Daniel J. Perrino
Daniel J. Perrino's consummate artistic and administrative skill melded with his love for the arts, for the University of Illinois, and for humanity created a profound and lasting impact on this campus and on generations of students and alumni past, present, and future. After an early career teaching music in public schools, this two-time College of Fine and Applied Arts alumnus joined the university faculty in 1960 as a professor of music and music extension. He went on to hold seven university appointments, including Dean of Student Programs and Services, Associate Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and key roles in alumni relations.
During his World War II–era military service, the young Perrino's philosophy of using music to break down barriers began to coalesce, as his work leading musical activities helped cross cultural and political divides in Japan during the Allied occupation. This philosophy would create University of Illinois history two decades later when, in turbulent 1969, the Illini Union's South Lounge—a hotly contested student free speech area—was avoided by many faculty members and administrators. Acting on the principle that music could bring cultures and generations together to find common ground, Dan gathered musicians from across campus—including faculty, staff, and students—into the lounge for an impromptu Dixieland jazz performance. Although students at first watched in surprise as the band set up, the audience soon grew from a wondering handful to enthusiastic hundreds, with students, faculty members, and administrators who were formerly completely disconnected from each other listening and enjoying together in community. The band, dubbed Medicare 7, 8, or 9, "depending on how many show up," expected that performance to be the last. Campus and community wouldn't let that happen, however, and the group, led and administered by Perrino, went on to perform to widely varied audiences throughout the United States, presented over 2,000 concerts involving more than 120 different musicians, made multiple recordings and television appearances, and became one of the university's most significant goodwill ambassadors in its over 30 years of performances.
As Dean of Student Programs and Services from 1968 to 1976, Dan recognized needs on campus and in town and helped communities fill those needs. He was instrumental in the creation of the African-American Cultural Program, the Black Chorus, La Casa Cultural Latina, the Krannert Center Student Association, and Quad Day. All of these projects filled essential social, cultural, and spiritual needs. All are vital today. Dan energized the University of Illinois Music Extension program in the 1960s, administering touring activities for performing ensembles, increasing enrollment in Illinois Summer Youth Music camps, establishing teacher in-service training programs, and creating workshops for student musicians. He served on the first Krannert Center advisory board and regularly brought the needs and wishes of students and underrepresented communities to the fore. Through Dan's School of Music work in the 1980s–1990s, he dramatically increased the quality of student life and opportunities for leadership by establishing the Student Leadership Committee, School of Music open houses for prospective high school students, an awards luncheon, a School of Music commencement ceremony, and the School of Music advancement program and by reorganizing the School of Music Alumni Association. Consciously involving students in all aspects of the planning and implementation of this work, he provided leadership training that many students reported was pivotal to their musical, professional, and personal development.
In response to needs expressed by students for involvement in creative experiences, Dan developed and taught an exceptional College of Fine and Applied Arts course called Exploring the Arts. Designed so that students who had no previous experience in the arts could fully participate, course sessions introduced widely varied visual, environmental, and performing arts forms. The course—and Dan—encouraged and empowered students to find their way into the arts and to find their way through life with the help of the arts. Dan created highly successful arts-based programming through the Urbana Rotary Club and established vibrant programming for senior alumni and retired faculty through the University of Illinois Alumni Association. Toward the end of his life, Dan coached and mentored young musicians to hone their performance, program curation, communication, and career skills. For people of varied ages and in many different situations, Dan helped to keep arts and culture flowing, seeing access to the arts as a crucial and uplifting element of a person's fulfilled life.
Dan helped to make things happen—but not because he wanted to serve his own agenda. His work was always in response to another's need, not to a calling of ego. Dan always saw a solution, a way; he worked to fulfill real needs, with real passion, and with such skill and spirit that he achieved revolutionary results. He exhibited an uncanny knack for finding answers and creating positive connections, many times for people who had reached the end of their resources and strength. Dan was an expert at using available resources, particularly the human resource: he put the right people together and gave his belief, support, creativity, vision, and mentorship. Because Dan focused on meeting needs and developing the skills of others, his innovations were adopted by the University of Illinois, other institutions, and other communities and have become part of a legacy that will last long beyond his lifetime. Dan's influence is exponential, as he inspired others to live out the principles they experienced through him. From the core of his being, Dan Perrino was a musician and an educator whose actions were moved by love, joy, empathy, and respect and whose work empowered individuals, transformed institutions, strengthened communities, and developed goodwill nationwide for this university.