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An Orange Family Affair

Jane Perrin ’52, the first alumna to attend Harvard Medical School, is part of a century-long legacy at Syracuse.

Jane Perrin ’52 and her son and grandson standing outside Syracuse University.

Jane Perrin '52 flanked by her son Josh '87 (left) and grandson Gabe '26, who is on track to graduate a hundred years after his great-grandfather, Claude Schutter (Class of 1926).

Call it fate, destiny or the price of doing business, but General Electric’s (GE) decision to move Claude Schutter (Class of 1926) back to his native Syracuse was one of the best things to happen to his family. “I was all set to attend Stanford University,” remembers his daughter, Jane Perrin ’52, who was then living in northern California. “But since we were returning to New York state, I knew I would go to Syracuse University, which is where my father went. Any other college was out of the question.”

The Syracuse-born Schutter earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the College of Engineering and Computer Science. His flair for project management caught the attention of GE, which hired him in 1940 to design and build plants, offices and warehouses. For two decades, he crisscrossed the globe, overseeing the construction of facilities like GE Appliances’ global headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and a massive factory in São Paulo, Brazil.

Perrin credits her father, who died in 1990 at the age of 86, for launching a century-long family legacy. “He was really proud of his Syracuse degree and shared that enthusiasm with the rest of us,” says Perrin, whose son Josh ’87 and grandson Gabe ’26 also bleed Orange.

Gabe, in fact, hopes to graduate a hundred years, almost to the week, after his great-grandfather. “Just thinking about it is pretty crazy,” admits the first-year broadcast and digital journalism major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “I feel a sense of responsibility to my family and Syracuse University.”

Building Community

Perrin is known for many things, not the least of which is being the first Syracuse alumna to attend Harvard Medical School. Leave it to Schutter to instill a strong work ethic and sense of duty in his only child.

Portrait of Jane Perrin from ’52.

Perrin at Syracuse c. 1952. (Photo courtesy of Syracuse University Archives, Special Collections Research Center.)

“I loved my time at Syracuse,” says Perrin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology (formerly bacteriology) from the College of Arts and Sciences. “There were so many opportunities that I sometimes didn’t know where to begin.”

Perrin’s go-to was historic Lyman Hall, where she studied single-celled bacteria. Her involvement with science clubs and honor societies reflected the University’s postwar commitment to scientific research—and preparing women to compete in mostly male-dominated fields.

One of her mentors was Marjorie Carolyn Smith, the University’s dean of women. “She had a fierce, independent streak that I admired,” recalls Perrin, who also served as president of the Women’s Student Government. “Dean Smith helped me believe in myself.”

That Syracuse had welcomed more than 9,000 World War II veterans with help from the GI Bill made Perrin’s achievements more remarkable. “The University didn’t know where to put everybody,” she says, noting that veterans accounted for about 70% of the male student body.

Perrin soon joined Kappa Alpha Theta, which afforded her an array of academic and professional opportunities. “I had some great times there,” she says. “It felt like home.”

Blazing a Trail

Group photo of Jane Perrin with other members of the Women's Student Government club.

Perrin (seated, fifth from left) with the Women's Student Government. (Photo courtesy of Syracuse University Archives, Special Collections Research Center.)

After earning a master’s degree in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Perrin surprised everyone, including herself, by getting into Harvard Medical School, which had begun accepting women in 1945.

Her decision to focus on biomedicine was prompted, in part, by interdisciplinary experiences at Syracuse and Wisconsin. Perrin became one of only seven women to earn an M.D. in 1957 from Harvard, then—and now—a global leader in medical education.

It was there she met and married a promising, young pathologist named Eugene Perrin. They’d have four children, including Josh, and oodles of grandchildren before his death in 2011. “I miss him very much,” says Jane, 92, with a trace of emotion.

