United Way Blackhawk Region Leader Steps Down After a Decade of Service

After a decade of leadership as United Way Blackhawk Region’s (UWBR) President & CEO, Mary Fanning-Penny has resigned and accepted a new position. Denise Peters-Kauihou has been appointed Acting President & CEO.
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(BLACKHAWK REGION) – After a decade of leadership as United Way Blackhawk Region’s (UWBR) President & CEO, Mary Fanning-Penny has resigned and accepted a position to become Vice President of Communications for Summit Credit Union.

Fanning-Penny submitted her resignation to UWBR’s Executive Committee in confidentiality earlier this month to preserve the organization’s focus on its March 13 LIVE UNITED Celebration and the event’s positive recognition for award honorees.

Fanning-Penny succeeded Steve Kinkade after his retirement in July 2014. Prior to her executive role, Fanning-Penny volunteered on the former United Way of North Rock County Board of Directors and as part of the unification committee that resulted in the formation of United Way Blackhawk Region in 2012. Fanning-Penny’s service on United Way’s board(s) spanned from 2008 to 2014.

Since Fanning-Penny began her tenure in July 2014, UWBR has invested more than 17.3 million dollars in community grants and initiatives to advance health, education, and financial stability.

“As President & CEO, Mary established a compelling vision to align our board and team on ambitious goals,” said United Way Blackhawk Region Board Chair Dan Williams. “As a result of Mary’s leadership, United Way cultivated new donors and corporate partnerships, amplified our brand, hosted flawless special events, and orchestrated a transformation to the Community Impact model.”

In addition to its annual community campaign, Day of Caring, and grant stewardship, other notable United Way accomplishments during Fanning-Penny’s tenure include:

  • Earning top charity ratings for nine consecutive years from Charity Navigator and Candid
  • Financial sponsorship of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Beloit, Edgerton, and Janesville
  • Forward Janesville, Inc.’s “Community Improvement Award” in 2019
  • COVID-19 Action Fund launched in 2020 and rockcountyshot.com in 2021
  • Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce’s “Small Business of the Year Award” in 2021
  • Installation of six Born Learning Trails
  • Implementation of the GIVE & WIN Sweepstakes
  • Engagement across numerous coalitions and task forces to drive community change.

“It has been an honor and privilege to lead United Way,” Fanning-Penny said. “I’m deeply proud of our collective success made possible by an incredibly talented team, dedicated volunteers, generous donors, and amazing community partners. I will cherish the relationships I’ve built across our beautiful Blackhawk Region and will remain a champion of United Way’s mission.”

Fanning-Penny’s leadership also extended to service on the board of directors for Forward Janesville, Inc., Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, and United Way of Wisconsin. She received the Greater Beloit and Stateline Chambers’ “Executive Influencer Award” in 2019 and the YWCA Rock County’s “Woman of Distinction Award” in 2020.

UWBR is moving forward with expediency on its transition plan. UWBR’s Board of Directors appointed Vice President Denise Peters-Kauihou as Acting President & CEO. Additionally, UWBR appointed a search committee, co-chaired by Tom McCawley and Patty Schumacher for the organization’s next leader.

“While Denise has elected not to pursue the executive role permanently, we appreciate her loyalty to United Way’s mission and applaud her willingness to step in,” McCawley said. “Denise’s 13 years of service will ensure continuity of operations and stability for the team, trusted leadership for our community, and a seamless transition.”

Fanning-Penny’s last official day in the office will be March 22.

Williams concluded by stating, “United Way and our community have benefited from Mary’s passion and dynamic leadership. On behalf of a grateful board, we wish her all the best.”

About Search Committee Co-Chairs

Tom McCawley is Vice Chair of United Way Blackhawk Region’s Board of Directors and a Vice President for Beloit Health System. McCawley serves on the organization’s Executive Committee and was recently presented with United Way’s “Geraldine Hedberg Volunteer of the Year Award.”

Patty Schumacher also serves on United Way’s Board of Directors and is Chair of the Community Impact Council, a volunteer-driven committee that monitors accountability and measurable outcomes from funded partners. Schumacher retired from BMO in 2021 after 42 years in the financial sector.

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