Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Save a National Treasure: Prof. Perry Mills, WWU

Perry Mills. What, can one say about Perry Mills? He's awesome? Yes. True. He's a national treasure? Also true. Write to Western, write your congressman!
Perry Mills some years ago
First of all, Western Washington University, in Bellingham, Washington, chastised him, essentially, for his personality.

Also, he blew the whistle on a teacher (Mark Kuntz) for diverting student funds where, legally, they shouldn't be going. I never knew Mark but I'm getting the feeling that he was a real piece of work; at least, from reading student comments about him (see further below).
Well you know, I've been trying to describe Perry to people since I was a student of his back in the early 80s before he acquired tenure. Perry is a big bear of a man. I was his student, I like to think I was his friend, even for years after. We have since lost touch, but I have always held him in high esteem, with a great deal of affection, and he sits high in my mind as one of the few people I've met in life, that I am happy to have been in the presence of.

When I was going to Western in the early 80s, after I met him in the Theater department, I did what I could to spend as much time around him as possible. I got to know him as well as he would let me. I was at his house on many occasions, which was intricately perfected with even the bear stained glass window in his bathroom. I always thought it was interesting that though the house wasn't that big, the attention to detail was amazing. As well as his collections of things. I even ended up being invited to his Summer lawn parties, which he stopped after a few years for his own reasons, that I'll keep to myself.

At school some of us used to joke that Perry, was a God, so highly held was he by those who knew him. What does that say about someone, to evoke that kind of loyalty, that you would wish to go to the ends of the earth for him and protect him at all costs?

When I was later married and split with my son's mother because of an affair she was having, one weekend of the 4th of August in 1992, I decided to ride my bike to Bellingham from Seattle. I was still living with my son and his mother due to money and our lease. End of August we were out of there. That weekend, she took off with her lover, and I decided to leave town, my son was at his grandparents.

I got there on a nice Summer day. I rode around looking at the old places I used to frequent since I left in 1984 having graduated. I ended up calling Perry. I told him my situation (broken, lost, looking for a way out of my life for a weekend) and he said, "Weeeelll, you'd better come over then, you can spend the weekend in my loft in my shed. It's pretty comfortable and all the broken ex husbands I've known seem to come over and spend some time there." That was when the tales of "The Turkey Wars" came up, but that too was an interesting story.

So I did. He set me up, yes it was comfortable. And he said, go hit the town, get laid, whatever, and you can sleep here. So, I hit he bars, got drunk or whatever, came back and crashed in the loft. I woke the next morning, a little out of it, but happier. I ran into Perry and his girlfriend at the time, being up and around and they asked if I'd like breakfast. I said yes, and although my stomach was a little rough, I had a very nice breakfast with them. We hung out a little that day and I ended up going to see a classic motorcycle someone had come by to tell Perry he really wanted to come over and see it while it was there. I have a photo somewhere of it in this the back of this guy's truck. I remember riding on a bike over to the guy's house behind Perry, something both scary and interesting as Perry had his leg problem due to motorcycle racing (legal or illegal I never knew).

That night I went out again and indeed, didn't make it back. After bidding the lass farewell in the early morning, I made it back to the loft. Later said my thank yous and goodbyes and headed back home. I was forever grateful to him for that weekend.

The funny end to this story was that when I returned, later my estranged and strange wife returned, dropped off by her new "friend". I stood at the window and could only see the orientation of their feet as they said goodbye. I contemplated various philosophical principles while wringing the neck of a baseball bat until she came in. We had "civil" words and it came out what we both did that weekend. She smiled and luxuriated in her memories of what she did as she told me. So, although I wasn't going to tell her about my weekend, I thought she deserved it at that point.

I told her about the repeated run ins with a cute artists lady and on my last return to a certain downtown BTown bar, followed her out with her friend. He seemed gay, so I stopped on my bike and asked her if she needed a ride. She looked at her friend and he smiled and said, "Go for it girl!" So she hopped on. We had a wonderful night interspersed with little sleep.

