Allen Perry always had a love of Science, according to his son, John Perry.
“Dad was always reverential about geology,” John said. “He said it made him realize that the structure and order of things was not an accident.”
Allen was the first in his family to go to college, and he started his journey at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. When he ran out of money to pay his tuition, he traveled to Puerto Rico to work. He built infrastructure through Operation Bootstrap. He met his wife Nell in Puerto Rico, was drafted into the Army, and then returned to finish a bachelor's degree with the help of the G.I. Bill and Nell working full time. Allen eventually went on to get an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Engineering Geology from Purdue University, with some of his coursework completed at the Purdue School of Science at IUPUI.
“My dad’s story is probably the same as so many other kids,” John said. “There is a great power in education: to come from a pretty poor family, and have someone lifted up and get a Ph.D. I have an appreciation for the asset that public universities are, providing world-class education to those for whom it has typically been out of reach.”
He was very devoted to helping anyone who wanted to advance their career. He was always willing to talk to people about mentoring and advancing them in their degrees.”John Perry
Allen spent his career working in public service, from Argonne National Laboratory to the Department of the Interior, from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Works to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Much of his work focused on safe mining practices, both internationally and with Native American tribes in the United States.
“He was passionate about mining,” John said. “It provides the capacity of people in different parts of the world to be self-sufficient through the mining of natural resources in an environmentally-friendly way. He found a way to do it that could be helpful and productive while being done thoughtfully.”
Dr. Gabe Filippelli said, “Al understood the interplay between environmental quality and our need to extract things out of the Earth.” Filippelli, who served as department chair as they transitioned from the Geology Department to the Earth Sciences Department, especially appreciated Al’s good advice and story-telling ability. “He was fundamentally a geologist, but he understood why we needed to change to environmental and earth sciences. I really learned to appreciate Al during that time.”
Even while working in public service, Al continued to find ways to give back through education. He held adjunct faculty positions with a few universities, including IUPUI, and acted as an advisor to both full-time faculty and graduate students, even serving on several research committees. “He was very devoted to helping anyone who wanted to advance their career. He was always willing to talk to people about mentoring and advancing them in their degrees,” John said.
Al passed away in March 2020 at the age of 84, but his legacy will live on through the Dr. Allen O. Perry Memorial Scholarship fund established by his family and friends. This generous scholarship will support undergraduate and graduate students in the Earth Sciences Department at IUPUI.
“I think it’s important to have scholarships for students for whom an education is out of reach,” John said. “At public institutions, those scholarship dollars just go so much further and it’s a great public asset for the people of the state of Indiana.”
Dr. Filippelli knows the impact this scholarship will have on the department and its students. “This will provide opportunities for students. Sometimes these scholarships can be the difference between being able to take courses that semester or not, so these scholarships have become really critical for students. It is also a recognition of the person who gives, as well as a recognition of the promise of some of these students. They’re forever changed because of the scholarships that they’ve received and opportunities they’ve been able to pursue.”