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In Memoriam: John M. Perry, Virginia Tech Provost Emeritus


BLACKSBURG, Va., March 4, 2010 – Virginia Tech Provost Emeritus John M. Perry, of Blacksburg, died Tuesday, March 2, 2010. He was 84 years old.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, March 7 at 3 p.m. at McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive, Blacksburg. Family will receive friends following the service.

Perry came to the university in 1977 as vice provost and served in that office under various titles until his retirement in 1989.

“John served during a period of considerable expansion and strengthening of the university’s academic programs,” said Ray Smoot, treasurer and chief operating officer of the Virginia Tech Foundation. “He played an important role in that growth and did it with grace and dignity. He was always a calming influence.”

Associate Provost of Academic Administration Patricia Hyer said, “John was a very humble, authentic person.”

Perry was brought to Virginia Tech by then provost John Wilson. He continued to serve under Provost Dave Roselle after Wilson left to become president of Washington and Lee. Perry assumed the role of interim provost after Roselle left the university in 1987.

Janet Johnson, dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, said “John was a fine man. No one ever questioned his integrity.”

Perry was born July 19, 1925 in Springfield, Vt., to the late George and Arminala Perry. After graduating from Middlebury College at age 19, he served as a midshipman and then Ensign in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946. He received a master’s degree in mathematics from Harvard University in 1951 and a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in 1959.

As a faculty member at Clarkson College of Technology from 1946 to 1965, Perry served as chair of the Department of Mathematics and director of the school’s computing center and was honored with an Excellent Teaching Award. In 1965, he moved to Wells College, then a women's college, where he served as professor of mathematics as well as dean of the college, until 1977.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Martha Jane Laffin Perry of Blacksburg, Va.; his sister Helen P. Smith of Baltimore, Md.; and children John R. (Jack) Perry and wife Joanne of Rehoboth, Mass.; Mary Esther Perry of Burke, Va.; Margaret H. Perry of Blacksburg; and Thomas L. Perry of Charlottesville, Va., and grandchildren Kevin, Jonathan, and Leah Finity, and Anna Jane Perry.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to The Nature Conservancy, 4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, VA, 22203.