In hearing this, and seeing the smile on my face (I tried, I really tried to not do that, but it was just such a grand night, you know?), that she got angry. She had the affair, set things up as the were and now she was mad? I asked why. She said, "It's my birthday. How can you do something like that!" Uh, okay...

End of August (and MY birthday is the 30th) we moved out, and it was over, but even before that, really.

Alas, we're here to talk about Perry....

Yes, he can be gruff, but when you need it, he can really be a generous and compassionate guy. He has a brain like an encyclopedia. He has a grand understanding of Human nature and people, to the point that his sometimes brutal honesty, something I can only dream of exhibiting, can be jarring, but if you PAY ATTENTION, you will not only learn something, but you can make yourself a better person. However, if you are weak in the attitude department, well, you are only asking for a difficult experience in dealing with him at times.

Sometimes being around him, I felt like he was beating a steel rod into a sword, or a pair of sissors, or an angle bracket or something, but still, something more than I was and more useful. I have always held him in the hightest esteem and in a bit of awe. We need more people like him, not less, he's not someone to be censored.

Now having read most of the complaints against Perry in the articles I've supplied links to below, I can see how he looks bad, on paper. But when I read these things, I saw Perry in my mind doing them. Rather than being a mean bully, he's kicking someone's ass, trying to make them stop feeling sorry for themselves, holding them to the same standards as anyone else. He's trying to get them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. He did it to me too. Sometimes it hurts, but you're in college, by now, you should be an adult.

As someone said, life is tough, he's not training you for grade school but for life. You either love him for it, or hate him. I found, back in my University days, that the people who I heard complain about him, were people I mostly didn't care for. They were kind of people I didn't want to be around.

I was in the Theater Department office once and Perry spewed some fascinating things to those of us there and the two ladies working at the main desk. They were giggling as he buffaloed down the hall. I looked at them and said, "How come you're not offended by that?" They laughed. One of them said, almost finding it hard to explain to herself so that finally she just said, "Well, its PERRY! How can you NOT love him, regardless!"

And that, my dear friends, pretty much sums it all up.

I've found a blog someone did about Perry:

From the Blog:

A Word From Our Professor (via George Carlin)(Thursday, January 24, 2008):
Perry sent this quote to me in the mail. Seemed like something worth sharing, as I imagine it's very much on his mind these days, as should it be on your own.

Political Correctness is America’s newest form of intolerance, and it’s especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance. It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control peoples language with strict codes and rigid rules. I’m not sure that’s the way to fight discrimination. I’m not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech.
-George Carlin

I also found a Facebook page dedicated to him, the author of that page said (must be an old page):

"This group calls for the immediate return of Perry F. Mills, the sweetest professor ever, to his teaching post at WWU. After being unfairly suspended, the only thing that will return him, in all his glory, to Western, is a facebook group. Invite all your friends, and let's make this the biggest group at Facebook.
"I suggest you all pick up "Simply Cinema," Perry F.'s forgotten masterpiece. For some God forsaken reason, this book has gone out of print, but there are still used copies available on Amazon. Trust me. It will be worth it."
[I have this book myself, since it was published.]

From Western's own web site:
 The beloved Perry Mills
"Perry F. Mills was hired by the founder of the CFPA, William Gregory, to further the liberal arts component of the Fine and Performing Arts curriculum.  For thirty years he has taught aesthetics, film, dramatic literature, playwriting and patience. His book on film studies is out of print and in the WWU Wilson Library. His playwriting students have won numerous awards and have plays in current productions in NYC and London. Take a class with Perry if you want a sample of academic diversity: he’s not good-looking, but he’s hard to kill…"
WWU Theater

Part of the original issue at question:
Mark Kuntz 
This is the guy Perry blew the whistle on, who was diverting student funds and started a hornet's nest.

