Dan Perrino memorial on Sunday on campus sure to draw a crowd

Dan Perrino memorial on Sunday on campus sure to draw a crowd

As a photographer for The Daily Illini in 1975, I had the pleasure of photographing Dan Perrino for one of those day-in-the-life-of-a-university photo essays.
With my Honeywell 35mm camera around my neck, I spent most of Nov. 28, 1975, with Perrino, then dean of campus programs and services.
All I seem to remember now is the blur of the compact Perrino walking briskly around campus, stopping to talk with or hug people he knew or shake hands with students and others.

He stopped a lot.
The beloved, dynamic Perrino, who one of my co-workers called the liberal conscience of the University of Illinois, died last month, at age 91. I miss him but look forward to the memorial service for him from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 9) at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 601 S. Lincoln Ave., U.
I suspect it will be a jazz funeral, with many musical tributes to the man who founded Medicare 7, 8 or 9, the Dixieland jazz band that eased campus tensions in the 1960s, ‘70s and beyond.

He did so many other things, too.
After I graduated from Illinois and was working in Danville at my first daily newspaper job, I met Perrino again when Medicare performed in that city. I reminded him of our day together on campus; he pretended to remember me.
He seemed to know me from then on, though. After I moved to Champaign in 1993 to work for this newspaper, he some times sent me letters, praising a story I’d written and encouraging me.
He was like that with many people. Many people feel they had a personal relationship with Perrino. He was just that way.

My first photo of him in the essay published in the 1976 Illio, the UI student yearbook, was of Perrino in his office, talking on the telephone, his hands up and clasped behind his head.
“From the time his wife, Marjorie, drops him off at the Illini Union in the morning until she picks him up at night, Perrino is meeting, greeting, talking with, listening to and helping people,” the caption reads.
The next photo shows him at an 8 a.m. meeting with Tracey Bishop, then a senior in physical education and a professional magician. They are in line at the Illini Union cafeteria for breakfast. They were discussing programs she would perform that were designed to build bridges between the University and the Champaign-Urbana community.
In the third and fourth photos, Perrino leans in toward a young woman sitting on the Quad on a grayish day, his right hand patting her back. Her smiling, almost laughing, face is pressed against his chest. Then he draws away as he leaves, his right arm extended and his hand still on her back. She's still smiling.
“Dan stops on his way to a 4:30 meeting with administrators at the Union to say hello to Lorrie D’Urso, freshman in education and a friend of his daughter,” the photo caption reads.
In the last photo, Perrino is back in his office. Shannon Ellis, a junior in communications and president of the Panhellenic Council, waits for him to finish a telephone call.
On the phone, he leans over the top of his desk, which is covered with papers.
They were discussing a campus programs and organizations presentation they were to give the next day at a Panhellenic convention.
“Dan is probably the last to leave the Student Services building tonight,” the caption reads. “He rests at home for a few hours before beginning another round of meetings this evening.”
He never quit, even as he aged and grew frail. His legacy also will never end.



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wbroom wrote on September 08, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Nicely done, Melissa.


I remember the Illio article and have stayed in touch over the years with Shannon Ellis who is now serving as Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Nevada at Reno.   She and her husband were in town a couple years ago and had a nice visit with Dan and Marge.  She is among the legion of alumni Dan inspired.  His legacy is a rich one.


Willard Broom

Melissa Merli wrote on September 10, 2012 at 11:09 am
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Willard, I really enjoyed your eulogy at the celebration yesterday of Dan's rich life. I related to "The Walk" because I had followed him around that day in 1975.

What an exemplary life Dan led!