In Memoriam: Former Whitman College President Louis Perry

Louis PerryLouis Perry, the eighth president of Whitman College, died Sept. 28, 2013, at Washington Odd Fellows Home in Walla Walla, Wash. He was 95. Born in Los Angeles, Calif., March 4, 1918, Perry served as Whitman’s president from 1959 to 1967.

“Lou was a remarkably talented and yet humble person,” President George Bridges said. “Over quiet lunches throughout the first years of my presidency, he offered sage advice about Whitman and the future of higher education. I will miss him immensely.”

While he was president, Perry created a development office and launched major fundraising and building campaigns, which dramatically increased the size of the college’s asset base, endowment, and buildings, as well as the number of faculty members and students.

President Bridges said, “Lou helped lay the foundation of excellence that has enabled Whitman to become one of the nation’s outstanding colleges. Creating Whitman's Office of Development proved to be among his most important accomplishments, enabling loyal Whitman alumni and friends of the college to help secure the college’s financial future through their giving.”

Larry Beaulaurier, who was a long-serving vice president for development at Whitman, echoed President Bridges’ remarks. “Lou changed the entire nature of the college. Whitman had a strong academic reputation, but it didn’t have an especially strong public relations effort due in large part to a lack of personnel. Louis implanted college relations, and Whitman became a leader in academics, alumni relations and fundraising, and because of his efforts, Whitman was able to further strengthen its faculty.”

G. Thomas Edwards, William Kirkman Professor of History Emeritus and author of an acclaimed history of Whitman College titled “The Triumph of Tradition,” said Perry was eminently likeable, which helped him accomplish a great deal for the college.

“He was successful because of his character and personality,” Edwards said. “He was very concerned and interested in everyone at the school. Lou was an outgoing person, and everybody liked him,” Edwards said.

In 1996, the Louis B. Perry Summer Student-Faculty Research Endowment was established to honor Perry's continuing leadership in the Whitman community. The Perry Summer Research Endowment encourages faculty to recruit and employ continuing Whitman students to join them as collaborators in their professional scholarship.

In the spring of 2000, Perry established an endowment at Whitman in honor of his wife, Genevieve Patterson Perry. Income from the endowment brings one or more distinguished visiting speakers in the general areas of economic policy and business ethics to the campus. Genevieve Perry, educated as an economist at UCLA, served Whitman in a leadership role during her husband's presidency.

Louis Perry earned his B.A. and M.A. in Economics from UCLA in 1938 and 1940, respectively. After receiving his M.A. degree, he served in the U.S. Army from 1941-45. He finished his military career as a Lt. Col., Adjutant General Department, retired.

He later earned his Ph.D. in Economics from UCLA in 1950 while working for Pomona College, first as an instructor and director of placement, and then as associate professor, assistant to the president and full professor of economics from 1957-59.

After serving Whitman as its eighth president, Perry worked as vice president and treasurer of Standard Insurance Co. in Portland, Ore. During his tenure at Standard Insurance, he also served as president from 1972-83, chairman from 1983-85 and retired chairman from 1985-90. He also became an Overseer of Whitman from 1991-2001 and was elected to emeritus status in at the conclusion of his term.

He also worked for the Oregon State Board of Higher Education and was a member of The Western Economic Association. In 1980, The Associated Oregon Industries named him Oregon Businessman of the Year.

He is survived by a son, Robert B. Perry ’67, and his wife Elizabeth Dawson Perry ’67; daughter Barbara Perry Rutzer and her husband Max Rutzer; daughter Donna Perry Jones ’76, administrative assistant in Whitman’s Office of Fellowships and Grants, and her husband, David Jones ’76; eight grandchildren, including Perry Jones’06; sister-in-law, Vera Perry; and 18 great-grandchildren.

The service will be 3 p.m., Nov. 10 at Pioneer United Methodist Church.