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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Perry, William Stevens
(January 22, 1832–May 13, 1898)

–second bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa—was born in Providence, Rhode Island. He attended Brown University and graduated from Harvard College in 1854. He began his theological studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, but completed those studies privately. He was ordained in 1857. Parish ministries included positions in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and New York.

    In 1872 Perry was appointed professor of history at Hobart College, Geneva, New York, and in 1876 was elevated to president of that institution. He was elected bishop of the Diocese of Iowa at the Diocesan Convention in 1876. Among Perry's other ecclesiastical positions of note were his elections as deputy to the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies of the General Convention of the national church, from New Hampshire in 1859 and from Maine in 1862. In 1862 he was appointed assistant secretary to the General Convention, and in 1865 he was appointed secretary to the General Convention, a position he held until 1876. In 1868 he was appointed the historiographer of the national church, a position he held until his death.

    Perry received honorary degrees from Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut; College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia; University of Bishop's College, Lennoxville, Quebec; King's College, Windsor, Nova Scotia; Oxford University, England; and Trinity College, Dublin.

    He was a delegate to the Lambeth conferences in 1878, 1888, and 1897: in 1878 he delivered a report on his Cathedral Chapter Model, the way he had organized the administration of Grace Cathedral in Davenport, Iowa; in 1878 he was the only U.S. bishop chosen to speak; and in 1888 he was appointed to three committees, unusual because most bishops served on only one committee. While in England in 1897, Bishop Perry was invited to preach at St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Chester Cathedral, St. Paul's in Oxford, Kensington Palace Royal Chapel, Royal Savoy Chapel, and Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon.

    Bishop Perry's work in the Diocese of Iowa concentrated on the development of institutions, especially educational, medical, and charitable institutions. In 1884 he recommended that the diocese establish a church hospital, a church home, a church orphanage, a church industrial school, a church workingmen's club, a church temperance society, and a church employment bureau, as well as educational institutions. Not all of these proposals were implemented, but a significant number of Episcopal institutions were founded during his tenure, in most cases as a direct result of his influence and urging, and often with his financial aid. He founded Cottage Hospital in Des Moines, St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids, and St. Luke's Hospital in Davenport; and he created Homes for the Friendless in Dubuque and Davenport.

    It was in the field of education that Bishop Perry made his greatest contribution to the growth of the Episcopal church in Iowa. Griswold College in Davenport already existed when he arrived. He reorganized the school to include Wolfe Hall College, Lee Hall Divinity Training School, St. Katharine's Hall for Girls, and Kemper Hall for Boys. In 1880 the Western Church Building Society adopted Griswold College as its official college. That same year, Perry consecrated Griswold College as the "College of the Trans-Mississippi Dioceses and Sees" (which included the Dioceses of Minnesota, Nebraska, Montana, Kansas, Colorado, Dakota, Missouri, and Wyoming, as well as the Native Americandiocese of Niobrara). Perry took an active role in Griswold College's administration. Other schools founded by Perry's direct instigation included Seabury School for Girls in Des Moines, Boardman Academy in Durant, St. John's Academy in Garden Grove, St. Paul's School in Council Bluffs, and Riverside Institute in Lyons.

    In 1887 Bishop Perry created the Office of Registrar to collect and preserve the historical documents of the Episcopal church in Iowa. He appointed Episcopal chaplains for the Iowa Soldiers' Home in Marshalltown and the state penitentiary in Anamosa. He created more than 30 new parishes and missions and consecrated their church buildings, and he ordained dozens of priests.

    During his lifetime, Bishop Perry published more than 100 books and pamphlets, including the multivolume History of the American Episcopal Church. He was a staunch defender of the Anglican Communion and its liturgy, sometimes adopting the "Broad Church" position, but primarily known for his "High Church" views.

    He died in Dubuque during an episcopal visitation.
Sources For more on Perry, see William Stevens Perry, The Episcopate in America (1885); and Loren N. Horton, The Beautiful Heritage: A History of the Diocese of Iowa, 1853– 2003 (2003).
Contributor: Loren N. Horton

Cite as: Horton, Loren N. "Perry, William Stevens" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 13 December 2017