American University has no shortage of successful Black alumni, and few encapsulate athletic and professional excellence like 2008 graduate Romone Penny.
Penny played guard for the Eagles men’s basketball team from 2005 to 2008. During that span, Penny helped the Eagles’ win the Patriot League title and reach the March Madness tournament, the first NCAA tournament berth in AU men’s basketball history.
“Everytime I talk about it, it puts a smile on my face,” Penny said about the experience. “That whole experience, getting more gear, hanging out, and being on TV…it was incredible. One of the best things I’ve accomplished in my life.”
For someone as accomplished as Penny, that statement carries immense weight. Since graduating from American in 2008, Penny has worked in accounting for Ernst & Young, begun a budding acting career, sits on the board for the Suburban Hospital Foundation helping to raise funds for its expansion, and even played pickup basketball with former President Barack Obama regularly during his administration. However, Penny’s proudest accomplishment since graduating is Pursuit Sports Group, a company he founded to pursue his passion for coaching and aid professional athletes in learning financial literacy. According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, an estimated 60% of NBA players go broke within five years of retirement. Penny saw this financial decline and knew he could use his undergraduate degree in accounting to help his fellow athletes.
“Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Penny said. “I thought I could create something no one was doing and do it my way.”
In addition to running Pursuit Sports Group, Penny is working to make it to the big screen as a feature film actor and writer. Penny has recently taken up acting, a passion he discovered during his time acting in plays during middle school. For the past year, he has been taking acting lessons and just earned his first acting credit as a character in the short film Closure Corps. He also hosted the “Actors Path” panel during the 2023 Filmapalooza in LA with actors Jay Lee, Tara Erickson, Michael Vaccaro and Ashley Platz.
In all of his endeavors, Penny is driven by his desire to help his family and fellow athletes succeed. From a young age, he chose basketball as a means to emulate his childhood hero, Michael Jordan, and avoid gang violence in inner-city Chicago and Minneapolis. Although he endured many hardships on his path to entrepreneurial success, such as the loss of his brother to gun violence, he was able to persevere by applying his athletic talents and relying on a strong support network
“A lot of my teammates, friends, moms, and dads, they were all so supportive,” Penny said.
Penny was able to grow that support network during his time at American, and he looks back on his time at the university fondly. As a student, Penny was an active participant in the community, attending Black Student Union meetings and hanging out on the quad playing frisbee and dodgeball during his free time. He also formed many close bonds with his accounting professors in the Kogod School of Business, many of which he maintains to this day. Penny still engages with the AU community in his spare time, attending sporting events, serving as a guest speaker in Kogod business classes, and interacting with students during his occasional workouts in Jacobs Fitness Center.
Through all his successes, Penny accumulated substantial wisdom and knowledge, and he has one crucial piece of advice for students at American looking to succeed during and after college.
“Don’t feel like you need to do things by yourself. Tap into your resources. Most people want to see you win, so ask for help when you need it,” Penny said. “Do more. Join a group, join a club, play a sport, workout, go to more games, go to different games, try something new…connect with as many people as you can.”