Name: John E. Perry, III, Ph.D.
Occupation: Associate Professor, Mathematics
Email: john.perry@ (no.spam-usm.edu) — remove parentheses and "no.spam-"
Office Phone: 601·266·5505
Department of Mathematics
University of Southern Mississippi, Box 5045
Hattiesburg, MS 39406
- I teach and research
Believe it or not, I find math hard.
- I am sincerely religious.
Believe it or not, I find religion hard.
- I sometimes do things because they’re hard.
See: the previous two items.
- Married, three children. One was “buy one, get one free.”
I like having intelligent conversations with my children,
but I also miss the “charming idiot” period.
Believe it or not, I find family hard.
- I have a lot of foreigners in my life:
mother (and family), wife (and family), son, pen pal, college friend,
and coworkers these days.
Most people find my manner a bit foreign, so I guess it works out.
“I am a stranger in a strange land.”
Not only did I grow up in an age without mobile phones, internet, or
desktop computers, but I grew up without a television set.
When personal computers came onto the scene, they fascinated me immediately,
but learning to program them frustrated me more.
I often swore I’d never touch a computer again!
Look how that turned out…
- My parents met when my father was in the Navy.
Two years later and two weeks late, I came along.
God smiled, then chuckled, then burst out laughing,
then said, “I’ll have to correct that.”
My first brother was born a year and a half later,
and my second brother was born ten years after that.
- I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, spending my summers in my mother’s hometown of Gaeta, Italy.
- My parents believed in the importance of a well-rounded individual,
so I learned to play music, including the trumpet and the piano.
- A man once remarked to me that he was the type of person
who “falls in easily with others.”
I realized that I’ve always fallen out with others easily.
I sometimes had friends growing up,
but they seemed to happen, then un-happen, beyond my control.
Books were generally my best friends.
You have been warned!
- Along those lines, I read the New Testament at around 10 or 12 years of age.
The parts I understood made quite the impression.
I have more on that if you dig around enough elsewhere.
- I was one of the last paperboys.
The world has an unspeakably beautiful stillness at 4am.
- I didn’t earn much money, but I could read the newspaper for free!
One of my most vivid memories is reading about the demonstrations in South Korea
which eventually led to its democracy.
I had the misfortune of being relatively reliable, so that one week,
when my district manager was desperate for reliable workers,
I ran 3 different morning routes simultaneously.
That was not a great week.
Also not great? The number of obviously wealthy subscribers who didn’t
have money to pay their bill whenever I came to collect.
It’s a miracle I made any profit at all.
(in order of decreasing ability)
I've also surprised myself by deciphering the occasional Portuguese.
I'd like to learn Greek, German, Arabic, and Hebrew,
but the older I get, the less likely it seems.
- English (obviously)
(fairly fluent: online news and literature, correspond with Italians,
carry conversation, ability to distinguish northern and southern accents)
- Russian (rudimentary conversation, including a rustic Russian farmer who asked me
about Clinton and Trump, and a retired Tatar engineer who spoke a long while
about how the world had changed over his lifetime)
- Latin (praying the Hours; reading, with a dictionary handy; to a lesser extent, singing)
- Spanish (slowly and unreliably)
- French (can translate)
- Esperanto (now forgotten)
- Hilton Elementary School,
a “traditional alternative school&drquo; at the time.
“Traditional alternative” can sound self-contradictory, but it isn’t:
the idea is that, unlike the newer educational methods that emphasized
communication and creativity,
we students were expected to be self-disciplined (though there was no corporal punishment),
to raise our hands when we wanted to speak,
to work silently at our tasks, etc.
I don’t think these schools exist anymore, but I loved it then.
- Booker T. Washington Middle School,
another traditional alternative school at the time.
I had both my first pen pal, and my first disappointment when it ended.
- Warwick High School, my “neighborhood” public high school.
Three years band (trumpet), including marching band;
two years soccer;
four years nerd.
- Virginia Governor's School for Math and Science, in Blacksburg, Virginia.
- Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.
Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Math Education.
I chose Marymount in part because it somehow got into my idiot high school head
that I should be a political science major,
and Marymount offered internships in Congress.
I abandoned that idea even before graduating,
but at Marymount I fell in love with mathematics.
- Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Master's degree in mathematics.
Met a mathematics student who was head and shoulders above me
and concluded that I wasn’t destined for a Ph.D.
- University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois.
A major Catholic seminary, and at the time I was convinced that this was my path.
It was one of the happiest periods of my life,
but I ended it after a few bad real-world experiences,
as I remembered and realized that
diocesan priests do not spend their lives immersed in prayer and books.
— Unimaginable as it may be to most,
there are those of us for whom “a celibate life of prayer and books”
sounds distinctly like heaven.
- North Carolina State University
in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Increasingly intrigued by the notion of doing symbolic mathematics on computers,
I wanted to study symbolic computation, also called “computer algebra”.
It took me a good while to wrap my mind around how one does research.
- Whatever interests me.
(click on a heading to see details)