Making a Difference at Old Dominion

The Perrys

Some people will tell you that you can't get much for a dollar, but Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry would disagree. Doug Perry is chairman of the board of more than 750 Dollar Tree Stores, the nation's leading chain of discount variety stores offering merchandise at the $1 price point. The good fortune of the Perrys is also the university's. Pat, a 1989 graduate of Old Dominion, and Doug, who attended the university for a year and is currently a trustee of the university's Educational Foundation recently made a personal contribution of $250,000 to the Campaign for Old Dominion for an endowed professorship in the psychology department. The Perry Endowed Professorship will allow the university to attract a pre-eminent faculty scholar to the program.

"Pat and I strongly believe that if you take from the system, you give back. The community has been good to us, and Old Dominion was good for my wife," Perry said. Pat Perry earned her bachelor's degree in clinical psychology as a nontraditional student. "I wanted to give something back to the university that had such an impact upon my life," she said. "I told my husband that someday I would find a way to give something in return for all the university did for me." Perry came to Old Dominion as the mother of three children. She said she decided to finish the education she had started in 1966 at the University of Maryland after one of her children, who was in kindergarten at the time, brought home a plaque he had made that said, "My mother makes pies. That's all she does." Perry knew she wanted to be remembered for more than that, and she soon enrolled at the university.

"Old Dominion validated my life. It was there that I learned I could become more than just a great chocolate chip cookie baker," she remarked. But balancing a family with a demanding academic load proved to be a challenge. She remembers, with gratitude, one particular instructor, a graduate teaching assistant, "who gave me the courage not to quit."

It had been years since her last math class, and Perry had little confidence in her mathematical abilities. But now she was facing college statistics, a course dreaded by many an undergraduate. She still has memories of Seth Zimmer's statistics class, a four-hour course required of all psychology majors. She would break out in hives from the sheer anxiety the exams provoked. "I hated math, I feared math, I was sure I couldn't do math," she said. "I was doomed." Perry recalls one particular exam. While her classmates had already zipped through the test, she was still "sweating bullets" over the third problem. "Seth leaned over my shoulder and said, "Take this exam to my office, Mrs. Perry, and leave it on my desk when you finish.'" His understanding helped her survive the class, and she ultimately received an "A" for the course.

Since her graduation with honors Perry has been actively involved in many community service programs. She is currently vice chair of The Governor's Board on Child Abuse and Neglect as an appointed citizen member. She is also a board member of the Virginia Congressional Awards and the United Way of South Hampton Roads. Perry served as vice president of the board of trustees for St. Mary's Infant Home from 1995-97 and was an appointed member of the First Lady of the Commonwealth Advisory Council in 1995-96. She also served on the board of the Virginia Stage Company from 1993-95.

And, just recently, Perry was appointed by Gov. George Allen to serve on her alma mater's Board of Visitors.