Back to the Future with Kevin Perry
Staff Spotlight: Kevin Perry, Plant Manager
Since starting at MB in 1997, Kevin Perry has been a part of countless projects that have transformed the campus, including the renovation of Middle House, construction of the Woodman Center, and now the renovation and expansion of the lower school.
Overseeing and maintaining the physical plant of one of the oldest schools in the country can be like working in a time machine. Any given day you might find Kevin Perry, plant manager, out on Campanella Field overseeing the new turf installation, talking to a contractor about the pressure in the heating plant, re-envisioning the old coal stack, arranging a new price for oil delivery, checking the painting progress in Middle House or overseeing the renovations at the lower school. And with the historic campus, he often has to guess at the decisions made by plant managers from decades earlier, or even the last century. After so many years, Kevin is comfortable with the physical time travel he experiences every day at MB. But, when the new upper school science center was being imagined in 2007, he was pleasantly surprised with some personal time travel he encountered with the Anderson-Collis family.
“When I was 22 years old, I quit college after three years and went to work at Princess House in Taunton,” Kevin remembers, “owned by Charlie Collis.”
Kevin started as floor lead in the glass cutting department, then was promoted to the position of owners’ representative for Princess House and oversaw building a new, $13 million glass plant on the site. Kevin next became a shift supervisor, hiring 75 new employees to run the only fully-electric lead crystal glass plant in the U.S. “Charlie never thought small,” Kevin says. When Princess House offered him the opportunity to return to college and finish his degree, Kevin again said ‘yes,’ obtaining his business degree from SMU/University of Massachusetts. Kevin had advanced to production manager of the facility when he left Princess House after 13 years.
Fast forward several years to 2005: Kevin finds himself working at Moses Brown.
Former head of school Joanne Hoffman and CFO Jim Nagle are discussing needed renovations to the upper school; Kevin is invited along to give some visiting grandparents a tour of the site and explore plans for new upper school science labs. Little did Joanne or Jim know that Kevin was actually coming face-to-face with his influential first boss, Charlie Collis, grandfather of Frohman Anderson ’10 and Ava Anderson ’12.
Walking around MB with Charlie and his wife Ellen, and her son Frohman ’80, Kevin shared, “I am the person I am today thanks to the fact that I had the opportunity to meet and work for Charlie. My 13 years of working for Charlie in manufacturing set my life in motion. I was able to get my degree and get trained in all types of manufacturing systems, machinery and processes. All of this gave me the confidence to know I could build a plant and run key areas of major companies — and eventually the operations side of campus for one of the oldest schools in the country.” With 25 years of experience prior to coming to MB, Kevin’s career has taken him from glass to seafood to schools. Kevin’s ability to make things operate has truly run the gamut, making for a success story in many ways. “All thanks to Charlie Collis’ life-changing opportunity,” he asserts.
Eventually, Charlie and Kevin got to partner on yet another project, this time at Moses Brown. Kevin managed the development of the Collis Science Center, a complete renovation of the upper school science facilities, completed in 2007. Kevin also developed a close working relationship with Charlie’s wife Ellen Collis, when she served as a Trustee and the Clerk of MB’s Buildings and Grounds Committee. They have continued to stay in contact over the years, maintaining a family and business relationship that started at Princess House more than 40 years ago and has continued at Moses Brown to this day.
But Kevin will always most appreciate the early friendship which gave him his start in life and ultimately led him to Moses Brown: “Charlie was hard and firm to work for. He was way ahead of his time in terms of professional development, promoting from within, certification, opportunities, etc. We worked hard and played harder but he rewarded anyone who performed. He is one of the greatest men I have met.”
The Collis Science Center celebrates the contributions to MB of former board member Ellen Collis and her husband Charlie Collis, an entrepreneur and business pioneer. The wildly successful international company Charlie founded, Princess House, got its start in a Rehoboth chicken coop and is where MB Plant Manager Kevin Perry launched his career at 22 years old. Charlie’s wife Ellen later worked closely with Kevin when he came to MB and she served as Clerk of the Board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee. Today, the Collis Family Science Center houses the upper school science program.