Harold Perkins, Penn State Berks CEO emeritus, dies

Harold W. Perkins, 91, died on Oct. 10. He served as CEO of Penn State Berks from 1959-1984 and was instrumental in laying the foundation for the campus. The Perkins Student Center was named in his honor.

"There would not be a Penn State Berks if it wasn't for Harold Perkins," said Chancellor Susan Phillips Speece. "He really was the spirit of Penn State Berks and, personally, I am going to miss his presence, his warmth and his counsel."

A 1941 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., Perkins earned both a master’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in higher education from Penn State, where he served for 10 years as assistant dean and then as associate dean of men. Previously, Perkins worked for eight years as alumni secretary and secretary of admissions at Washington & Jefferson, but left his post for 39 months, during which he served in the U.S. Army Service Forces during World War II, principally as an information-education specialist.

In 1958, Penn State assumed responsibility for the Wyomissing Polytechnic Institute, renaming the institution the Wyomissing Center of The Pennsylvania State University, the 14th Penn State extension center established in the Commonwealth. Perkins was named director in April 1959, and he assumed leadership on July 1 of that year.

In 1964, the school was renamed Penn State Berks Center. Realizing that the institution was poised for growth and would benefit from community participation, Perkins quickly went about setting up an advisory board.

Under Perkins’ leadership, the Berks Center held its first capital campaign from 1967–68 to raise funds for a new, expanded campus location. With the recommendation of Perkins and other campus leaders, the University acquired Penn State Berks’ first current campus tract of 105 acres in 1969.

Then in 1972, construction of the Luerssen Building was complete and the facility moved to its current location in Spring Township. It was renamed Penn State Berks Campus at this time. In 1973, the Student Center was completed and later renamed the Perkins Student Center in honor of the campus CEO.

The campus continued to grow under Perkins’ tenure with the addition of the Thun Library in 1975 and the Beaver Community Center in 1979, and the acquisition of the Janssen estate in 1981.

Perkins retired in 1984 but remained active in the campus until the time of his death. He was instrumental in the publication of a campus history book. Most recently, he served on the campus' capital campaign board.

In addition to his work at Penn State Berks, Perkins was active in the community, serving in the past as president of the Reading Rotary Club, chairman of a capital campaign at Lincoln Park Community Methodist Church, and president of the Pennsylvania Association of Junior Colleges. He was also a member of the PAJC Board of Directors. In 1970, Perkins received a government appointment to the state Advisory Council for Vocational Education.

He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Reading Musical Foundation and Berks County Conservancy. He served on the Board of Trustees of Reading and Berks YMCA and was a member of the Torch Club of Reading. He also was an avid tennis player.

Perkins is survived by his wife, Jeanne; they had been married for 68 years. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Susan E. Perkins, Trumansburg, N.Y.; and two sons, attorney Ted, Bala Cynwyd; and the Rev. Timothy, Milwaukee, Wis.; and six grandchildren: Scott Garner, Elisabeth Garner, Noah Perkins, Julia Perkins, Tobie Perkins, and Marina Perkins.

Memorial services will be held in Lincoln Park United Methodist Church, 1 Carlisle Ave., Reading, PA 19609, at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 15. Friends may call in the church from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Burial will be private in Fairview Cemetery, Shillington.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Lincoln Park Endowment Fund at the above address or the Harold W. and Jeanne D. Perkins Endowment Fund, Penn State Berks Office of Development, P.O. Box 7009, Reading, PA 19610.

Edward J. Kuhn Funeral Home Inc., West Reading, is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be recorded at http://www.kuhnfuneralhome.com/ online.

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Last Updated January 10, 2015