James Perry and Molly Perry win 2018 Notre Dame Award for Outstanding Contributions to Catholic Education


Jim Perry, Molly Perry, Fr. Tim Scully

Jim Perry, Molly Perry, Fr. Tim Scully

James and Molly Perry were presented Wednesday (June 27) with the 2018 Notre Dame Award for Outstanding Contributions to Catholic Education by Rev. Tim Scully, C.S.C., the Hackett Family Director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives and founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame. The award was announced at a ceremony for the first class of ACE’s Center for Transformational Educational Leadership.


Jim Perry is the co-founder and managing director of Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm. Molly serves on the board of directors for the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. In their service to the Archdiocese of Chicago, the couple has shown a deep commitment to Catholic education.


“The Perrys have dedicated their lives’ work and vocations to empowering the most vulnerable children with access to a quality Catholic school,” Father Scully said. “Their zeal and commitment to ensuring that every child receives the absolute best education possible embodies in a very unique and compelling way the meaning of the word ‘catolicos’: all are welcome.”


Jim Perry was a driving force behind the historic effort to create public policy that would expand educational options for low-income and working-class Illinois families — a campaign that culminated in the creation of the Invest in Kids tax-credit scholarship program. He then founded and now chairs the board Empower Illinois, the state’s largest scholarship-granting organization, which serves thousands of children and families, and schools. Perry also serves on the Catholic Relief Services Foundation Board, and he has previously served on the Archdiocese of Chicago School Board, the University of Chicago’s Lumen Christi Institute’s board of directors, and the board of Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Ministry.


As a member of the Catholic Charities board, Molly Perry serves on the family and parish support committee. She is a founding member and volunteer at Catholic Charities’ Mary’s Closet, a program that provides professional clothing and guidance for women preparing for job interviews. She is co-founder of the St. Clement Mom’s Group at St. Clement’s Parish and a member of St. Clement’s mothers’ Rosary group. Molly Perry also serves on the board of directors for Aid for Women, which operates five pregnancy help centers and two residential programs that help thousands of women in the Chicago area who face unexpected pregnancies.


The Perrys have been instrumental in the success of ACE’s Center for Transformational Educational Leadership, which began two years ago in Chicago as a means to deepen and enrich the capacity of current Catholic school leaders to create robust, faith-based schools. The center’s first class of nine principals finished the two-year program June 27, and 17 principals are in the center’s second and third classes.


“Thank you for your generosity in supporting the CTEL program and for your deep commitment to Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Chicago and to us as Catholic school leaders,” said Elaine Gaffney, the class speaker at the ceremony and principal of St. Barnabas School in Chicago. “It has truly been a wonderful experience, and we thank you so very much.”


“We knew, by virtue of serving on the school board of the archdiocese, how important leadership is in operating great Catholic schools,” Jim Perry said. “It’s all about great leaders, and what we can do to find, develop and train these leaders to run these schools in very difficult situations.”


As major gift co-chairs for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s capital campaign, To Teach Who Christ Is, Jim and Molly Perry helped raised more than $400 million for the archdiocese, including $200 million to support Catholic education.


“I am personally blessed by a beautiful friendship with Jim and Molly and their family,” Father Scully said. “They’re wonderful friends of ACE and of the University of Notre Dame.”


ACE was founded in 1993 to respond to the growing need for high quality education for poor, at-risk children in urban areas by improving the quality and accessibility of Catholic schools in communities across the country. ACE has since become the nation’s leading catalyst for the renewal and transformation of Catholic schools, serving hundreds of under-resourced communities both in the United States and internationally. It has succeeded in forming more than 2,300 outstanding teachers and leaders for Catholic schools in more than 100 (arch)dioceses.