Louis Perry to be Remembered

Sam Grainger-Shuba

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Louis Perry, Whitman’s eighth president, passed away at age 95 in Washington Odd Fellow’s Home on Sept. 8, 2013.

“[Former] President Perry was one of the most gracious, dignified and thoughtful persons I have ever met. When my wife Kari [Tupper] and I arrived at Whitman, he and his wife welcomed us to Walla Walla,” said President George Bridges.

Perry was born on March 4, 1918 in Los Angeles. He served as Whitman’s president from 1959 to 1967. During his time as president, Perry focused on increasing the college asset base and endowment. He launched many significant building and fundraising campaigns, including establishing the Office of Development, expanding the size of campus, and adding students and faculty.

“Louis [Perry] led Whitman through much of the 1970s and had a profound impact on professionalizing the staff,” said President Bridges. “Without [the Office of Development] and the very dedicated work our development staff perform, Whitman would not be nearly as strong and financially secure as it is.”

Perry’s legacy continued after he left Whitman College as well, due to his active role in the community. The Louis B. Perry Summer Student-Faculty Research Endowment was established in 1996 to celebrate Perry’s continuing service to community. The grant allows faculty to employ Whitman students to collaborate in the research pursuits of their professors.

According to Marcus Juhasz, assistant professor of chemistry and recipient of a 2012 Perry Grant, the funding from this and a previous Perry Grant have allowed him to employ four full-time students in his lab over the past five years.

“Working closely with students on research over the summers has been a personally rewarding experience for me, and the students gain a rich experience from sustained and focused work on a project,” said Juhasz. “My Perry-funded students have taken part in some impressive professional activities –– things I didn’t have a chance to do as an undergraduate.”

For example, one Perry-funded student, alumnus Aaron Rosenbaum ’12, coauthored an article with Juhasz and Associate Professor of Physics Doug Juers in the chemistry textbook “Inorganic Chemistry.” Another alumnus, Nathan Neff-Mallon ’12, presented research done at a 15,000-attendee national meeting of the American Chemical Society, according to Juhasz.

“The Perry Award program established in honor of Louis B. Perry is a fitting legacy for someone who served the college for many years as president and as an overseer,” Juhasz said.

After serving as Whitman’s president, Perry worked for Standard Insurance Co. in Portland. He then returned to Walla Walla to be overseer of Whitman from 1991 to 2001.

Other professors have benefited from the Perry Grant, even if they did not have a chance to get to know Perry.

“Although I never met Professor Perry, I’ve very much appreciated the opportunity to work closely with students that the Perry Summer Research Endowment has made possible. Examining literary works and criticism with dedicated student researchers over the course of a summer has really helped me articulate and extend my research questions in new ways,” said 2012 Perry grant recipient and Associate Professor for Language and Literature Nicole Simek.

Bridges particularly noted that Perry was devoted to the importance of leaving a lasting impact on the college. Although many of the people who worked with Perry during his lifetime are no longer on campus, his legacy continues to impact education and research at Whitman. 

“[Perry] also devoted time to educating me about the legacies that other Whitman presidents had left and some of the challenges that they faced. He was a very good listener and an important adviser to me,” said Bridges.

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