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Jim Perry ’71

It’s been nearly forty years since Jim Perry graduated from IUP, but he’s still active with his alma mater. Jim organizes an annual reunion for his Kappa Delta Rho fraternity brothers, attends various alumni networking events, and helped organize an alumni chapter in Westmoreland County. His ongoing involvement, he explained, is his way of giving back to IUP.

Jim grew up in Bradford, Pa., which lies 121 miles north of Indiana and is known for being the place where Zippo lighters are made. His high school teachers spoke highly of IUP, and it made financial sense to attend since it was a state school. At IUP, Jim met his wife, the former Becky Johnston (’71), with whom he has two daughters, also IUP alumnae, Karen Markle (’93, M’96) and Jamie Perry (’98).

During his time at IUP, Jim was active in his fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho. He graduated in 1971 with a degree in Business Management and moved with Becky to Greensburg, Pa., where they still live today. After a brief stint teaching at a business school, Jim shifted his career into food sales and services. He’s worked for a number of companies over the years and today is a school specialist at Selective Foods, where his main responsibility is calling on food service directors from school districts around Pennsylvania, many of whom are also IUP alumni.

Jim recently answered questions about his days at IUP and his involvement since.

You graduated in 1971. Can you talk a little bit about how campus has changed since then?

The dorms are a good example. I lived in Gordon Hall, which no longer exists today.  Even my youngest daughter—she lived in a dorm that was built after I graduated, and it has already been torn down and replaced.

Sometimes, I still attempt to turn down a street that has been changed to a one-way or that no longer even exists.

You’ve stayed pretty involved with the university since you graduated, haven’t you?

Yes. When my fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho, formed an alumni corporation to buy our fraternity house, I was a logical choice for landlord since I lived so close by. That kept me busy collecting rent, keeping up the property, etc. But I also hold football season tickets, and my wife and I like to come back a few times a year for events at Fisher.

On top of that, both our daughters attended IUP, so the connection has remained strong over the years for many reasons.

You organize an annual reunion for your fraternity brothers. Tell me a little more about that.

It usually coincides with the first home game of the football season. On Friday, we get together for a golf outing and then head over to the Coventry Inn for dinner. Charles Runyan, one of our frat brothers, is the owner. Then on Saturday, we all attend the game and follow that up with dinner and drinks.

It’s a great way to stay connected and maintain the strong friendships that we built attending IUP together. Last year, we had sixty guys show up.

That sounds like a lot of work to put that together. Do you do it all yourself?

At one point it was just me and my college roommate. And it was a real pain logistically trying to keep track of everyone. Today though, the [Office of Alumni Relations] pitches in for quite a bit of it—sends out the announcement, collects the money—that kind of thing. It’s a great service that makes our lives easier.

Apart from service to your fraternity, are you involved with IUP in any other ways?

My wife and I try to help out however we can. For example, sometimes we’re asked to work the alumni table during football games. We also helped to organize the Westmoreland County chapter of the Alumni Association before that was replaced by a regional chapter. And we like to attend the Pittsburgh-area networking events once a month.

Why is it important for you to give back to IUP in this way?

I got a lot out of my time at IUP. My education has contributed a great deal to success in my career. And I developed friendships there that are still strong today.

I know another alumnus who says, “I paid to go to IUP. I don’t owe them anything.” But I don’t feel that way at all. I owe IUP a great deal, and I’m happy to give something back.

What would you say to other alumni about your experiences?

I don’t know why more people don’t get involved. I’d encourage other alumni the same way I encourage my two daughters. I tell them, “Do something.” It doesn’t have to be big. Even something small makes a difference.

Do you have a favorite moment or memory related to any of your service positions?

I do. I was at an IUP social when the Alumni Relations staff asked where I was from. When I told them Bradford, Pa., they asked if by chance I knew Greg Booth. I told them that we grew up together and were also college roommates and fraternity brothers.

They mentioned that Greg had been featured in IUP Magazine, and they were looking for someone to nominate him for the Distinguished Alumni Award. They wanted to know if I thought he’d be interested.

I called him on the spot and relayed the news. He said that he’d be honored.

Profile published on 3/8/10

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