GFA prides itself as a mission-driven institution “engaging students as partners in an innovative inclusive and globally minded community preparing them for lives of purpose.” Alex Perry ’06 is a prime example of an alum doing just that. He currently serves as the General Manager of Patagonia Latin America, President of Patagonia Chile, and President of Patagonia Argentina — roles he grew into because he was in the right place at the right time and ready to show up, as he humbly put it.
After graduating from the University of Rochester in 2010 and unsure of his next step, Perry packed up his car and moved to Colorado. He spent the next three years as a ski instructor in Aspen and worked part-time at a ski shop. During this period, Perry received some telling advice from a family member: Instead of figuring out what job you want, figure out what community you would like to be a part of and get your foot in the door.
At the time Patagonia, with its mission- and values-driven work, was at the top of his list. Perry reached out to a sales representative he worked with and was thrilled to learn that Patagonia was putting together an entry-level traveling team. Over the next eight months, he covered the midwest and New England territories and absorbed everything he could — how products are built, marketed, sold, and used — and gained a real understanding of the ecosystem of the company. Looking to address its international efforts in 2014, Patagonia brought Perry on as a coordinator for the Ventura, CA, office, in part because of his fluency in Spanish, a language he began studying at GFA.
The risks Perry has taken so far have seem to have paid off. With him at the helm of Patagonia South America, the company recently won the Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) from the U.S. Department of State for Climate Innovation for its conservation work in Argentina. There Patagonia has teamed with conservationists to protect public land and ban farmed fishing, which is decimating the Patagonia region.
“We have rejected old ways of thinking and learned how to build a successful business that contributes to the future in a positive way. We’re humbled by this global recognition and we will continue working toward Patagonia’s reason for being, which is to save our home planet. We could never do this without the grassroots environmentalists we partner with in Argentina and around the world,” Perry said.
He recalls his time on Beachside Avenue fondly, and after all these years he still hears the voice of his Middle School teacher, Mr. Cissel, emphasizing that GFA was their home. For Perry, GFA is still home, and it’s always been part of his family. His father, Dave Perry, is the former GFA Athletic Director and founder of the Harbor Blues; his mother, Betsy, was a familiar figure on campus; and his sister, Eliza, attended GFA through Middle School. Two of his aunts, Laurie Perry Jones ’74 and Ginny Perry Worcester ’75 attended GFA, and his grandfather, Hoyt (Hop) O. Perry served on GFA’s Board of Trustees.
Beyond his family, Perry has a group of friends from GFA that he continues to communicate with daily. He said that the unique support system of faculty, friends, and family at GFA allowed him to take on challenges, knowing he had a network of people behind him. For example, during his sophomore year, he applied to School Year Abroad (SYA), despite somewhat lacking Spanish skills. Then-Head of Upper School Peter Herzberg, who was also Perry’s English teacher, encouraged him to push himself — Perry spent his junior year abroad in Zaragoza, Spain, immersed in the language that has now been such a important part of his work.
Patagonia’s mission of being “In business to save our home planet” is bold, direct, and an important example of how a mission-driven company can be successful. And for Perry, it always comes back to the mission.
“If I don’t know an answer to a question I go straight back to one of the values or the mission. It’s kind of wild how tried-and-true that is,” he said. “The sense of purpose and community at GFA is really powerful.’’
Thinking about current GFA students, Perry warned them not to get too wrapped up in knowing exactly what you are going to do for the rest of your life.
“Don’t lose sight of the journey for the end goal. … Each day do something positive and contribute value to whatever room you are in,” he advised.