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Pay It Forward

Scholarship an homage to the life of “Jeff”

By monét cooper

Jeffrey Donovan Perry, an honor roll student, wanted to graduate from Morehouse College.

He never did.

Now his parents, Emma and Huey Perry, want to make sure that young men like their son can reach Century Campus and receive their degrees. That’s one reason why they established the Jeff Perry Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund. Through fundraising and charitable gifts, the fund has grown to more than $100,000 since May 2000, the year Jeff would have graduated. But the scholarship also serves another purpose: to remind people that their son was a man of the rarest kind.

Jeff was never in trouble. Jeff never talked back. Jeff always had a smile and a pleasant disposition that attracted true friends. “A very good child,” his mother said.

When the Perrys were told that their 21-year-old son, their only child, had a rare form of liver cancer and would die, possibly within 18 months, Perry was in a state of shock and disbelief and later peace.

“Even though the death of your child is not the natural order of the universe, I cannot do anything about God’s work. It is in God’s plans and there was nothing I could do other than try to cope and make Jeffrey as comfortable as I possibly could until God finished whatever he wanted to do,” said Jeff’s mother.

It was October 1998, well into the middle of Jeff’s junior year, when the family received his diagnosis. He spent a month in the hospital and later went home to Louisiana, where he would die eight months later.

After he passed away in May 1999, Perry decided to “cope” by creating something that would extend past her family’s lifetimes.

“Jeff wasn’t able to get his education at Morehouse. He wanted that more than anything because he just wanted to get well and come back,” Perry explained. “It is my passion that young men from Morehouse get a Morehouse education because I know what this [college] means to young African American men—and their mothers.”

Instead of blooms that would eventually droop and die, the Perrys asked that people send donations in Jeff’s memory. She used those initial envelopes of money to create the scholarship fund, with the endowment’s interest going to a financially deserving Morehouse student. The 2005-06 school year will be the first time a student receives money from the fund, which can be used to pay the cost of tuition, books or living expenses.

“As long as there’s a Morehouse, there’s a scholarship in memory of Jeff,” said Perry. “And if that memory is here, there’s also life.”

HOW TO DONATE
For more information about the Jeff Perry Scholarship Memorial Fund, contact Sheila Tolbert at ext. 8671 or stolbert@morehouse.edu.

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