The apparently despised (disposed?) Mark Kuntz
"Mark Kuntz  is currently in his ninth year on the theatre faculty at WWU after spending eleven years at Eastern Oregon University.  He received his BA in Theatre Arts from the University of Oregon.  Mark has served three times as a member of the National Selection Team for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and was recently elected as National Vice-Chair.  His work as a director has been produced regionally with K.C.A.C.T.F., and his production of Lips Together, Teeth Apart was recognized at K.C.A.C.T.F. .  Some of his recent directing credits include Shakespeare’s R&J and Summer Stock’s 2005 The Foreigner and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."
WWU Theater Department

Now a few words from the Perry Blog site (which Perry is not responsible for):

Monday, January 14, 2008

Do You Miss Mark Kuntz? I do, too...

It's been awhile, hasn't it? Well, I know you've been as sick for both the presence of Professor Mark Kuntz--really, the man who started it all, an inspiration to educators and educatees alike--as well as the concision and attention to detail that defines the Western Washington student. So, here's a little treat for your attendant patience, unedited for "letter-order" and grammatic creativity:

From Rate My Professor (Mark Kuntz)

Ugh. Terrible class. I usually love theatre. I didn't with Mark. He was self-absorbed and, though he would ask student opinions in discussions he would usually just make what they said fit his own narrow-minded opinions. The tests were confusing and I thought his grading on papers was kind of harsh. Obnoxious guy, obnoxious class.

What a god awful teacher. I couldn't stand the full of himself, disorganized, unavaliable and he out and out lies about stuff. Huge ego way out of porportion to any talent I saw a director he sucks. Actors actually fell asleep on stage in the last play he did it was so boring.........


I was interested in theater prior to taking this class, but I really didn't learn much about it and I have completely lost interest. He grades papers too hard and the basis of the tests are several uninspiring articles written by people with large egos.

Mark is hilarious! He's such an awesome guy. Get to know him on a personal level... it helps!

Indeed! Truly awesome.

Note: I would have been happy to balance this post with some student musings on the criminal pirate himself, but--ah, helas--it's somewhat difficult for students to properly rate their professors when their professors aren't allowed to set foot on campus...

Articles about the issues between WWU and Perry:

Seattle Times article
The Times article said:
"As a result, the university might have to revisit a painful chapter in its history, rekindling arguments that not only touch on the alleged boorish behavior of one of its faculty members but also broader issues of what constitutes academic freedom and free speech."

Perry is anything but boorish. Ill-mannered, clumsy, or insensitive; rude? Well, ill mannered, sometimes it may seem that way, if he thinks you deserve it; clumsy(?), no, the man has a mind like a laser, if he goes for the jugular, its accurate, clean and quick; insensitive, well, I've always believed he says many of the things he says because he really does care, though he may try to hide it, or else perhaps, it just seems to get lost in the barrage of stately and historical quips; rude? Well, perhaps, but really it's all in how you conceive what it is he is saying and why. If you are mental midget, surely I believe you would take it so, but if you have any decent intellect at all, its quite clear you have nothing to fear or abhor. Just shut up and listen, think. Maybe, come back later, and say something, when you are prepared. Because you really don't want to go up against him if you aren't prepared, and have an intelligent thought either in your mind, or your speech. But if you stick it out, in the end, you will be a far better student and person.

NW Citizen article

Blog about Perry by a student/friend

Random photos from the blog mentioned above:
Julian! I haven't seen him in years!


  1. I was a student. The guy is a clown. He ought to be fired.

  2. I found that the only people who seem to have a problem with Perry, are those who are weak in intellect or spirit, or both. Just my opinion of course. Of all my university Profs I learned more and faster from Perry than anyone else. It wasn't easy, sometimes it was a bit painful, but I took it, and considered why, and in the end, learned a lot. It’s interesting to note, how a good group of people got nothing from his teaching, and others got so much. It would also seem that those who did indeed feel they learned a lot from him, were somewhat in awe of him, have little sympathy for those who did not. Still, all the best to you all and I hope life is easy on you.

  3. I must be out of my mind but would like to connect with Perry, we have some history...

    I live in Australia so email would be best....(be best, sounds familiar some how)

  4. Wish I could help but haven't heard from him in years. I did get a nice letter from him when we sent letters to the university in his defense and he remained there after so I guess maybe it helped. But I've moved a few times now and so much of my stuff is in storage. WWU might have his contact info? If I find something I'll let you know. Best of luck. Cheers!