Campus Arts Enthusiast Ernest Penchuk Dies
By by DAVID ABRAMOWICZ, Staff Writer
Amherst's performance halls will be a little emptier this year.

Town resident Ernest Penchuk, whose loyal attendance at College events and frequent use of the school's resources made him one of the campus's most recognizable figures, died at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton on August 13. He was 67.

After living for many years in the Berkshires, Penchuk, who was a medical and dental supplies salesman, moved to the Pioneer Valley in the mid-1980s.

Penchuk once said that he considered the limitless opportunities to try different kinds of dancing the area's most appealing feature. "I like dancing, and in this town you can dance three, four, five times a week," Penchuk said in an April 1999 profile in The Student. He was himself skilled at many dancing styles, including Greek, Scottish and contra dancing, among others.

About four years ago, Penchuk started coming to the Amherst campus for guitar lessons. He almost never left.

Penchuk took advantage of the College's resources in a way that few, if any, students ever have. For years, the College's theater directors and concert organizers could count on him to attend their performances, regardless of how well the events were publicized or whether Penchuk fit the target audience.

When there were no productions to see, Penchuk could be found reading a book in Frost, listening to a compact disc in Buckley, shooting pool in the gameroom or playing Celtic tunes on the frontroom piano.

Though few students knew Penchuk's name, virtually all knew his face; his long, white hair, suspenders and ever-present toothpick in the side of his mouth made Penchuk stand out. Still, Penchuk hardly begged for attention: when The Student wanted to run a profile of him, he initially declined to be interviewed.

Besides the performances that he so frequently attended, Penchuk admired the students he encountered at the College. "They're serious. They have a better idea of what they're headed for," he said. "They're intelligent, impressive and friendly."

Issue 02, Submitted 2000-09-13 16:11:58