Marvin B. Perry Jr., ex-Goucher president

December 16, 1994|By DeWitt Bliss | DeWitt Bliss,Sun Staff Writer

Marvin B. Perry Jr., the seventh president of Goucher College, died Monday of cancer at a retirement community in Charlottesville, Va. He was 76.

Dr. Perry was president from 1967 until 1973, when he left Goucher to become president of Agnes Scott College, a women's college in Decatur, Ga., from which he retired in 1982.

Dr. Rhoda Dorsey, now retired, who succeeded him as president of Goucher, said yesterday, "It was a very difficult time in American higher education. He dealt with unrest and currents of change in an open manner and tried to include the whole community in the resolution of issues."

She added that Dr. Perry told her that "what he liked best in retirement was to be able to get up in the morning and read a book."

Walter Sondheim Jr., who was chairman of the board at Goucher when Dr. Perry left, said the board had tried to persuade him to stay. "He brought a great deal of warmth to the campus," he said and suggested that an assessment he made in 1973 of Dr. Perry's accomplishments would still be true today.

Those accomplishments included flexibility in the curriculum and the academic calendar, creation of a mechanism for students and faculty members to have a greater voice in policy, improvements in the financial condition of the school and the completion of four new buildings.

In his inaugural speech, Dr. Perry described Goucher as "an institution that symbolizes a humane and civilized society," and that avoided "being a place of propaganda and polemic."

He said it should be "a community which respects tradition and order but which welcomes experiment and change."

Born in Powhatan, Va., and educated in public schools in Atlanta and Newton, Mass., Dr. Perry was a 1940 graduate of the University of Virginia, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa and the Raven Society. He also won a letter for basketball.

During World War II, he was a Navy officer in the Mediterranean and the Pacific. He was navigator and executive officer of an ammunition ship, the USS Wrangell, during the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He remained in the Naval Reserve after the war, reaching the rank of commander.

He earned his master's and doctorate degrees at Harvard University and taught literature at the University of Virginia, where he became dean of undergraduate admissions, and at Washington and Lee University, where he was chairman of the English Department.

While at Goucher, he headed the Maryland Independent Colleges and Universities Association and was on the boards of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., the Maryland Academy of Sciences, Bryn Mawr School and Gilman School. He also served on the boards of colleges, schools and cultural institutions in Virginia and Georgia.

He was an elder of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, where a memorial service was held yesterday.

He is survived by his wife, the former Ellen Gilliam; two daughters, Elizabeth Perry Sweet of Westport, Conn., and Margaret Perry Daniel of Atlanta; a brother, John Mosby Perry of Chevy Chase; and two grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to a library fund named for his wife at the University of Virginia; or a library fund named for his parents at Washington and Lee University; or to the Marvin Perry Scholars Fund at Agnes Scott College.

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