a leader in the industry.
In addition to Secretariat’s honors, which include being named 1972 and 1973 Horse
of the Year, Chenery and her team trained Riva Ridge, who won the Kentucky Derby
and Belmont Stakes in 1972. She also bred Saratoga Dew, the first New York-bred
horse to win an Eclipse Award in 1992.
Chenery has been very involved with numerous organizations, both in and out of the
horse racing industry, and has worked to promote equine research and thoroughbred
retirement and rehabilitation. She helped found the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation,
and, as president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association from 1976
to 1984, she was the first woman to lead a national horse racing organization. In
1983, she became one of the first three women elected to membership in the Jockey
Club. Since 2003, Arlington Park in Chicago has awarded the Penny Chenery Distinguished
Woman in Racing Award to women leaders in the field.
Chenery graduated from The Madeira School in McLean, Virginia and earned a bachelor’s
degree at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She also served in the Red
Cross in Europe during World War II, and then completed two and a half years of
an MBA at Columbia University, before marrying Jack Tweedy and moving to Colorado
in 1949. There she raised four children before taking over her ailing father’s Virginia
horse farm in 1967.
Her father, Christopher T. Chenery, founder of Meadow Farm, grew up in Ashland on
the corner of Racecourse and Duncan, and with two of his brothers, attended Randolph-Macon
in the early 20th century. In addition, a cousin, Dr. Alan J. Chenery Jr. '58, served
on the R-MC Board of Trustees for many years. The Chenerys gratefully credit Randolph-Macon
College with giving them the education they needed to develop successful careers.
Ms. Chenery now lives in Boulder, Colorado.
On Tuesday, March 29, 2011, Chenery and her daughter Kate Tweedy discussed the changing
roles of women with students enrolled in R-MC Professor Debra Rodman’s Introduction
to Women’s Studies class. Tweedy is
co-author of Secretariat’s Meadow with Richmond author Leeanne Ladin (Dementi
Milestone Publishing, 2010). Ladin also joined the group for the discussion.
Chenery shared with the audience her life story and what inspired her to follow
her dreams. “My father encouraged me to do anything I wanted to do,” she said. “I
was brought up to feel that we [women] never had limitations. I grew up as a sort
of tomboy; it never occurred to me that there were things I couldn’t do.” Chenery
said she “felt like queen of the world” after Secretariat’s 1973 win.
Tweedy said that she and her siblings understood their mother’s longing to follow
her passions. “We knew she was not fulfilled being a housewife,” said Tweedy. We
saw Mom stepping out of her traditional role…and we were very proud of her.” Of
today’s opportunities for women, Tweedy told the audience, “The expectations are
much broader. There is optimism—a sense of working for the greater good.”
The presentation ended with a Q&A, during which Chenery impressed upon students
the importance of a good education: “You have to learn how to learn,” she said.
Randolph-Macon College Commencement will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday,
May 28, 2011 at the R-MC Frank E. Brown Fountain Plaza on Henry Street.
(In the event of rain, Commencement will be held in the Randolph-Macon Brock Recreation
Center, located at 400 N. Center Street). Click on
2011 Commencement for more information about this year’s events and activities.
For media inquiries or more information about R-MC’s 2011 Commencement activities,
please contact Anne Marie Lauranzon at (804) 752-7317 or firstname.lastname@example.org.