Ellen Louise Perry, longtime former Penn State Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator passed away on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 following a courageous battle with Mantle Cell Lymphoma. Ellen was born in Winchester, Massachusetts on July 19, 1941, the daughter of Carol Stevens Perry and James Smart Perry. She attended the Reading, Massachusetts public schools and was a graduate of Boston Bouve School of Physical Education and Tufts University.
Ellen’s professional career, which spanned nearly 40 years in teaching, coaching and athletic administration began at Bucknell University where she taught physical education and coached synchronized swimming. Following three successful years at Bucknell, Ellen accepted a graduate assistantship in the College of Health Physical Education and Recreation at Penn State where she taught classes and coached the women’s swimming and diving team.
As a Penn State faculty member Ellen’s proven coaching success and leadership were exemplary and her inspiration of the former student-athletes remains today as a hallmark of her contributions. In athletics Ellen held management responsibilities for 14 women’s sports as well as Student Athlete Services for the Nittany and Lady Lion programs.
The development and growth of the highly successful women’s sports programs at Penn State are primarily the result of efforts by Ellen and before her, Della Durant. Penn State has been a leader in providing women’s sports opportunities at the intercollegiate level. Ellen’s tireless work helped to raise the stature of the Penn State program nationally.
At the time of Ellen’s retirement then Director of Athletics Tim Curley said “We are genuinely grateful to Ellen Perry for her substantial and significant contributions to the growth of Penn State Athletics. Ellen has been tremendously effective in her role and a wonderful ambassador for Penn State, making friends for the university and department across the country.” Most significant was Ellen’s ability to inspire success for the student-athletes.
Under Ellen’s leadership the women’s swimming and diving teams developed from a club program to varsity status in 1989. Seven swimmers over the years won nine All-America citations and four alumnae have gone on to coach at the college level. The Eastern Women’s Swimming League named its championship trophy the “Ellen Perry Cup.”
In 1981 Ellen was named Assistant to then AD Joe Paterno and in 1989 was promoted to Senior Woman Administrator. Of great importance to Ellen were the joy and growth of the student-athletes as they worked toward their goals and received degrees. “The joy of commencement. That’s what it’s about” Ellen said.
At Penn State, Ellen served the University Faculty Senate as a member of the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics and the Women’s Commission Athletics Subcommittee. When Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference, she became a member of the Joint Group and chaired the Women’s Athletic Administrators Group that forwarded legislative recommendations to the NCAA Board of Directors. Ellen was past president of Eastern Association for Physical Education of College Women.
In January 2000, she was appointed to the NCAA Division I Management Council, the group of nation-wide athletic administrators and faculty representatives who forward legislative recommendations to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors. She served on the US Olympic Committee for Swimming and was president of the Women’s Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Coaches Association. In 1995 she was named the Administrator of the Year Award by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
Ellen was chairperson of the Intercollegiate Athletic Strategic Planning Committee from 1984-86. She also served on the planning committees for the construction of the McCoy Natatorium, Bryce Jordan Center and the Penn State All-Sports Museum. In 2005 Ellen was honored by the Lion’s Paw Alumni Association as the recipient of the Lion’s Paw Medal. The annual award established in 1965, honors individuals who have contributed notable service to Penn State.
Following retirement Ellen continued service locally through the American Red Cross, the Kish Bank Centre Region Advisory Board, Penn State All-Sports Museum and the Elks golf committee. Penn State athletics and college athletics nationally have been enriched by Ellen’s significant and enduring contributions.
Ellen Perry is survived by a brother, George Perry of Reading, Mass. and his wife, Phyllis; a nephew James (Jay) Perry of Malden, Mass. and his children Kenneth and Constance; several cousins and longtime friend Janet Atwood.
In keeping with Ellen’s request there will be no visiting hours or memorial service. A graveside service for family will be held in Reading, Mass. at a later date. Gifts in Ellen’s memory may be made to the Ellen Perry Scholarship in Intercollegiate Athletics and mailed to One Old Main, University Park, PA 16802 and made payable to Penn State University.
A reception to honor Ellen will be held at the Nittany Lion Inn on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 from 4:00 until 6:30 p.m.
Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at www.kochfuneralhome.com.