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Hospitality Industry Leader Thomas Penny's Story

A one-on-one interview with a DC native and president of Donohoe Hospitality Services

Thomas Penny is the president of Donohoe Hospitality Services. He operates a portfolio of eleven business class hotels in partnership with Marriott, Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group. He is a very busy man who serves on various boards such as the American Experience Foundation, education think tank NAF, DC Central Kitchen, Raise DC, Global Scholars Foundation, DC Public Education Fund and more.

Mr. Penny has an inspiring life story. He started off as a dishwasher and then became a van driver, restaurant supervisor, restaurant manager and a food and beverage instructor. He was a young kid who had determination and many managers saw this in him. 

Mr. Penny was born in Washington, DC and was raised in Seat Pleasant and Temple Hills. Growing up in this area was rough, at the time it was an unsafe neighborhood. He attended high school at Crossland and was the first to graduate from high school in his family. At the same time as his graduation, Mr. Penny’s brother died. This was a very traumatic experience for him, but he let the pain from his brother’s death fuel his ambition to become successful and to make him proud. He made a commitment to his brother that inspires him to this day. Aside from his brother motivating him, his parents motivate him as well. They both worked incredibly hard and he cherishes all his parents’ sacrifices saying, “My parents and my brother are my greatest source of inspiration." 

His leadership abilities have definitely shined during this pandemic. Hotel revenues are down 80%-90% at his hotels. This is the most challenging time in Mr. Penny’s career. It’s inspiring hearing about Mr. Penny waking up at 6:30 a.m. every day during quarantine and attending different types of meetings to persist through this pandemic. He works at his laptop for the majority of the day and doesn’t end work until late at night. Mr. Penny and his team have provided temporary hotel housing for health care workers. He says, “I feel like doctors are doing so much and I was motivated by the understanding that no matter what condition we find ourselves in, there is always something to give.” 

Mr. Penny’s favorite quote is by Dr. Lerone Bennett: “Whatever you’re doing, you’re not doing enough. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re not thinking enough. Whatever you’re reading, you’re not reading enough. Whatever you’re writing, you’re not writing enough. Do more, think more, read more, write more, achieve more.” 

Mr. Penny applies this quote to his life thoroughly. He believes he has more to accomplish in life and he has a burning desire to learn more. He is excited for my generation and looks forward to guiding us along our career path. “There’s still quite a bit to be done.”

I was honored to have talked to Mr. Penny, and have learned a big lesson during my interview with him: Resilience and determination can get you anywhere in life. Hearing Mr. Penny’s story was very motivating – not only is he successful, but he is humble and a leader. His last words for me were “invade the impossible.” I will definitely keep that in mind while exploring different walks of life around me and stepping toward my future.

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