Giving Back

Retired Captain’s support is tribute to daughter

 If there was one thing Lisa Peniston Sieg '77 knew growing up, it was that education was important.

Her father, retired Capt. Robert C Peniston, and mother, Frances, made sure education took a priority in the lives of their children. "What they taught me by example was the value of hard work, an appreciation for education, and to never stop learning," said Sieg, who now has three children.

"Without education, you are done," Peniston said recently from his home in Lexington, Virginia. "You need an education to be a proper person in my book."

When Sieg chose to attend Randolph-Macon Woman's College, he was pleased. "If she succeeds, I succeed," he said. "It's that simple."

Peniston was so appreciative of the educational experiences his daughter received that he started supporting the College financially 35 years ago. He has been a loyal giver ever since and is one of the College's top continuously giving parents.

Peniston, who grew up in Missouri and Kansas during the Depression, was the oldest of six children. He earned a Master of Arts from Stanford, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, and was a career military officer with the U.S. Navy. During his 30-year tenure with the Navy, Peniston served 10 tours at sea and was the commanding officer of four ships, including the USS New Jersey, the USS Albany, the USS Savage, and the USS Tattnall.

While he immensely disliked the sea, Peniston loved the ships he commanded. "It is the best job. Period," he said. "Life at sea is tough, and you have to be on your toes all the time. But I loved having people look up to me, and I loved looking up to them. The camaraderie of the sailors made it worthwhile."

After retiring in 1976, Peniston became director of Washington & Lee University's Lee Chapel. And when his wife was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, he spent every day by her side. She died in 2000 after 53 years of marriage.

"He's a loyal man," Sieg said. "That's the way he has lived his entire life."

Peniston said he was always thankful the College helped his daughter find her place in the world. "Randolph-Macon is not quite as important to me as the Navy, but it's close," he said. "They've both done great things for me and my family."