Wherever the Perrins went, Syracuse was not far behind. For instance, one of Jane’s classmates at Harvard was future University Life Trustee Sam Goekjian ’52. She also got to know Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown ’57, along with his wife and children, while working in the pediatrics unit of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. “My brother and I went to Moreland Elementary School [in Shaker Heights] with Jim Brown Jr.,” Josh says proudly.

In addition to pediatrics, Jane embarked on a successful career in physical and rehabilitative medicine, focusing on patients with disabilities. Today, she lives in Detroit. Josh and Gabe are a few hundred miles south in Indianapolis.

I loved my time at Syracuse. There were so many opportunities that I sometimes didn’t know where to begin.

—Jane Perrin ’52

“I was in junior high when my mom bought me my first Syracuse T-shirt,” recalls Josh, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing management from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. “After that, I started following the Orange in the sports section of The New York Times. I was a big fan of Roosevelt Bouie and Louis Orr”—basketball standouts from the Class of 1980, whose on-court exploits earned them the moniker, “The Louis and Bouie Show”—“and Head Coach Jim Boeheim ’66, G’73.”

Josh was an all-around athlete in high school, excelling in football, basketball, and track and field. Since his father and older brother, Dan, graduated from the University of Michigan, it was likely that Josh would follow suit. But the lure of the Orange was too strong. An official campus visit, for which Jane drove them from Michigan to New York, sealed the deal.

Josh immediately beat a path to the door of Football Head Coach Dick MacPherson, in hopes of becoming a walk-on. The charismatic leader sized him up in about 10 seconds. “Son, you’re too small and too slow to play Big East football,” he told him.

“Coach Mac” convinced Josh to try out for the University’s rugby football club. Josh did so, before an injury ended his career three and a half years later. “Coach Mac saw something in me that I didn’t,” says Josh, adding that during his senior year, the football team went 11-0, tying Auburn in the 1988 Sugar Bowl. "There’s no telling what would’ve physically happened to me if I had played football."

Life in the Fast Lane

Today, Josh is a senior manager at Pilot Flying J, the nation’s largest chain of truck stops and travel centers. He says Career Services helped him get his start after graduation, working for Estée Lauder Companies in New York City. But the 1987 stock market crash had other plans.

“I remember sitting around the Thanksgiving table, where Mom encouraged us to invest in an up-and-coming restaurant franchise called Subway,” Josh says. “Dan and I took her advice to heart and purchased some franchises in the late Eighties.”

Josh parlayed the lessons of franchise operations into a successful career at Pilot. Twenty-seven years later, he is part of a marketing team that oversees retail operations in more than 650 locations throughout North America.

Any discussion about Josh’s career invariably turns to his parents and mentors like Bob McClure, professor emeritus of political science in Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. “They taught me the importance of resiliency,” he adds.

Josh’s son is equally versatile. In October, Gabe covered a local visit by President Joe Biden L’68 for WAER. “It was surreal being in the same room as him,” says the aspiring sports journalist, who also works for and contributes to CitrusTV, Z89, the ACC Network and CNY Stream.

I feel a sense of responsibility to my family and Syracuse University.

—Gabe Perrin ’26

Gabe hopes that a penchant for motorsports will shift his career into overdrive. “When it comes to sports media, the Newhouse School is the place to be,” says Gabe, an IndyCar and NASCAR media member who writes for lastwordonsports.com and DiveBomb magazine. “Everyone here is extremely good, so I’m always thinking of how to distinguish myself.”

Josh has some sage advice for Gabe, who is still in his first year at Syracuse. It’s called the “three-day rule,” something Josh picked up as a student and has practiced religiously throughout his career. “If you have a test or something due on Thursday, you start preparing three days earlier, on Monday. Each day, you do a little more than the day before.”

As Josh’s mother and grandfather have taught him, life can be more rewarding when you show up prepared. “This way, you can respond to things instead of reacting to them,” he says. “There’s a difference.”

Rob Enslin

This story was published on .

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