As one of Bates’ most generous philanthropists, Ralph Perry ’51, a resident of Orrs Island, Maine, has supported programs and priorities that reflect his identity as a Maine citizen and businessman, his personal history and his devotion to his alma mater. “In Bates, we alumni have something that deserves to be preserved and strengthened with our generous financial support,” he once said.
A retired president of Maine-based Progressive Distributors and senior vice president of the Hannaford Bros. supermarket chain, Perry began his philanthropic commitment to Bates with a significant gift in 1979 to help fund the Charles Franklin Phillips Professorship in Economics, honoring Bates’ fourth president. In 1992, he endowed a major scholarship fund for Maine students who persevere in pursuit of their goals. “Young Maine people with high aspirations must be provided equally great opportunities,” he said.
Following the death, in 1994, of his first wife, Joan Holmes Perry, Bates Class of 1951, he made a gift in her memory to create a three-story, 8,000-square-foot atrium within Pettengill Hall.
In 1999, Perry and his second wife, Mary Louise Seldenfleur, endowed a professorship in the biological sciences in honor of their friend, Dr. Helen A. Papaioanou ’49, and made further gifts to support scholarships and academic programs. Three years later, the couple helped Bates establish the Mount David Summit, an annual student academic celebration held in Perry Atrium. “Athletes get recognition in various ways. Scholars deserve recognition too,” said Perry, a 1951 Bates history major who played varsity football, baseball and basketball and was, in 2005, the inaugural alumni inductee into the Bates Scholar-Athlete Society.
Of his and his wife’s philanthropy, which has also supported Maine cultural, conservation, and healthcare institutions, Perry said, “We try to improve the quality of life for Maine people.”