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February 2022

Dr. LaTonya Penny Joins Laughing Gull Foundation as Executive Director


Laughing Gull Foundation is thrilled to announce that Dr. LaTonya Penny will join the organization as Executive Director on February 21, 2022. She follows Hez Norton who has held the position since 2017.

“We introduce Dr. Penny as Laughing Gull Foundation’s new leader. She brings powerful expertise and skills, and a relationship-centered approach that is sure to build on and strengthen LGF’s work. Her commitment to racial justice, devotion to creating spaces of belonging for all people, and visionary leadership make her the perfect person to lead the Foundation into its next stage. She is an impressive person by resume, but it’s the way she leads—with heart, passion, and generosity—that will undoubtedly advance and shape our work beyond measure. We are incredibly fortunate to have

LaTonya join our team, collaborate with our partners, and support organizations to have the funding and resources needed to build power and make change across the South,” said Meg Baesmith, Laughing Gull Foundation Board President.

Dr. Penny is a long-time champion for those who have been systematically oppressed. Throughout many facets of her career, she has chosen to boldly and clearly speak truth to power, to name when and how people are harmed and why it matters, and to educate people about building more fair and just communities for everyone. Dr. Penny also brings extensive experience in nonprofit leadership to the Foundation, having most recently served as the Executive Director of Family Abuse Services of Alamance County, Inc. In this role, she guided the organization’s work to prevent intimate partner and family violence. Dr. Penny led the agency in its growth from a $700k budget to a multi-million dollar agency. She also significantly shifted the organization’s housing strategy to make it safer for those fleeing violence. Dr. Penny has a deep passion for disability rights and justice. She founded and leads a nonprofit organization named after her maternal grandmother, Mary’s Grace Incorporated. Mary’s Grace creates programs and ministries of inclusion with people who are differently abled and their families, and Dr. Penny has increasingly been sought after as a consultant and public speaker on these topics. She has also led seminars and trainings focused on racial equity, diversity, and inclusion, executive leadership, and nonprofit board management.

Dr. Penny’s appointment comes after an extensive national search process led by the consulting firm, Morten Group. Her warmth, spirit and deep connection to LGF’s values made it clear throughout the selection process that the organization would be in good hands with her leadership. “It is rare to find an organization that truly embodies its vision in every aspect of their work like the Laughing Gull Foundation. It is even more rare to find an organization whose mission and vision aligns with one's own personal values and beliefs, yet this is what I have found at LGF, a foundation committed to doing the real work of justice for those who have been pushed to the margins. I am honored to join this amazing foundation as we seek to repair, rehumanize, and transform relationships, institutions, and systems throughout the South. I am delighted to be doing the work with this group of amazing individuals and I look forward to

the impact we will make together,“ said Dr. Penny.


Dr. Penny received her Bachelor of Arts from NC A&T State University, a Master of Arts Teaching from East Carolina University, a Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University, and a Doctor of Ministry from Campbell University. She is a lifelong North Carolina resident and native of a rural town called Leasburg.

About Laughing Gull Foundation

Laughing Gull Foundation (LGF) is a progressive family foundation based in Durham, North Carolina. LGF was founded in 2012 and plans to spend out all assets by 2036 in the service of three strategic goals: the advancement in the South of LGBTQ+ equality, higher education in prison, and climate and environmental justice; the growth of progressive philanthropy in the South; and the sustaining of a vibrant internal learning community.

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