Robert “Bob” Perry, a 1967 graduate, dominated the Northwest Conference sprint events as a member of Whitman track & field teams of the mid-1960s. As a junior, Perry qualified for the 1966 NAIA National Championships in the 440-yard run, winning the NAIA district title in record-setting time. He placed seventh at nationals, competing against a world-class field that included Southern University’s Theron Lewis, a veteran of the U.S. Olympic Team who won the 440 national crown for a second consecutive year. Later in 1966, Lewis teamed with future Olympic standouts Tommie Smith and Lee Evans to set a new world record in the 4x100-meter relay.
Perry, the NAIA district champion in the 440 as both a sophomore and junior, was unable to run in the district meet as a senior due to a foot injury that hampered much of his final season. He ran in preliminary heats at the 1967 national championships, however, advancing to the semifinals before the injury, a broken bone in his left foot, forced him to the sidelines.
Perry ran the low hurdles at Walla Walla High School, winning a Southeast District title in the 180-yard low hurdles as a senior in May of 1963. He switched to the sprint events midway through his freshman season at Whitman. Running for legendary Whitman track coach Bill Martin, Perry seldom lost a race over his final three college seasons.
As a sophomore at the 1965 Northwest Conference Championships, Perry won the 220-yard dash, was part of the winning 440-yard and mile relay teams, and finished second by a nose in the 100-yard dash. As a junior and senior, Perry was victorious in both sprints and anchored both winning relay teams. He earned the High Point Award at the 1967 conference championships.
Perry was even more dominant at the annual Martin Invitational, which Whitman hosted each spring in honor of its coach. He won the 100 and 220 sprints in each of his four invitationals, contributed to a total of six relay victories, and was named the “Outstanding Performer” of the 1966 invitational.
Nearly four decades removed from his final college race, Perry continues to hold Whitman school records in two individual events and three relay events. His school-record time (47.4 seconds) in the 440-yard run was set in a preliminary heat at the 1966 NAIA national championships. He and 1936 Whitman graduate Robert Graham, also a member of the Whitman Athletic Hall of Fame, share the school record in the 100-yard dash at 9.6 seconds. Perry’s best time in the 220 – 21.5 seconds – is just a fraction of a second off Graham’s school record time (21.2 seconds) for that event. Perry ran the anchor leg on relay teams that hold Whitman records in the 440-yard, 880-yard and mile relay events.
Perry, the son of Whitman’s ninth president, Louis B. Perry, majored in political science at Whitman, served two years as president of the Independent Men, and played the flute with the Whitman Concert Band and Walla Walla Symphony. He and spouse Elizabeth Dawson Perry, also a 1967 Whitman graduate, have four grown children and six grand-children. At the time of his induction into Whitman’s Athletics Hall of Fame in May of 2005, Perry was still moving at a very quick pace, raising various crops (wheat, oats, corn, soybeans, alfalfa) and hundreds of sheep on a 585-acre farm and ranch operation 30 miles west of Sioux Falls, S.D. His parents, Louis and Genevieve, as well as his two sisters, Donna Jones and Barbara Rutzer, and an uncle, Richard Perry, continue to make their homes in Walla Walla.Back to main news release