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Penny Arnn is the wife of Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn. | Cumulus

During their time at Broadlawn, Penny Arnn’s dogs have encoun­tered so many skunks that she now keeps shampoo and a swimsuit in the bathroom closest to the backyard so she can wash off the stench when the dogs come inside after being sprayed.

Penny Arnn, who is married to Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn, spends the majority of her time tending to college-owned Broadlawn and making it suitable for both business and family life. In addition to caring for her two dogs and keeping up with several college-related projects, she also attends college events and fre­quently enter­tains student guests and college vis­itors.

In addition to an elegant guest room, sitting room, and large dining hall on Broadlawn’s main floor, the house has what Arnn likes to call her “shipping and receiving department.” This long hallway down­stairs is lined with garbage bags full of toys for a Christmas party she is planning for children of college faculty and staff, in addition to other packages and sup­plies pre­pared for events or for transfer to the Arnns’ Wash­ington, D.C. res­i­dence.

“I’m lucky enough to be able to do the fun bits and lucky enough to be able to choose what I can do,” Arnn said. “My job is to be flexible. I do what needs to be done.”

The college uses the Arnns’ home for various recep­tions and dinners, as well as Larry Arnn’s “Ethics, Nature, and Total­i­tar­i­anism” class. Next to his teaching room, Penny Arnn stocks up on coffee and snacks to ensure stu­dents are well taken care of during their two-and-a-half hour long class.

“I make sure they’re caf­feinated and have sugar,” she said.

Senior Ryan Murphy is cur­rently taking Larry Arnn’s ethics class and said Penny Arnn always goes out of her way to make sure stu­dents feel welcome.

“She takes the time to lay out treats for us, and last class, even made her famous homemade blondies that melt in your mouth,” Murphy said. “What com­ple­ments learning better than that? Dr. Arnn’s lec­tures and Mrs. Arnn’s baking — a power combo from a power couple.”

Arnn said they some­times have guests stay at their house while they’re in town for college-related meetings, allowing them more privacy and space than if they stayed at the Dow Lead­ership Center. Pre­vious guests include Hillsdale College Board of Trustees Vice Pres­ident Pat Sajak and Former Sec­retary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“They become our friends,” she said. “Mr. Sajak stays with us every time he visits.”

The Arnns have also had several animal vis­itors over the years. Besides the skunk encounters in their backyard, they have also seen a full-grown deer run through their house, as well as a chickadee, and a total of 11 possums inside one summer.

“The thing about possums is that they like to play possum,” Arnn said.

She pro­ceeded in describing an instance in which one possum that appeared dead sud­denly sprang to life and ran through their home.

Arnn said one of her favorite parts of her job is getting to see stu­dents dress up for Hal­loween and watching male dorm res­i­dents “just whaling on each other” during their annual Naval Battle. She smiled once she remem­bered two stu­dents who showed up at her house once during dinner asking to perform — she couldn’t recall whether it was a poem or a song — for Larry Arnn.

Penny Arnn didn’t receive quite the same kind of college expe­rience as some Hillsdale stu­dents. After growing up in England, Penny Arnn took a sec­re­tarial course in Oxford after high school and then worked for the Uni­versity of Oxford Engi­neering Science Department for four years.

“I thought, ‘This is fun!’” she said. “I lived and worked in Oxford and got to enjoy the college atmos­phere.”

After high school, she worked at Oxford for four years and then had to go home for per­sonal health reasons, later returning to Oxford to look for another job. At age 23, she began working for Sir Martin Gilbert, British his­torian and official Churchill biog­rapher, and then met Larry Arnn, who was studying under Gilbert at the time. The two got married in 1979 and then moved to Cal­i­fornia where they had three children — Katie, Henry, and Alice — and later adopted a fourth, Tony, at the age of 14.

The Arnns later moved to Hillsdale after Larry Arnn was offered the position of college pres­ident in the year 2000.

“When we moved to Broadlawn, the board said, ‘Treat this house like your home,’ which was very helpful, so we felt that we could make it feel like home and not an insti­tu­tional place,” Arnn said. “I like to keep this house nice.”

Arnn said when she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband at home. They enjoy binge-watching detective shows in her husband’s study. She men­tioned that, although they usually try to scrounge up a good show on Netflix or Amazon prime, they often default to “Blue Bloods.”

“I enjoy not being sociable some­times,” Arnn said. “I’m fairly self-con­tained in many respects. My best friend is my husband.”

Although she doesn’t travel with her husband on all his trips, Arnn usually makes it out for most Wash­ington, D.C., trips to visit their house there. She said she is looking forward to an annual Christmas party there for faculty of the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Studies and States­manship and friends of the college, which she helps to organize.

One of Arnn’s long-estab­lished duties is planning the college Christmas card, some­thing she’s working on this week. Sent out to faculty and friends of the college, the Arnns create a Christmas card each year on behalf of the college that fea­tures Broadlawn from dif­ferent artistic angles. One year, the card dis­played a photo of the house made out of gin­ger­bread. This year, Pro­fessor of Art Bryan Springer is helping her design the card.

“I think Mrs. Arnn saw my work and thought it might be a nice, fresh look at Broadlawn as an iconic building that could be in a Christmas card,” Springer said. “I would imagine the chal­lenge with the Christmas card is to provide enough variety so it isn’t the same every year.”

Arnn said she appre­ciates that people at the college work hard, enjoy what they do, and treat each other with respect.

“I appre­ciate, too, the respect that we are given in the way we live here, because we live in a college house, but people are kind enough to rec­ognize that it’s our home, too.”

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    no offense to MRs. Arnn, but this story is written every 4 years.