Robin Perry has been named principal of Bishop Gorman Catholic Schools in Tyler, effective June 1.
The announcement was made by Bishop Joseph E. Strickland and Father Anthony McLaughlin, vicar general of the Diocese of Tyler and president of Bishop Gorman, at a March 22 press conference at the school.
Perry, 46, is a veteran Catholic educator who comes to Bishop Gorman Immaculate Conception Cathedral School in Memphis, Tenn., a PreK-3-12 program where she was head of school. Perry also is a graduate of Immaculate Conception Cathedral School.
“I am pleased that Mrs. Perry will serve as the new principal of Bishop Gorman School,” said Bishop Strickland. “Her background, personality and enthusiasm for Catholic education fit perfectly with our mission to form our students as intentional Disciples of Christ.”
Bishop Strickland thanked Perry for “her discernment in choosing to come here” and for “embracing this new path that God has called her to. It’s a joyful day, a day of great hope, a day of excitement, and a day in which our new president and principal, our faculty and student body and staff, the whole Gorman family, face new challenges and new work to continue to be disciples and to build up this part of God’s kingdom.”
“Mrs. Perry is known as an exceptional academic and institution-building leader. At Immaculate Conception Cathedral School, she worked tirelessly to integrate the latest educational models and technology into classroom instruction, while building strong constituent relationships at all levels,” said Father McLaughlin. “Perhaps most importantly, Mrs. Perry is a woman of deep and sincere faith, who passionately embraces the ministry of Catholic education as vital to the work of our Church. I am excited for Mrs. Perry’s highly-anticipated arrival to East Texas, so we can begin our work together in ensuring the Gorman school community remains accessible to all, while delivering excellence throughout our mission, and ensuring a robust and sustainable future for Catholic education in the Diocese of Tyler.”
Perry was chosen after an intensive nationwide search for a successor to principal Jim Franz, who will leave the school at the end of this academic year after 19 years at the helm.
“The only charge that I gave to the search committee was a simple one – please find for us the best and the brightest,” said Father McLaughlin, who was named president of Bishop Gorman on Feb. 1. “I am very pleased to report that the committee did offer the bishop and me the very best and brightest. We are happy to appoint and hire Mrs. Robin Perry to be our next principal.”
“It is a great privilege and honor to be here today and to be welcomed into the Gorman family,” Perry said at the press conference. “I am so excited to be a part of this new (president-principal) team as we bring Gorman further into the 21st century and as we make certain that our students have everything they need in order to be successful.”
Perry said she spent the six-hour trip from Memphis to Tyler trying to invoke “the wisdom of Solomon” in order to adequately express her joy and excitement at this new phase in her life.
“I got nothing,” she said to laughter from those gathered in Bishop Gorman’s Holy Family Library for the press conference. “All I have, in order to truly convey my sentiments at this moment, is to say, ‘Hi, my name is Robin Perry, and I am the newest Gorman Crusader.”
She paid tribute to Franz and his nearly two decades at Bishop Gorman, and said she will build upon that work.
“Mr. Franz has done an amazing job,” she said. “It is only through his hard work and the foundation which he and the Gorman family have already established that we can move forward and grow.”
As principal, Perry will be working closely with Father McLaughlin as Bishop Gorman settles into the president-principal model of leadership, a new one for the school.
“The model is becoming more common in Catholic high schools in Texas and around the country,” said Father McLaughlin. “Over the years, it has become increasingly clear that a single person, the principal, cannot do everything that is now required to make a Catholic high school successful. The principal cannot alone juggle the responsibilities of development, of community outreach, of finances, and of curriculum, discipline, and academics. So the president-principal model seeks to divide those responsibilities, to allow the president to handle development and outreach, while the principal oversees such areas as curriculum and guidance.”
Bishop Gorman’s reputation for academic excellence and deep community support greatly influenced Perry’s decision to join the Gorman family.
“When I was in my interview with the search committee,” she said, “there was such a broad range of people who had so much concern and care for Gorman. It was a huge spectrum of the community here in Tyler. I decided that if that many people care about the leadership of a school, I’ve got to be part of that.”
She also stressed the “Catholic” part of the school’s identity, and said Bishop Gorman, and all Catholic schools, have a unique and important role in education.
“The difference between a Catholic school and other schools is that we teach virtues,” Perry said. “We don’t teach values. A value is arbitrary. I value punctuality and neatness. But go look in my daughters’ rooms, and they don’t value the same things. But virtues are timeless. And that’s what we teach here. We don’t have to have a class on virtue; we model it. We see it in the way faculty and staff interact with one another. We see it in how the faculty interacts with the students and how the students interact with each other. We teach virtues, and we have the privilege of acknowledging God’s presence every day. God is present all the time, but we have the privilege of acknowledging it. And that’s what makes it different.”
“I believe that I am entering the Gorman family at an exciting time in its highly-respected and storied history, and I see this opportunity as an amazing time to continue to build and foster a strong and highly-supported school community,” Perry said of her new role as principal. “It’s a great time to be a Crusader with incoming President Father McLaughlin leading the school further into the 21st century.
“I am ever mindful of the strong foundation and traditions that Mr. Franz and the Gorman faculty and staff have worked so hard to build for the students and school community. The level of commitment to the mission of Catholic education by Bishop Strickland, the Gorman family, and the supportive families of East Texas creates an unparalleled opportunity which I enthusiastically embrace,” she said.
Bishop Gorman, a nationally recognized Catholic secondary school for grades 6-12, is the longest serving non-public secondary school in Smith County. Founded in 1958, Bishop Gorman has in recent years been recognized on the National Catholic High School Honor Roll and is a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon “Excellence in Education” award recipient.
Perry was hired after a nationwide search by Partners in Mission School Leadership Search Solutions, A Boston-based search and recruiting firm devoted exclusively to developing excellence in Catholic school leadership retained by the Bishop Gorman principal search committee.
Prior to heading Immaculate Conception Cathedral School, Perry was first the academic dean of Sacred Heart of Jesus High School in Jackson, Tenn., and then principal. She also has served other Catholic schools in Tennessee as a history and English teacher at the junior and senior high school levels.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Tennessee, Master of Arts in Teaching, Curriculum, and Instruction from the University of Memphis, as well as a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University.
She was born on Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla., but has lived in Tennessee since 1977. She attended Holy Rosary Catholic Grade School, Immaculate Conception Cathedral for Girls for High School in Memphis and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where she studied majored in History with a concentration in European history as well as English and communications.
She has a Master of Arts in teaching with a concentration on curriculum and instruction from the University of Memphis and a Masters of Science in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University.
She has been married to Keith Perry since 1994, and they have two daughters, Anna Katherine, 19, who attends Mississippi State University, and Emilee Grace, 16.
Perry was a competitive swimmer in college, She still swims, runs, and calls herself “a voracious reader” who has “killed two Nooks from overuse” and is on her third.
“Education has been my passion for almost my entire life,” she said. “I love teaching, mentoring, being a part of the learning process. Nothing is more exciting to me than seeing the ‘light bulb’ finally turn on for a student. To know that I have been a small part in shaping our future leaders of our world makes me feel like I have accomplished great things – even if no one else ever knows except for me and that student.”