Guide to the Edmund F. Perry (1923-1998) Papers

Collection Title: Edmund F. Perry (1923-1998) Papers
Dates: 1953-1999
Identification: 11/3/17/3
Creator: Perry, Edmund F.
Extent: 3 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: The Edmund Perry Papers fill three boxes and span 1953 to 1999. The bulk of the papers consist of Perry's correspondence, both personal and departmental, from the 1970s. Highlights of the collection include Perry's correspondence with religious leaders from around the world regarding the Department of Religion's comparative religions focus and their own religious faiths. Building this program was a primary interest of Perry's throughout his long career at Northwestern and much of the correspondence in this series documents his efforts in that area.
Acquisition Information: Portions of Accession Nos. 01-126 (August 7, 2001) and 04-59 (April 19, 2004) were incorporated into this series. Materials from University Archives Biographical Files were also incorporated into this series.
Processing Information: Lori J. Osborne; June 1, 2004.
Separated Materials: Fifteen photographs were added to the University Archives Photograph Collection. A small amount of duplicate material was separated and discarded.
Conditions Governing Access: Student files are restricted and may be used only with permission of the University Archivist.
Related Materials: Alumni Biographical Files (Series 51/14 Box 556)Records of the Department of Religion (Series 11/3/17/2)
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

Theologian Edmund Franklin Perry was born in Chickamauga, Georgia on May 18, 1923. He earned his PhD from Northwestern University in 1950, returning to the University in 1954 as a professor in the Department of History and the Literature of Religions. Perry specialized in comparative religions and was known as a key figure in interfaith relations, especially for his work promoting dialogue between the Christian and Buddhist faiths. His own academic work focused on the growing field of world and comparative religions. Perry retired in 1992 and died in 1998.

Perry was the son of James McDaniel Perry, a Methodist minister, and Rubye (Griffin) Perry. Perry grew up in Chickamauga and graduated from Marietta High School in 1940. He attended Reinhardt Junior College, graduating in 1942. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Georgia in 1944, and in 1946 received his B.D. from Emory University, where he was a National Methodist Scholar. He married Lena Bowers in 1946, and they had three sons: Edmund, Philip and Peter.

In 1945 Perry was admitted, on trial, to the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. He was ordained a deacon in 1946 and an elder in 1948. He served various congregations in Georgia from 1942 through 1946. He was also Director of the Wesley Foundation at the Georgia State College for Women in Milledgville, Georgia from 1946 through 1948.

Perry came to Northwestern to attend Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1948 and began work as a doctoral student at Northwestern University in biblical theology in 1949. He received his PhD from the University in 1950. He taught at Duke University from 1950 to 1954 and then returned to Northwestern, where he served as Associate Professor in the Department of the History and Literature of Religions (later changed to the Department of Religions) from 1954 to 1960. In 1960 he was named Full Professor and served in that capacity until his retirement as Emeritus Professor in 1992. He chaired the department from 1954 until 1975 and again from 1978 through 1981.

Perry specialized in comparative religions and was known as a key figure in interfaith relations, especially for his work promoting dialogue between the Christian and Buddhist faiths. His own academic work focused on the growing field of world and comparative religions. His books included: Jews and Christians: Preparation for Dialogue (1965); Buddhist Studies in Honour of Walpola Rahula (1980); World Theology: The Central Spiritual Reality of Mankind (1991). He also published numerous articles on the subject.

During 1967-1968 Perry was Fulbright Professor in Comparative Religion at Vidyodaya University in Ceylon. He received an honorary degree from this University (now the University of Sri Lanka), becoming the first American to be so honored. The courses he taught and the students he directed and supported also reflected his interest in comparative religions. He directed many dissertations in the field and was frequently sought after as a speaker on campus and throughout the academic community on the subject. He was known for his comparative religion courses and for his teaching abilities, receiving several awards for teaching throughout his many years at Northwestern. Perry also worked hard to make the Department of Religion's comparative religions program a leader in the field, corresponding with religious leaders from around the world and strongly advocating the growth of the program on campus. Perry was instrumental in bringing Walpola Rahula, a Buddhist monk and scholar, to the University. Rahula was the first Buddhist monk ever to hold a professorship at a university in the Western world.

Perry was a member of many professional organizations including the American Theological Society; the American Society for the Study of Religions; the National Council of Churches; and the Society for Buddhist-Christian Friends. In his capacity as an ordained minister of the Methodist Church, Perry performed many ecclesiastical functions, including weddings and baptisms, and served on various boards and committees of the Church.

Edmund Perry died on December 14, 1998.

