Renner’s Dedication to Women’s History Empowers Students

Tex Wells, El Vaquero Staff Writer

She walks into room 220 of the library building waving to her students, mouthing the word “Hi,” and flashing a smile as big as her home state, Texas.

Professor Marguerite Renner, affectionately known to her colleagues as “Peggy,” and to many of her students as “Dr. Renner,” is in her third decade as a member of the Glendale Community College faculty.

“I find joy working with students,” said Renner.

That joy is transparent and it is reflected in the assessment of her as an educator by a number of her students. Brennan Amirkhizi, a student in her Humanities 125 class said, “She makes you look forward to the next meeting of the class. She likes interacting with the students, and she gets us involved.”

Jonathan Miu, a student in the same class, said, “She’s very nice. She feels what the whole class is feeling at times and she’s very passionate about what she teaches. She cares for all of her students and is always helpful. Also, she always answers all of the questions we have.”

Renner originally wanted to be a research scholar, but because of budgetary constraints, few schools that were actively recruiting teachers could afford to hire research scholars.

However, once she began teaching, she said she “found sharing knowledge with students intriguing.”

Renner did her student teaching at the University of Pittsburgh, but her first official teaching position was at Stevens College, a small private college for women in Missouri.

“All of the students came from wealthy families,” she said, “and some of them would bring or ride their horses to school.”

Since Stevens, she has taught full time at both the University of Texas El Paso and the University of Utah. Her part time teaching positions have included stints at USC and CSUN. Renner was teaching at CSUN when she was apprised of an open position at GCC. She came for an interview almost immediately after learning of the opening.

“I remember the interview,” said Renner. “They called me three days later and I took the position, which doubled my salary.”

Within two years after she joined the faculty, Renner was encouraged to run for an office in the faculty senate. She did run, and she was elected.

“Peggy’s one of the hardest working persons I have ever known, and she is incredibly compassionate,” said Monette Tiernan, an English professor. When she was president of the faculty senate, she would just keep on pushing, but she was always fair and objective. She kept me on my toes.”

“Peggy is a socially conscious, compassionate and disciplined intellectual, who has dedicated her career to empowering the lives of her students, and she has worked tirelessly to capture the shared governance process at Glendale College. I feel proud to be her colleague.”

Renner served as president of the faculty senate from 2000 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2005.

“I was sorry to see her step down,” said Tiernan.

Renner’s mother was a high school principal who counseled her about career opportunities and helped her explore educational options , but it was Renner, herself who made the decision to attend her mother’s alma mater, Philadelphia High School for Girls, a school whose mission is preparing young women for college.

Renner made the honor roll year after year at Philadelphia High School for Girls and she finished near the top of her graduating class of 576 students. She made all A’s in her first year at the school and the only B’s she received were in physical education. Her academic acumen in high school prepared her for the dean’s list in college.

“I applied to the University of Pittsburgh,” said Renner, “and I was accepted with the best financial package I could imagine.”

After she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she went on to earn her doctorate. Renner earned all three of her degrees at the University of Pittsburgh.

“I did not go to college to find a husband,” said Renner.

“I hated history in high school,” said Renner. That feeling changed, she said, “after studying with several instructors who were sensitive to issues faced by women.” They told her to do whatever she wanted to do and that was the seed that grew into a lifelong love of learning and a dedication to women’s history.

Currently, one of Renner’s most heavily attended classes is one that deals with the history of rebellious women in the United States and a substantial percentage of the students in that class are young men.

The history professor said she finds “watching students learn to appreciate gender in new ways intriguing.”

“I want to make the world a better place,” said Renner.