$2 million donated by alum to UF program

Charles Perry gave the money for a construction managers program.

Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 1:03 a.m.

A University of Florida alumnus whose construction company handled dozens of projects on campus over the past three decades is giving his alma mater $2 million for a program designed to help build better grads.

The money is coming from Charles Perry, who founded Charles Perry Construction nearly 40 years ago, and will create a new module of classes - and a building to house them - for students learning to be construction managers in UF's College of Design, Construction and Planning.

Perry's donation will be matched with a state grant of $1.6 million.

The new curriculum will be led by master craftsmen - knowledgeable in the art of laying tile, masonry, carpentry, heating and air conditioning, electrical work, plumbing, and the like - recruited to explain their trades and demonstrate what to look for when assessing quality.

"They would learn it over time, but what happens is they get out of school without a whole lot of construction knowledge," Perry said of future graduates in an interview Tuesday. "It's a way to expose them to the real nuts and bolts of construction."

Perry's company, or its offshoot construction management firm called PPI, have been involved in some of the most prominent construction and remodeling projects on campus, including the football stadium skyboxes, Emerson Alumni Hall, the basketball practice facility, the Florida Gym, Leigh Hall, Walker Hall, Weimer Hall, Grinter Hall and the Health Professions, Nursing and Pharmacy Building. Most modern-day parking garages were built by Perry Construction, too.

Perry Construction and PPI through a joint venture with Turner Construction are building the new Genetics and Cancer Research Center just west of Shands at UF.

Perry and his companies are of Gainesville.

A 1960 UF graduate in building construction, Perry worked his way through school with a private construction company before going out on his own in 1968.

The Winter Park native said pragmatism sent him to UF.

"Back in those days, it was the only state university that accepted boys and they were obliged to accept anyone with a high school diploma, and it was cheap," said Perry, who will turn 71 next week.

Jay Stein, dean of the College of Design, Construction and Planning, said the courtyard of Rinker Hall will be partially enclosed to accommodate an outdoor "construction yard." The new program will be named for Perry, he said.

The Rinker School's director, Abdol Chini said: "The objective is not to teach the crafts, but rather to give our students a working knowledge of the difference between good quality and bad quality in construction practices and the productivity they can expect from these craftspeople."

The donation also will pay for a public art project near Rinker Hall named in honor of Perry and his wife, Nancy. Both have been generous donors to UF throughout the years.

UF would not give specifics on the Perrys' contributions, but Vice President of Development Paul Robell said the couple's altruism has touched many parts of the university.

"Their interests in the fine arts, the medical arts, scholarships, the alumni association, athletics and especially to the college of Chuck's chosen profession, the College of Design, Construction and Planning, are all reflected in their generosity," Robell said.

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