Dear Campus Community:
On behalf of the Athletics Department, I welcome you back for the spring semester.
It is my sad duty to share with you that John Charles "Bird" Perry, '96, who was involved with our men's basketball program for nearly two decades, passed away on January 15. John was 47 years old.
John played basketball for four years and served as an assistant coach for 15 years. His knowledge of fundamentals, his strategic thinking, and his keen sense of how best to motivate players were enormous assets to our program.
John was born on Nov. 4, 1971, and grew up in Springfield, Virginia. According to his parents, he was an all-around athlete, interested in basketball, football, baseball, soccer, and swimming. At Annandale (Va.) High School, he played basketball and baseball. Playing basketball in hyper-competitive Fairfax County, John was a first-team All-County selection in the Potomac District, and Most Valuable Player in the district tournament during his senior year. His high school coach, Doug Crupper, told John's parents that when John was on the court, the team had better chemistry, ball movement and overall flow. In Crupper’s words, "John made everyone around him better."
John graduated from Annandale High School in 1991, and entered Gallaudet University the following fall. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems in 1996. In 1993, he was a member of the Omicron pledge class of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, Mu Iota Chapter.
John, a six-foot guard, was a four-year letter-winner as a men's basketball student-athlete at Gallaudet from 1992 to 1996. During his collegiate career, he was an all-around player, with good numbers in all statistical categories. In particular, he was known as an unselfish player, quick to pass out assists. He worked hard to enhance his skills, practicing daily during the off-season and playing in a summer league at Georgetown University.
After being red-shirted his first year at Gallaudet with a knee injury, John played in 25 games during the 1992-1993 season, and scored a season-best 11 points against the Catholic University of America on the road.
During the 1993-1994 season, John was a member of Gallaudet's only men's basketball team to win a Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) tournament game. The Bison defeated Catholic, 87-74, in the first round of the conference tournament before losing, 92-80, at Goucher College in the semifinal round. That season, John played in 26 games as Gallaudet finished 14-12, with a 5-7 record in CAC play.
During John's junior year (1994-1995), Gallaudet was 10-15 (5-9 CAC), and John was named the team's Most Improved Player. He scored a season-best 266 points, with 125 rebounds, 75 assists, and 33 steals.
John was co-captain of the team during his senior year.
Upon graduation, John became an assistant coach for the Bison. He served in this role from 1996 to 2007, and again from 2012 to 2014 and 2016 to 2018, under five different head coaches. John joined forces with his former teammate, Gallaudet head coach Kevin Kovacs, '95 & G-'97, the last two seasons as the Bison combined to win 29 games and set a program record for wins in a season (20) and conference wins (18) during the 2016-17 season. That year, the Bison advanced to the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) semifinals.
In between his stints as an assistant coach at Gallaudet, John was assistant coach of the varsity boys' basketball team and head coach of the junior varsity team at Wakefield High School, one of three high schools in the Arlington (Va.) Public School system.
John also played and coached club basketball with the Montgomery County Association of the Deaf, the Frederick Stars, the Northern Virginia Diplomats, and the Maryland Stars. He led the Northern Virginia Diplomats (now known as the DMV Diplomats) to six USA Deaf Basketball championships in nine years, from 2010 to 2012 and 2016 to 2018, and was named coach of the tournament in 2010, 2012, and 2016. John also served as vice president of the Eastern Athletic Association of the Deaf (EAAD).
John was assistant coach for the United States Under-21 team in the World Deaf Basketball Championship tournament held last summer at Gallaudet University. The team included two current Gallaudet basketball team members and one other current student, and was coached by Kevin Kovacs. Team USA rolled to a 7-0 record and defeated Japan, 81-63, in the gold medal game.
Professionally, John worked in the information technology field. At the time of his passing, he was a systems administrator at Peraton, Inc., a technology company and defense contractor in Sterling, Va.
John is survived by his wife, Dierdre Nealy-Perry, '00, of Woodbridge, Va.; children John Oscar, DeMarcus Ross, Drake James, and Johanna Rose; his parents, William and Jacquelyn Perry; a sister, Kimberley Griffith, G-'89 (Paul); and a brother, William Perry II (Maureen), as well as cousins, nieces, and nephews.
There will be two memorial services for John. The first will be held on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 1 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge, 13600 Minnieville Road, Woodbridge, Va. (http://www.visitfbcw.org). The second service will be held on Sunday, Jan. 27, at 11 a.m. in Elstad Auditorium at Gallaudet University, followed by a reception on Padden Court in the Field House.
Tragedies like John’s untimely passing affect us all. Any Gallaudet community member in need of support can contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or the Employee Assistance Program. Gallaudet students can make an appointment for confidential services at the CAPS office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. CAPS is also available for crisis and emergencies over the weekend. CAPS is located on the third floor of the Kellogg Conference Hotel. It can be reached by videophone at 202-250-2300. For emergencies, please contact the Gallaudet Department of Public Safety at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 202-651-5555 videophone.
Helpful information about coping with grief and loss is available at https://www.helpguide.org/
Dr. Brendan Stern, '06, a faculty member in the Department of Government and Public Affairs and former men's and women's basketball coach, wrote a moving tribute to John. There are many other tributes on social media.
As noted in John's obituary, "John touched many lives with his kind heart, easy-going disposition, and quick wit. He was diligent, loyal, generous, and always available to help others. He was an extremely involved parent supporting his children's numerous interests and activities. He modeled for them competence, hard work, determination, honesty, and commitment."
We mourn John's passing, and extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. Please join us on Sunday, Jan. 27, for the on-campus memorial service.