Former Associate Athletic Director Ellen Perry Passes
March 4, 2014
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics mourns the passing of former Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator Ellen Perry, who died on Tuesday in State College. She was 72.
Perry was a member of the Penn State Athletics staff from 1966 until her retirement on June 30, 2002, completing a distinguished career spanning almost 40 years in teaching, coaching and athletic administration. She was the Nittany Lions' first women's swimming and diving head coach and from 1989 until her retirement served as Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator.
"Ellen Perry was one of the primary forces in making Penn State an early leader among national universities in providing opportunities for women in athletics on the intercollegiate, intramural and club levels," said Dave Joyner, Director of Athletics. "Ellen made a meaningful difference on the lives of Penn State students and staff and members of the State College and intercollegiate Athletics' communities. She played a significant role in Penn State's transition into the Big Ten Conference and helped lay the foundation for the 60-plus Big Ten titles and nearly 20 national championships our women's teams have won."
From Reading, Mass., Perry played a significant role in the growth and success of women's athletics at Penn State and nationwide and was recognized as one of the nation's most respected athletic administrators. During her tenure as Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator, Penn State's women's programs captured 14 national championships in six sports, as well as winning 17 Big Ten regular season championships and nine Big Ten tournament titles. In addition, the women's fencing team combined with the men's team to win nine combined NCAA Championships from 1990-2002.
In her role as Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator, Perry had management oversight responsibilities with Penn State's 14 women's sports as well as Student-Athlete Services for the approximately 750 Nittany and Lady Lion student-athletes at the time. Those duties included financial aid, admissions, grants-in-aid, endowed scholarships, NCAA eligibility, housing, database, awards, liaison with the Registrar's Office and the Morgan Academic Support Center for Student-Athletes.
Perry and her predecessor, Della Durant, who passed away on August 20, 2013, were primarily responsible for the implementation and growth of the highly-successful women's sports programs at Penn State. A 1963 graduate of Tufts University, Perry began her career in intercollegiate athletics as a physical education instructor at Bucknell University. In 1966, she accepted a graduate assistantship at Penn State, coaching the women's lacrosse team and teaching physical education. When she came to State College, there were 10 women's athletic teams, which had gained varsity status during the 1964-65 academic year.
During the early years of Perry's tenure, Penn State was a leader among national public universities in providing opportunities for women in athletics on the intercollegiate, intramural and club levels.
Perry's background as a coach and teacher provided her with a unique perspective on the student-athlete experience. At Tufts, Perry earned a B.S. in Education, played basketball and swam competitively. Following three years at Bucknell, she came to Happy Valley in 1966 to earn a Master's in Education degree, which she completed in 1969. In her second year at Penn State, she started a women's club swimming program with a handful of swimmers who practiced in the pool in White Building. In 1969, the McCoy Natatorium opened on campus and a year later women's swimming and diving earned varsity status, with Perry serving as the first coach.
Perry guided the women's swimming and diving program from 1970-81 and posted a winning percentage of .790 in 124 dual meets. Seven of her Penn State swimmers won a total of nine All-America citations and four of her alumnae have coached at the collegiate level. In 1990, the Eastern Women's Swimming League named its team championship trophy the "Ellen Perry Cup" for her many contributions to the sport.
In 1981, Perry was named Assistant to then-Athletic Director Joe Paterno, who was succeeded a year later by Jim Tarman. Her primary concentration was in Student-Athlete Services until she was promoted to Senior Woman Administrator in 1989.
An assistant professor of exercise and sports science in the College of Health and Human Development, Perry taught from 1966 until the mid-1980's. She was a long-time member of the Faculty Senate, sat on the Senate Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics and was member of the University Women's Commission Athletics sub-committee. She was chairperson of the Intercollegiate Athletic Strategic Planning Committee from 1984-86.
Perry was accorded new and broader responsibilities with Penn State's membership in the Big Ten Conference. A member of the Big Ten's primary administrative body-the Joint Group-Perry was chair of the Women's Athletic Administrators Group in 1992-93. She also served on a number of conference committees, including the Women's Television Administrative Committee, the Sports Administrators Group and the Legislative Review Committee.
In January 2000, Perry was appointed to the NCAA Division I Management Council, the group of nationwide athletic administrators and faculty representatives that forwards legislative recommendations to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.
A past President of the Eastern Association for Physical Education of College Women, Perry was a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee for Swimming and was technical advisor to the Eastern Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Aquatics Committee. She also served as president of the Women's Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Coaches Association. From 1975-77, she was chairperson of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Advisory Committee on swimming and diving.
In 1995, Perry was named recipient of the 1995 Administrator of the Year Award presented by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. The award recognizes "an administrator who has excelled at encouraging the growth and quality of women's basketball programs ad women's athletic programs overall."
Arrangements are being handled by Koch Funeral Home and are pending.
Comments from current and former Penn State coaches and administrators on Ellen Perry:
“Today is truly a sad day for the entire Penn State family. Ellen Perry was not only a tremendous administrator, but she was an outstanding mentor, and friend to so many. I will forever be grateful for her support, her knowledge, and her expertise she shared with me throughout the past 2 1/2 years, and I will miss her positive spirit and outlook on life.“
"Ellen was a dedicated leader in the field of college athletics who had a passion for the blue and white and all our student-athletes. Her vision and effort is reflected in the growth of women's athletics at Penn State. She was well respected as a teacher, coach, mentor and administrator by her former students, athletes and peers throughout the country. Ellen will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends."
"Ellen Perry has meant so much to our program and to Penn State Athletics. She was a remarkable woman, with incredible vision. Her support over the years has helped Lady Lion Basketball exist as one of the nation's elite and I will miss seeing her after our games with her warm smile and encouraging words."
“Ellen Perry was truly an exceptional teacher, coach, and administrator for more than 40 years at Penn State. I will always remember her unwavering commitment to providing competitive athletic opportunities for female student-athletes and her pride in Penn State’s broad-based athletic program. As a tennis coach during Ellen’s time as Senior Women’s Administrator, I got to observe first-hand her devotion, commitment, work ethic, and tireless support as a real Champion of Penn State athletics. It was a pleasure and honor to have worked with EP.”
"EP was a person who was so special in my life from my freshman year at Penn State through every stage of my career and life since then. She was a person who made all of us better for knowing her, working with her, learning from her and she embraced so many of us in a manner that gave us that caring feeling and yet firm direction. Chickie and I are saddened by the news but truly feel blessed to have had EP in our lives as well as the lives of our entire family. I know the news of EP's passing will sadden so many who loved her and yet, I hope, everyone will smile as they think of the many great memories provided for us through her life of dedication to making us all better people. Penn State lost a great one today."