UI 150 Wyatt

Retired teacher and choir director Marian Kuethe Wyatt is shown in 2014 with former student Luke Zola in the choir room at Centennial High School.

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Among the 2,026 former students and faculty members featured on our Gies College of Business-powered ‘UI at 150 & Beyond’ website: 30-year Unit 4 music teacher and choir director MARIAN KUETHE WYATT.

A tribute to one local music legend (the late, great Dan Perrino) from another (two-degree UI grad Wyatt) ...

“In the musical ‘Wicked,’ there is a song titled, ‘For Good,’ and the lyrics are, ‘because I knew you, I have been changed for good.’

“Professor Daniel J. Perrino was that role model and mentor for me from the time I arrived at the University of Illinois in 1982 until the time of his death. Our paths just kept crossing.

“In college, he offered me a job at the Illinois Summer Youth Music as a camp counselor. If it weren’t for that position, I would probably not have met many of my lifetime friends.

UI 150 Wyatt Perrino

The late Dan Perrino, seen here in 2003, plays the saxophone during rehearsal for the program, 'Remembering the Music of World War II' at WILL's studio in Urbana.

“During college, I loved to attend the football games and my favorite part was walking through all of the tents on the tennis courts, now referred to as Grange Grove. Dan invited me to sing with Medicare 7, 8 or 9 on occasion, and I would bring all my friends and family to watch. My favorite hangouts were the Music Building and the third floor of Smith Hall, with all the grand pianos.

“After college, he continued to mentor me by bringing Medicare to perform at the local schools, where I taught music. Dan Perrino knew so many people — locally, statewide, nationally and internationally — and he had the gift of making everyone feel loved, wanted and appreciated. He always shared anything he had with anyone who needed it.

“He shared stories of helping to start the first Quad Day, establishing the Black Chorus, La Casa Cultural Latina and the African-American Cultural Program. I was fortunate enough to work with him to create the first School of Music graduation ceremony and a mentoring program for incoming freshman music education students.

“He was always creating opportunities to help people communicate, share ideas and enrich the lives of everyone involved. He instilled in me a desire to serve others and to help them achieve their dreams. He believed in the goodness of people, and I only hope that I am able to share those beliefs with people who cross my path.

“Even later in my career, he and his wife, Marge, would come to our home for dinner, and we would continue to talk about the importance of music outreach. He also helped to start the CU Schools Foundation, to support teachers.

“He never had ‘one project,’ he had many plates on his table, and was always looking for ways to nurture the dreams and goals of others. No ideas or opportunities were ever dismissed. He made time for everyone and was willing to help to connect everyone who might be slightly interested in making things happen.

“Dan even volunteered to help me explore grant-money options for my music classroom by doing interviews of World War II veterans in the state of Illinois. He sought out other WWII veterans and encouraged them to talk with my students. Many of these people didn’t speak openly about their wartime experiences, but ‘Danny,’ as his loved ones called him, had a special gift of helping people share of themselves for the greater good, just as he did.

“Although it was designed as a project for history teachers and students, he encouraged me to incorporate the importance of music, which helped my students gain access to computers, cameras, microphones and other related technology to be used for the project interviews.

“Professor Daniel J. Perrino forever changed my life for the better. His kindness, his willingness to try new things and his love for people are just a few of the qualities he shared with so many of us who had the opportunity to work with him.

“Professor Perrino had a gift to bring people together. I only hope I can pass on some of his wonderful qualities he shared with me to others.”

Know a UI alum you’d like us to track down? We’re taking requests at jdalessio@news-gazette.com.a