New Pennies fund honors former DeKalb English teachers

The spring 1982 edition of DeKalb High School’s New Pennies magazine.
The spring 1982 edition of DeKalb High School’s New Pennies magazine.

SYCAMORE – A fund to help restore the annual publication of New Pennies, DeKalb High School’s award-winning literary and art magazine, has been established at the DeKalb County Community Foundation by alumni of the school.

The fund honors two former English teachers and faculty advisers of the magazine, Joe LoCascio and Mary Penson.

First published in 1937, New Pennies has a long history of excellence. The National Council of Teachers of English honored the magazine with numerous superior and highest rankings. In addition, it was the first high school magazine in the nation to be inducted into the National Scholastic Press Association’s Hall of Fame for having earned 10 All-American Pacemaker Awards in 11 consecutive years in 1991.

In total, New Pennies won the Pacemaker Award or received finalist status dozens of times, most recently in 2014. Each Pacemaker Award put them in the ranks of the top five to seven high school literary magazines in the nation.

When Richard Powers, a 1975 graduate of DHS, visited the school in September with Joe LoCascio, he was saddened to learn that the magazine had fallen out of regular production. His poems and stories had appeared in multiple issues of the magazine when he was in high school. Powers went on to write 12 novels, earning him numerous national book awards. This year, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, "The Overstory."

“New Pennies gave me my first chance to see my words in print and to share my creativity with friends and classmates,” Powers said in a news release. “More importantly, it gave me a chance to see and enjoy the creativity of my peers. Having a place where private creation can be shared in community is valuable in more ways than I can count. I would put that on par with any other activity that a high school can offer. The connective gifts that New Pennies brought me have lasted my whole life.”

Two local DHS alumni who had been involved with New Pennies as students shared Powers’ concern about the recent lapse of the magazine. With his support, they established this fund to help students and staff restore the magazine to its former level of excellence. The founders hope to ensure that current and future DHS students have the same valuable experiences they had in planning and producing a high quality magazine and in sharing their writing and artwork with the community.

Donations to any fund at the Community Foundation, including the Joe LoCascio and Mary Penson New Pennies Project Fund, can be made online at dekalbccf.org/donate, or by mail to the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 475 DeKalb Ave., Sycamore, IL 60178. For questions or more information on funds, contact Executive Director Dan Templin at 815-748-5383 or dan@dekalbccf.org.

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