Selecting About magazine’s Person of the Year usually is no easy task. Except this year. The obvious choice was in the room. Finally, someone broke the ice and mentioned the man on everyone’s mind but didn’t quite know how to broach the topic.
Who else in the community put the finishing touches on a $27 million capital campaign that reinvented the county’s crown jewel? The Pro Football Hall of Fame bridges Stark County to the rest of the country.
Stephen Perry, the retiring president and executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, easily became About’s Person of the Year.
“There are a lot of people in our area doing a lot of great things,” Perry said. “I know it was a tough decision for (About magazine) to make. We had a lot of names on the table. I am honored to have been chosen.”
No one brought better credentials than Perry. The only awkward part of selecting him is that Perry is on About’s Advisory Board. The board easily settled on honoring the right man at the right time, which is only fitting, because that is what Perry was to the Hall.
Perry is wrapping up a seven-year career at the Hall, in which he directed and oversaw the most extensive — and expensive — renovation in the Hall’s history. The $27 million Future 50 Project was designed to make the Hall of Fame the country’s premier sports museum.
In the last decade, most of which was led by Perry, the Hall has reinvested more than $40 million into the building and ancillary structures such as Fawcett Stadium. That’s more than the previous 40 years combined.
Retiring isn’t new to Perry. The concept of staying retired, however, is. This is Perry’s third retirement. Perry retired from the Timken Co. after a 37-year career that began with an entry-level position while he was in college.
He worked for President George W. Bush as the administrator of the General Services Agency after working as Ohio’s state director of administrative services, positions from which he retired to land back home in Canton and lead the Hall of Fame through an integral transformation. Perry’s life and career are remarkable stories.
In 1964, he started at Timken as a stationery stock clerk. His job was to receive orders from secretaries and plant managers throughout Timken for forms and office supplies.
Even then, Perry had a strategic plan, a skill set his colleagues would say may be among Perry’s best.