John Perry, NASA pioneer, published author, and teacher, passed away on September 2, 2019. Beginning in 1996, John joined with the California JPIA as an instructor at the Leadership and Management Academies with his good friend and fellow instructor, Forrest Story. John’s sessions included his trademarked “Job-Person-Environment Assessment,” a popular tool for participants to understand how to better utilize their energy at work, and how employees can better relate to their bosses, peers and subordinates.
John’s humble nature deflected attention, but he was a giant – both as a man and as an intellect. He worked as a NASA engineer with legendary astronauts and test pilots, including Neil Armstrong, Joseph Walker, and William Dana during the “race for space” against the Soviet Union during the 1960’s. He helped design the X-15, the titular aircraft in the development of the U.S. space program. John’s experience as an African American working at NASA during the heyday of the space era earned him mention in the book, “Hidden Figures” which was later adapted into the movie of the same name.
It was with Forrest Story that we knew John best, for they formed an inseparable tandem. According to Story, what made John Perry special was his interest in people and his willingness to learn from everyone he encountered. “John accepted you for who you are”, says Forrest. He believed that we weren’t put on earth to judge who the winners and losers are.
One of John’s favorite introductions to an exercise in the Authority’s Leadership Academy was “We think we know someone, but we really don’t until we know something about their journey. We need to allow others to tell us the stories about that journey that brought them to this place and time. Most importantly, as we listen to their stories, we need to throw a blanket over the prism of our own experience and listen to them as learners and not as judges. If we listen as learners, we will find gems of inestimable value in the stories we hear.”
John believed that no matter our circumstances, each of us is precious, capable of achieving remarkable things, and worthy of respect. He was inherently genuine and decent. As Forrest explains, “John walked his talk each and every day of his life.”
The Authority and its members will miss John.
Photo Caption: John Perry and Forrest Story