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Mr. David L. Perry

perry_croppedFenwick High School Hall of Fame


There’s a strong case to be made that Mr. David L. Perry, Fenwick’s health and PE teacher, and swimming and water polo coach for 24 years, was one of the most decorated and involved coaches to ever step foot inside of a natatorium.


Mr. Perry, who died in the early fall of 2011, led Fenwick to its first swimming state championship in 1990 alongside co-coach Jim Caliendo, which kicked off a historical run of securing swimming and water polo state wins three consecutive years. In 1999, the boys’ and girls’ water polo teams swept the state tournament under his leadership. This feat happened again in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011. He also coached the 2002 Boys’ Water Polo Team to its first IHSA championship following a dedicated advocation for IHSA to recognize water polo.


These mighty wins gave good cause for Mr. Perry to be the recipient of a considerable number of coaching honors. He received a variety of Tony Lawless awards 23 times, was the IHSA Water Polo Coach of the Year four times and the ISA State Water Polo Coach of the Year eight times. Mr. Perry was inducted into numerous halls of fame including the Illinois Water Polo Hall of Fame in 2002, the Illinois Swimming Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Catholic League Hall of Fame in 2011. The National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches of America (NISCA named him coach of the year twice. On dry land, Mr. Perry was named Kiwanian of the Year in 1978 and in the Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers in 2005. These are only a few of the awards that decorated his proverbial trophy room.


Mr. Perry attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where he earned his BA in physical education, health and recreation in 1969. He followed that up with a MA in recreational administration from George Williams College in Wisconsin two years later.


His professional career began at the Kalamazoo YMCA as the associate physical director and assistant swim coach. He would go on to fill the roles of physical director, recreational director and program director of several community YMCAs, and was a member of the Illinois Area YMCA Swimming Committee. Several coaching and teaching positions, including eight years as Mt. Carmel High School’s swim and water polo coach, history teacher and dean led him to Fenwick. Between 1987 and 2011, Mr. Perry saw the swimming and water polo programs excel while he moonlighted as Trinity High School’s swim coach for a year and the Oak Park Swimmers (TOPS) coach for a decade. In 1992, he founded Windy City Water Polo, and served as its director and coach until his death.


Mr. Perry was a part of the country’s swimming and water polo’s DNA. He was a member of many related associations and served as chairman for ISA Water Polo, NISCA Water Polo, Illinois Water Polo and USA Water Polo Midwest Zone. He held additional leadership positions within those and other organizations. Mr. Perry organized the first ISA Water Polo banquet in 1986 (the 34th banquet will take place in May) with Olympic water polo coach Monte Nitzkowski as the keynote speaker. During his tenure, Mr. Perry coached 60 AA swimmers, 75 AA water polo players and 30 NISCA all-academic athletes.


Despite his coaching and teaching duties, and being an involved husband and father, Mr. Perry managed to make time for volunteerism. Some of the organizations he donated his time to include the St. Bernadine Parent Board, TOPS, the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, and Chicago Lawn and South Chicago Kiwanis Clubs.


Mr. Perry loved spending time with his family, especially on road trips. He was a big sports fan and perhaps his proudest athletic moment not at the pool came on the golf course when he sunk a hole in one on September 15, 2010.


Mr. Perry and his legacy is survived by his wife Marianne, his son Kyle ’01 and his wife Courtney and their children Ryan and Nora, his daughter Elizabeth Perry Timmons ’04 and her husband Matt ’04 and their son Finn, and the whole of the Fenwick Community. In addition to his son, daughter and son-in-law attending Fenwick, his nephew Jason Dews ’04 and godson John Wagner ’20 are also proud Friars.