Scholarship, tree dedication ceremony planned to honor Waco principal who died from COVID-19

Phillip Perry will be with his G.W. Carver Middle School family forever, or as long as an oak tree to be planted Friday in the late Waco principal’s memory will stand.

His former students scrawled those words in chalk — “Mr. Perry will forever be with us” — on the sidewalk outside the school after Perry’s March 31 death from COVID-19 complications. His death marked the first in McLennan County connected to the novel coronavirus.

To memorialize the late principal, the local chapter of the national sorority Phi Delta Kappa, Gamma Upsilon, will plant an oak tree on the Carver campus Friday at 5 p.m. and the Professional Male Mentor Association will announce the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship in Perry’s name.

Waco Independent School District Athletic Director Ed Love, who helped organize the event, said Perry embodied the values of a great leader and helper and this is one way the community can honor his legacy.

“He was such an outstanding, caring principal and person altogether,” he said. “He loved kids. He cooked for them. Mr. Perry had the biggest heart of any gentleman you could ever meet. He was just a kind, gentle caring person. That’s why the kids loved him so much because they knew that he cared about them.”

Gamma Upsilon President Jocelyn Pierce said her organization partnered with Carver Middle School last year and had the opportunity to collaborate with Perry on ways to help students at the school, but COVID-19 cut their time short.

Gamma Upsilon members decided they would plant the tree in Perry’s honor since they did not get to finish out the school year at Carver with Perry.

Pierce said the organization chose an oak tree because it represents strength.

“We felt that as an individual, he was strong just to take on the task of doing what he needed to do,” she said. “But he was determined to try to make a difference, and that was not just seen at Carver. That was seen in the community, as well. He had the best intentions, at heart and in mind, to try to help young people.”

Perry was a member of the Professional Male Mentor Association, an organization that mentors Waco ISD high school male graduates who intend on going to college and apply for scholarships from the organization, Love said. The boys who qualify enroll in a two-year mentorship program and receive $250 each semester in financial assistance. After their two years, the young men must return to mentor other boys for two years.

Love said he and several others founded the organization four years ago to help young men make the steps in college necessary for them to become successful. The association has about 25 mentors. Perry was a member for three years.

“He was one of those members that you could count on to be there to be supportive of our mentees,” Love said. “He never missed a meeting.”

The association will open up the scholarship to more students next year, but this year it had current mentees interested in applying for the scholarship write an essay, which was then graded by multiple judges, Love said.