Mystery Man: Dr. Tom Perrin
A softspoken, gentle spirit hides the many dimensions of Dr. Tom Perrin, who has served as senior vice president and dean of faculty at Huntingdon College since 2020. In June 2023, Dr. Perrin will return to the classroom and to his role as professor of English, adding on chair of the Department of Language and Literature, and director of the Hobbs Honors Program and academic outreach. The new titles join his other descriptors—nonfiction writer, mystery novelist, short story and children’s book author, poet, lover of the written word, scholar, and dad.
Raised in England, Dr. Perrin earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English literature at Cambridge University and a second master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Chicago. He also holds a diploma in theater directing from Mountview Academy of the Arts in London. His first book, in which he discusses the contributions writers such as James Michener, Harper Lee, and Leon Uris made to American literature, “The Aesthetics of Middlebrow Fiction: Popular U.S. Novels, Modernism, and Form, 1945-1975,” was published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2015. The book began as his doctoral dissertation. He has also written and illustrated hand-made children’s books and published several short stories and poems.
A member of Huntingdon’s faculty since 2011, Dr. Perrin was appointed associate provost in 2017 and interim provost in spring 2020, never suspecting the plot twist that lurked on the next page of his professional life. As the COVID-19 pandemic knocked academia right off its desks, Dr. Perrin became academic shepherd for both students and faculty, steering the College through new ways of teaching and learning. In December 2020 he was named senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. He considers getting the College through COVID as one of his greatest accomplishments as chief academic officer. In his usual understated terms, he says, “I thought we did a decent job. I felt like faculty really pulled together, moving from meeting in class as usual to remote learning to coming back together again with hybrid learning and all the necessary protocols. The faculty had a great spirit and they helped each other succeed.”
“The last three years have been among the most challenging in the long and storied history of American higher education, and Dr. Perrin’s steady hand throughout this period has advanced the College’s academic program while at the same time guiding our faculty and students through the turbulent waters of the pandemic,” said President J. Cameron West. “We all owe him an incalculable debt of gratitude for his leadership.”
Throughout his time in administration, Dr. Perrin has also fostered a dynamic of faculty respect and camaraderie that is prized in higher education. He holds his colleagues in high esteem. “Huntingdon faculty really care about their students—so much so they’ll just go the extra mile. We’re such a student-focused institution. The faculty shows it every day, but especially during COVID.”
Dr. Perrin led the development and implementation of the College’s SACSCOC Quality Enhancement Plan on vocation and calling; contributed to the accreditation approval process for the substantive change necessary for the College to add graduate-level programs; and developed Huntingdon’s Flexible Fridays class schedule, among other advances in College academic programming. He led the creation of interdisciplinary minors in African American studies, environmental studies, global studies, and public policy and the revision of the interdisciplinary women’s studies minor. Under his leadership, the College instituted the Master of Athletic Training as well as undergraduate majors in biochemistry/pre-health; cell biology/pre-health; exercise science/pre-athletic training/pre-occupational therapy; and exercise science/pre-physical therapy. Dr. Perrin has been actively involved in the Council of Independent Colleges Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) nationally, having signed the College as a charter member of the collegiate partnership.
Given all that has been under his purview, it’s a mystery how he was able to write a novel, find an agent, and get a publishing contract during these past three years, as well. His first mystery novel, “The Crooked Man,” is being honed for publication in the United Kingdom, where the story is set. After Dr. Perrin completed his manuscript, he sent it to various agents hoping for representation and scored with the same agency that represents J.K. Rowling in June 2022. A contract from Pushkin Press, an independent publisher in the U.K., followed. After editing, the book will be published under Pushkin’s Vertigo brand for crime novels, probably in 2024.
Dr. Perrin says he admires the work of mystery novelists Agatha Christie, Richard Osman, Janice Hallett, and Anthony Horowitz—old-world detective stories with many twists and surprises as complex plots unfold. “I like to read mystery novels, so I wanted to write a book that I’d like to read,” he says with a smile. Speaking about writing in contrast to his role as professor, he says, “If I’m going to tell people how to read a book, I wanted to be able to write one, as well.”
Although he has enjoyed serving in administration, Dr. Perrin says he looks forward to returning to the classroom. “I have missed the classroom a lot. There’s just something about those moments when students ‘get it’ that’s incredibly fulfilling. And I miss interacting with literature on a day-to-day basis, and helping students read and write.”
“Dr. Perrin is thoughtful, ponderous, intentional, grounded, creative, and brilliant,” says friend and former student Lexie Ofe ’17. “He is introspective and takes his time with his words, and his words are always worth waiting for.”
Having put together the bones of the College’s honors program in his earlier teaching days, Dr. Perrin will again take up the pen and stage to inspire honors students moving forward. He will also design a dual enrollment program for high school students in collaboration with high school faculty and administrators.
Dr. Perrin’s return to the classroom should provide a bit more time to spend with his family and to work on his next novel, with central protagonist a Brit who is transplanted to the American South. The rest is a mystery.
February 27, 2023
For more information, contact:
Su Ofe, (334) 833-4515; email@example.com