WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Carl Sandburg Biographer Honored

Apr 23, 2015

As part of this year's Sandburg Days festival in Galesburg, organizers honored a woman who wrote a biography of Carl Sandburg.  The celebration of her life was held in the art gallery at the community college that bears his name.

Penelope “Penny” Niven passed away August 28, 2014 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  She was the author of “Carl Sandburg: A Biography.”

“She skillfully guided me through the arduous task of attempting to write my first novel. I’ll forever be indebted to her for her kindness, her counsel, and her generosity,” said Barry Swanson, who teaches at Knox College.

A bust of Carl Sandburg was dedicated to Penelope Niven, and sits in the Carl Sandburg College art gallery.
Credit T.J. Carson

Swanson also read a poem he penned shortly after Niven’s death.

The ceremony also featured a bronze bust of Carl Sandburg that was dedicated in memory of Niven. The bust was made by Galesburg native Lonnie Stewart.

“Penny and I generated a conversation immediately after meeting here (in Galesburg) in early 2011. That friendship blossomed over the following three years. She became one of my dearest friends, my extraordinary professor, a mentor, and importantly a confidant,” Stewart said.

Niven also authored a biography on Thornton Wilder, and co-authored a book with James Earl Jones on a book about acting.

Niven’s daughter, Jennifer, attended the event. She will also take part in other activities during this year’s Sandburg Days.