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News from the Hilltop

September 16, 2010

Longtime Birmingham-Southern Provost and Dean Irvin Penfield passes away

Longtime Birmingham-Southern Provost and Dean Irvin Penfield passes awayBIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Dr. Irvin Penfield, who served on the Birmingham-Southern College faculty for more than 37 years, including 18 years as provost and dean of the college, passed away Sept. 15 after a long illness. He was 70.

A Memorial Service is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 23, at 3 p.m. at Highlands United Methodist Church, with visitation at 2 p.m.

A native of Birmingham, Penfield joined the BSC faculty in 1967 as an assistant professor of political science, rising to the rank of full professor by 1980. He became dean of the college and vice president for academic affairs in 1985. His title was changed to provost in 1996.

As the first chair of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences, he established majors in political science and sociology. As director of the Master of Arts Public and Private Management Program, he led a group of faculty in establishing a graduate program in business.

As provost, he helped write the first grant for seed money to start the Leadership Studies Program. He oversaw the completion of such initiatives as the Honors Program, Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum, Latin American Studies program, and the Foundations curriculum.

Under Penfield's guidance, computers were secured for all faculty offices, while fewer than five faculty members had computers on their desks in 1985. He helped increase funds for faculty development and was instrumental establishing a new faculty scholarship award.

Penfield also was instrumental in the founding of the Associated Colleges of the South, a consortium of 16 liberal arts colleges of which Birmingham-Southern is a member.

He completed his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from the University of Alabama.

Upon his retirement from Birmingham-Southern in 2004, Penfield became Provost Emeritus of the college. The Dr. H. Irvin Penfield Scholarship in Political Science fund was established in his honor, and the outdoor plaza adjacent to the then new Elton B. Stephens Science Center on campus was named the Dr. H. Irvin Penfield Plaza.

He is survived by his wife, Elise, a 1961 BSC graduate, and sons Russell and Matthew. Matthew is a 1992 Birmingham-Southern graduate.

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