Scope and Content

The Edmund Perry Papers fill three boxes and span 1953 to 1999. The bulk of the papers consist of Perry's correspondence, both personal and departmental, from the 1970s. Highlights of the collection include Perry's correspondence with religious leaders from around the world regarding the Department of Religion's comparative religions focus and their own religious faiths. Building this program was a primary interest of Perry's throughout his long career at Northwestern and much of the correspondence in this series documents his efforts in that area. The series is divided into four subseries: Biographical Materials, Correspondence, Student Files, and Publications and Presentations.

Biographical Materials span the dates 1954 to 1999, with the bulk of the materials dating after 1970. Early materials include newspaper clippings and University press releases about Perry's involvement in local and national Methodist Church activities. The general file contains obituaries written upon Perry's death in 1998, programs from memorial services that were held at the time, and copies of the speeches that were given at the University's memorial service. Perry's long academic career is documented by a file containing biographical data forms, vitae and vita supplements. Efforts honoring Perry upon his retirement and after his death are documented in folders relating to a planned Festschrift for Perry, events surrounding his retirement, and fundraising for an honorary chair and lectureship named for Perry. These files are arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically within each folder.

Correspondence files span the dates 1955 to 1999 and include general files and subject files with originals of incoming and carbons of outgoing correspondence. General correspondence includes both personal and University-related correspondence, reflecting the overlapping nature of Perry's work and the wide range of concerns that occupied him during his years at Northwestern. Subject correspondence pertains to Perry's work for the American Association of University Professors; a proposed Journal of Religion and Religions; and the Phi Eta Sigma honorary society. General correspondence files are arranged chronologically by folder and within each folder. Subject correspondence files are arranged alphabetically by correspondent's surname and then chronologically within each folder.

Publications and Presentations files span the dates 1953 to 1984 and include articles and papers written by Perry and speeches and a sermon written and presented by Perry.

Student files span the dates 1957 to 1982 and contain correspondence, student work (mostly graduate level) and evaluations written by Perry. These files are restricted and can be used only with permission of the University Archivist.

Arrangement of Materials

The series is divided into four subseries: Biographical Materials, Correspondence, Student Files, and Publications and Presentations.

Subjects

Personal Name

Perry, Edmund F.

Subjects

College teachers--United States

Methodist Church--Clergy

Religions--Study and teaching


Container List / Contents

  • Biographical Materials
    • General, including obituaries and memorials, 1972-1999Box 1, Folder 1
    • Awards, 1975-1984Box 1, Folder 2
    • Clippings and Press Releases, 1954-1992Box 1, Folder 3
    • Vitae and Vita Supplements, 1965-1990, n.d.Box 1, Folder 4
    • Festschrift, 1992-1999Box 1, Folder 5
    • Retirement, 1992Box 1, Folder 6
    • Honorary Chair and Lectureship, 1985-1999Box 1, Folder 7
  • Correspondence
    • General, 1955-1972Box 1, Folder 8
    • General, Jan. 1973-June 1973Box 1, Folder 9
    • General, June 1973- Dec. 1973Box 1, Folder 10
    • General, Jan. 1974-June 1974Box 1, Folder 11
    • General, June 1974- Dec. 1974Box 2, Folder 1
    • General, Jan. 1975-May 1975Box 2, Folder 2
    • General, June 1975-Dec. 1975Box 2, Folder 3
    • General, 1976Box 2, Folder 4
    • General, 1977Box 2, Folder 5
    • General, 1978-1999Box 2, Folder 6
    • Subject
      • American Association of University Professors (AAUP) – Northwestern University Chapter, 1971-1973Box 2, Folder 7
      • Journal of Religion and Religions, 1971-1972Box 2, Folder 8
      • Phi Eta Sigma, 1971-1986Box 2, Folder 9
  • Publications and Presentations
    • Articles, 1959-1984Box 2, Folder 10
    • Papers, 1958, n.d.Box 2, Folder 11
    • Sermon, 1966Box 2, Folder 12
    • Speeches, 1971-1972Box 2, Folder 13
    • Reprints, 1953-1966Box 2, Folder 14
  • Student Files
    • William Bailey, 1961-1964Box 3, Folder 1
    • Evangeline Barrett, 1967-1971Box 3, Folder 2
    • Audrey Gordon, 1971, n.d.Box 3, Folder 3
    • Oscar Groner, 1957-1967Box 3, Folder 4
    • David Jones, 1966-1974Box 3, Folder 5
    • Werner Keller, 1965-1967Box 3, Folder 6
    • Susanne Masi, 1964-1972Box 3, Folder 7
    • Owen Owens, 1962-1979Box 3, Folder 8
    • Elizabeth Stout, 1969-1977Box 3, Folder 9
    • Gigi Thousendfriend, 1970-1974Box 3, Folder 10
    • Guy Welbon, 1958-1973Box 3, Folder 11
    • Paul West, 1969-1975Box 3, Folder 12
    • Ananda Wijeratne, 1980-1982Box 3, Folder 13