Sam Penn, a retired PHH executive, died of complications from cancer April 18. He was 81.
Born in Baltimore, Penn was the son of Sol Penn, an owner of Penn Brothers Chrysler Plymouth. He was a 1953 graduate of Forest Park High School, where he played lacrosse and football. While in high school, he met his future wife, Beverly, with whom he was married for 59 years.
Penn served in the U.S. Army during the 1950s. He earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. Following his honorable discharge from military service, Penn worked at the family dealership until 1969. He then joined Peterson Howell and Heather (PHH) as a regional buying manager. Three years later, he was named Midwest regional vice president of sales and service, and, in 1974, Penn became president of the PHH fleet leasing and vehicle management business unit in the U.S.
As president, Penn managed the growth the company experienced during the mid-1970s. This included growth in its client base, expansion of suppliers in automotive services and PHH Service Card networks, implementation of technological advances, with the biggest change occurring with how PHH ordered and delivered vehicles for its clients. Penn moved PHH to a courtesy delivery system in lieu of directly ordering from dealers nationwide, which had existed since the company’s founding in 1946.
In 1978, Penn was appointed senior vice president of the parent company, PHH Group, later known as PHH Corp., while continuing as the president of the U.S. vehicle management business, headquartered in Hunt Valley, Md.
When he was promoted to executive vice president of PHH Corp. in 1981, Penn assumed responsibilities for NTS (a fuel management services company), and vehicle management services in Canada and the U.S.
From 1987 until his retirement in 1990, Penn was responsible for PHH’s facilities management business.
In 1991, then-Maryland Gov. William Schaefer named Penn to the Governor’s Insurance Commission. He was later named deputy state insurance commissioner.
In retirement, Penn taught at Notre Dame of Maryland and Towson universities, and was an executive-in-residence at Towson. In addition, Penn served on the boards of the old Union Trust Co., later Signet Bank; the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Baltimore County Child Care Agency; the University of Maryland; Baltimore County Visitors Board; the Baltimore Jewish Council; Sinai Hospital-Lifebridge Health; and the Maryland Hospital Association.
Penn was inducted into the Automotive Fleet’s Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010. In January 2011, AF named Penn one of the “50 Most Important People in Fleet.”