Penny died suddenly on July 21, 2023, after a rich but too short life as a scholar and teacher. Born in Washington, D.C., she was a graduate of National Cathedral School (NCS) and entered Princeton with the Class of 1976. A talented student, she received her A.B. degree in Romance Languages and Literatures summa cum laude in three years. She went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and then returned to Princeton to complete her doctorate in French medieval literature.
She taught first at the college level but then returned happily to NCS, where she taught history, literature, and ethics and performed administrative duties for 18 years. In 1986 she and her husband, Peter Work, bought a farm in Madison County, Va., where they and their children spent weekends, summers, and holidays. In 2005, when the Grymes Memorial School, a K–8 independent school 10 miles from the farm, offered her the post of head of school, she was able to realize her dream of living at the farm year-round. Peter continued to join her there on weekends until he retired, at which point he moved down full-time, as well. Penny led Grymes for 13 years until her retirement in 2018, and tributes posted by her former students and colleagues reveal what a beloved educator she was.
Those who knew Penny well enjoyed the surprises embedded in her personality. While a student at NCS, she had been a bell-ringer. She was fun and curious—and an avid knitter. She loved standard poodles, the most recent being Petey. Her family recalled, “She had a poem, a song, or one of her grandmother’s sayings for every situation, and these playful maxims have taught those she touched to be kinder, gentler, and more generous. She was the heart of her family, loved us all, and lived life with unbridled joy.” Since retiring, Penny translated a French novel, studied ancient Greek, wrote a history of Grymes School, served on several boards, and enjoyed her grandchildren.
In addition to Peter, her husband of 47 years, Penny is survived by their children, Kelly Steele and Harlan Work, and five grandchildren; her mother, Barbara Moriarty; and her four siblings, Peter ’76, Andrew, Cynthia, and Stephen Moriarty. We join them in mourning her.