Robert M. Pennoyer, 1925-2023

August, 2023 - New York, New York

We are deeply saddened at the passing of our dear friend and Patterson Belknap colleague, Robert M. Pennoyer, on August 13, 2023.  He was a leader of the firm in every way, and he was indefatigable in his service to the firm’s clients and to our community. 

Bob was born on April 9, 1925, in the house of his grandfather J.P. Morgan on Madison Avenue. His commitment to service was instilled from a young age. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Bob went through Harvard College in 18 months and joined the Navy at the age of 19, serving on the USS Pensacola. He saw action in the Pacific, where the Pensacola supported the invasion of Iwo Jima and was severely damaged by enemy fire.

After the war Bob attended Columbia Law School, where he met his friends and future Patterson Belknap partners Harold R. Tyler, Jr., and Robert P. Patterson, Jr.  He also met and married the love of his life, Vicky, who predeceased him in 2013.  After law school, Bob served together with Tyler and Patterson as Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Southern District of New York. 

From 1954 to 1958 Bob served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as Assistant to the General Counsel and as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. There he defended the Army during the Army-McCarthy Senate hearings.  Bob joined Patterson Belknap as an associate in 1958, was a partner from 1962 to 1995, and continued an active practice as of counsel to the firm for many years thereafter.

Throughout Bob’s career he worked with his Patterson Belknap partners to maintain the firm’s dedication to the highest ideals of the profession, combining exemplary service to firm clients with a commitment to public and pro bono service. In the 1960’s Bob was a founder and trustee of Exodus House, a halfway house for addiction rehabilitation in East Harlem. He was a generous supporter of Human Rights First, where he established the Pennoyer Fellowship Program. Through this program, an international human rights scholar was elected to assist the organization in responding to emerging human rights problems and issues that required long-term study and steady policy advocacy. Bob was a passionate supporter of women’s rights and a great champion of the Alliance for Justice, a judicial advocacy group in the United States. In October 2006, he was awarded the lifetime achievement award at The American Lawyer’s Annual Awards dinner. 

In his law practice, Bob concentrated on tax-exempt organizations and trusts and estates. He served as an advisor to high net worth individuals and as a trustee of their family trusts. Bob was also a trustee of many charitable organizations, including the Union Theological Seminary, Carnegie Institution in Washington, Columbia University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Morgan Library and Museum. Bob worked closely with his secretary of nearly 30 years, Agnes Otten, with whom he shared a great relationship of mutual respect.

Even after his retirement, Bob was a well-known figure walking the halls of Patterson Belknap. In a video documenting the occasion of the firm’s centennial in 2019, Bob is quoted: “I still come to the office almost every day of the week. I have this vicarious thrill at watching what all the people do. And it’s a great – enormous pleasure.”

“Bob made a tremendous impact on generations of Patterson Belknap lawyers and staff. His commitment to the firm, his clients and the practice of law are attributes every lawyer should aim to emulate. We are all better lawyers and people for having known him. He will be deeply missed,” said Patterson Belknap Co-Chairs Dahlia Doumar and Peter Tomlinson.

The Patterson Belknap community is grateful to Bob for sharing his remarkable career and friendship with the firm. We join his many friends in sending our deepest condolences to his children, Christy Pennoyer, Russell Pennoyer, Tracy Pennoyer and Peter Pennoyer, their spouses Helen Pennoyer, John Auchincloss and Katie Ridder, Bob’s grandchildren Kate, Frances, and Molly Greathead; Gordon, Robbie, and Margaret Pennoyer; Emily and James Auchincloss; Jane, Tony, and Gigi Pennoyer; and their families, including eight great-grandchildren.