Why I Give
By Barbara A. Perry
My dear mother, Lillian Grenewald Perry ’38, had a favorite exclamation: “Mercy!” She wasn’t invoking her beloved alma mater, but she could have been, for she embodied the values of Mercy Academy throughout her long life. Raised in Louisville’s Germantown, in the shadow of St. Vincent de Paul’s majestic steeple, Mother was delighted when my grandmother chose Mercy for her and her older sister Betty, ’36.
Walking to the Broadway campus from her home near Shelby Park, or taking the streetcar in inclement weather, young Lillian Rose Grenewald found the Mercy nuns both nurturing and inspiring educators. I can still recall Mother invoking the memory of Sister Mary James, her English and history teacher, for whom she would burn the midnight oil perfecting assigned essays. A champion speller (Mother won the citywide bee in grade school), she would become our family’s in-house grammarian, too.
This was the model that Mother portrayed for me and my two older brothers, David and Doug. Among us, we hold a PhD, MBA, JD and two MAs – an amazing record for the children of parents whose college plans were thwarted by the Great Depression and World War II. Mother passed on to me a love of history and government, which I have expanded into a successful career as a professor and author at the University of Virginia. In October 1960, Mother drove my brothers and me to downtown Louisville, where we saw Senator John F. Kennedy campaigning for president. From that day forward, I was destined to be a political scientist, focusing on the presidency and US Supreme Court. I recently published my 11th book, the biography of another great mother, Rose Kennedy.
Mother’s commitment to academic excellence was exceeded only by her abiding Catholic faith. Married to my dad, Louis R. Perry, a 1937 St. X grad, for nearly 63 years, they set examples of Christian charity, integrity and discipline in all things. My favorite family photo is of Dad, Mother and me on our way to a reception at the US Supreme Court in the late 1990s. They were so proud of the fact that I had served the Chief Justice as a Judicial Fellow there in 1994-95.
When Mother passed away in 2005, after a courageous battle against medical infirmities, I was determined to honor her memory by contributing to her alma mater. It was my pleasure to donate to the capital campaign and see Mother’s name listed in the foyer of the new school, which she would have loved. I am also remembering Mercy with a bequest to establish a scholarship in Mother’s name.