Jack Richard Perry, founding director of Davidson College’s Dean Rusk International Studies Program and director from 1985 to 1995, passed away at age 83 Feb. 16. A memorial service will be held Friday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.
Perry’s experience at Davidson can be traced to the late college President Samuel R. Spencer, who launched many initiatives to internationalize the campus and its programs. The highlight of those efforts was trustee approval in 1983 of a formal international studies program at Davidson to be named in honor of former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk ’31. President Emeritus John Kuykendall took office the next year, and recruited Perry to become the program’s first director. Perry and his spouse, Betsy, came to Davidson in 1985 from his position as West Professor of Government and International Studies at The Citadel, and for the next 10 years he was Dean Rusk Program director and professor of political science.
During his tenure he guided the program to accomplish a primary objective—to broaden and deepen the global dimension of the Davidson liberal arts experience. That involved promoting international dimensions to the existing curriculum; creating new international offerings in the curriculum; and promoting awareness of international affairs among students, including study abroad opportunities. He led the program and its advisory committees in raising funds for an endowment, establishing scholarships for student study and travel abroad, staging five major conferences on international affairs, hosting a plethora of speakers, and establishing an international studies academic concentration.
Following retirement in 1995, Jack and Betsy chose to remain in Davidson. Perry spent two years, 1997-99, teaching and administering international studies at UNC Charlotte. From 1984 on, he wrote numerous columns for the Charlotte Observer. He often said that being able to express his opinions freely in a newspaper with a fine tradition was one of the great privileges of his later life.
As he entered his eighties, Perry reflected on his good fortune and wrote, “I had a three-time blessed life. I was given a wonderful human being as my wife, with all the good things that come from marvelous children and a happy family. I was given a diplomatic career which took me to fascinations around the world, and which let me be a part of the great Cold War era in which two nuclear powers proved that by negotiation, not armed conflict, they could keep the peace. And I was given the great gift of teaching a decade at a superb college with inspiring students. I am one fortunate man.”
Perry was born March 21, 1930, in Atlanta, the son of William Berrian Perry and Nellie Edwards Perry, both natives of Jackson County, Ga.
He was educated at the Boys’ High School in Atlanta and at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., where he graduated summa cum laude in 1951. He served three years in the U.S. Army, including a year in Japan. Following army duty he returned to Georgia, where he worked as a news writer for The Associated Press in Atlanta, as a reporter for The Macon Telegraph, and as director of the news bureau at Mercer. During this time back at Mercer he met Elizabeth (Betsy) Smith, and they were married in Macon June 8, 1957.
From 1956 to 1959 Perry did graduate study at the Russian Institute of Columbia University in New York, and received his masters and doctoral degrees in political science from Columbia. During his first year at Columbia he also was a news writer for the Associated Press in New York.
In 1959 Perry entered the U.S. Foreign Service, where he served until 1983. He served in the diplomatic corps of five U.S. presidents successively at the State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, NATO Headquarters in Paris, the U.S. Embassy in Paris, the Soviet Desk in the State Department, the Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of the President, then two assignments as Deputy Chief of Mission in Prague and Stockholm, as Deputy Executive Secretary of the State Department, and as Ambassador to Bulgaria (1979-81). He had concluding assignments as head of the Senior Seminar in Washington and as Diplomat in Residence at The Citadel before retiring from the Foreign Service in 1983 and joining the Davidson faculty two years later.
Perry is survived by wife, Betsy, and by their four children and eight grandchildren. The children are one son, James William Perry (California), and three daughters, all of Atlanta, Leslie Perry Wingate, Jennifer Perry Karpenko and Laura Perry Bates. The grandchildren are Ellen Perry, William Perry, Sarah Wingate, Sydney Karpenko, Emily Wingate, Zachary Karpenko, Richard Bates and Rebecca Bates. His daughter-in-law is Elizabeth (Betsy) Hanes Perry, and his sons-in-law are Paul Karpenko and Brandon Bates. Perry also is survived by his sister, Jane Perry Adams and her husband, Gerald (Atlanta).
Donations may be sent to the Jack Perry Scholarship Fund, Dean Rusk Program, Davidson, Davidson College, Davidson NC 28035 or Crisis Assistance, Ada Jenkins Center, 452 South Main Street, Davidson, NC 28036.
Read more about Perry’s life and service at The Charlotte Observer.