“While that was a basic job, I found that it provided me an opportunity to become familiar with all the office areas and plants,” Perry said. “In those days, if you worked in a given department, you didn’t wander around the organization, but it was my job to move around the organization. I found myself asking managers or secretaries how they would use a particular form and why. Sometimes my purpose was to keep costs down, but other times it was to have a broad understanding of the various groups.”
Perry’s family immigrated to the United States from the Cape Verde Islands. His father, whose name was originally Andre Pereira, came to Rhode Island on a whaling ship. Ultimately, he followed the steel mills from town to town before landing a job, ironically, at Republic Steel.
Andre Pereira was given the American name Perry upon immigrating here, a practice common then. He stayed in Canton when he met Perry’s mother, and they raised a family. It was his father’s work ethic that has stayed with Perry.
“He was a hard-working, bright individual,” he said. “The fact that he came from another country and learned how to speak English and assimilate himself into society; he owned a home and never relied on anyone for help. I don’t think as a young man I could have gone to another country and learned to do what he did. He did that without a formal education.”
That’s why the Perrys stressed education to their children. The Perrys raised their family on the northeast side of Canton, where there were other Cape Verdean families.
Perry attended St. Paul Elementary and later Timken High School — he surmises now because the tuition at Central Catholic was too steep.
“We weren’t a prosperous family, and I’m sure going to parochial schools was a financial burden to my family,” Perry said. “They wanted to get us the best possible education and discipline.”
He graduated from Timken in 1963, the same year the Hall of Fame opened its doors.
His father died in 1971. By that time, Perry was well into his career at Timken. While he was attending college in the mid- and late-1960s, Perry often checked in with Victor Green, the office manager for the Timken Co.
“I would say, ‘Mr. Green, how are things in the accounting department?’ to let him know I was interested in the accounting program,” Perry said. “As it happened, there was an opening one day, and they needed to fill the position quickly. He decided to give me a chance in the accounting department.”
Perry continued to work on his degree by going to classes in the evening at Kent State University’s Stark County branch. Eventually, he transferred to the University of Akron because it had a more extensive evening program. He graduated from Akron in 1970.
He had a remarkable career at the Timken Co. He earned a lot of opportunities to go away for additional education. He took advantage of every one and did well. When he left Timken for Washington, he was among our top five senior vice presidents in the whole company. He earned every opportunity he had. He went to the University of Michigan and Stanford because he showed promise.”
W.R. “Tim” Timken Jr., retired chairman of the board and CEO of the Timken Co.
Perry went to Michigan to learn about strategic management, then Stanford to get his master’s degree.