Remembering Dean Valener L. Perry
Valener L. Perry, a driving force in student recruitment, admissions, and retention at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy for 40 years, died on Dec. 20, 2015 in Almo, KY. She was 66.
The cause was complications from cancer, her family said.
Perry came to the College of Pharmacy in 1972, shortly after earning an MS in counseling from the University of Michigan. She retired from the College of Pharmacy and the University in June 2012.
At the time she joined the College, the University had made a commitment to improve its minority student recruitment. Within two years of her arrival, the College met and exceeded its commitment to have a minimum 10 percent minority student undergraduate enrollment.
Perry’s role grew and she became the principal recruiter and counselor to all pharmacy students, not just minority students. In 1988, Perry was promoted to assistant dean for student services, a position she held until her retirement in fall 2012. She served on multiple University committees and advisory groups in the area of admissions, academic affairs, and minority recruitment. She also served several terms on a University body that reviewed and advised on employee grievance issues.
Her career included many professional accolades, including the most esteemed staff awards that the University confers. In July 2005, Perry received the University’s prestigious Distinguished Service Award, the highest staff honor that the University bestows and the first ever given to a College of Pharmacy employee. Seven months later, Perry received the University’s Woman of the Year Award, presented by the University’s Women of Color Task Force. The award singles out staff and faculty women of color who have made outstanding contributions in the areas of leadership and community service.
Perry was the college’s undisputed champion saleswoman and counselor, and the number one ambassador in all things College related. Hers was the almost always the first voice and face students encountered when they expressed an interest in a Michigan Pharmacy degree, and that same face and voice beamed parental pride when students crossed the stage at each commencement.
She had an extraordinary capacity for remembering not only the names, academic records, and life details of hundreds of current students, she also knew details about each student’s family and the names and health status of students’ parents and siblings. But it didn’t stop there. Perry could recall the single and married names and life details of alumni reaching back to her earliest days at the College.
She was always first in line to comfort and console students in pain; and also first in line to hold them accountable when she felt they were not putting forth their very best.
To honor the great life and countless achievements of Perry, students, alumni, colleagues, family, and friends established the Dean V.L. Perry Scholarship Fund in 2012. In lieu of flowers, Dean Perry’s family has requested that alumni and friends make a donation to the Dean V.L. Perry Scholarship Fund at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy: pharmacy.umich.edu/VLPfund. A memorial service in her honor was held on December 30, at 11 a.m. at the New Hope Baptist Church, 218 Chapin St, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.
Surviving Dean Perry are: husband Charles E Oliver, daughter Valener A. Oliver; granddaughter L’Niyah Oliver; sisters: Rosalind W Heningburg (Keith) of Elk Grove, Calif.; Angela O. Perry of Ann Arbor, Mich.; Risa D. Perry of Almo Ky.; brother: Ottie Perry Jr. (Beverly) of Chandler Ariz.; aunt Cora Robinson of Nashville Tenn.; a host of nieces and nephews; many great nieces, nephews, and cousins; and innumerable friends and former students worldwide.