After career in opera, John Perry returned to UT to help the LGBT community

John Perry is receiving a master's of social work from the School of Social Work.
John Perry is receiving a master's of social work from the School of Social Work. Photo: Marsha Miller

The last time John Perry was a student at The University of Texas at Austin, he was planning for a career as an opera singer.

That was in 1964. Perry spent more than 30 years performing in Germany, New York City and various other opera houses in the United States. He was Alfredo in "La Traviata," Rodolfo in "La Boheme," Faust in "Faust," Tamino in "The Magic Flute" and Ruiz in "Il Trovatore," to name a few.

In 2006, Perry returned to the university -- this time enrolling in the School of Social Work's master program.

"My singing career was coming to an end and I wanted to find something else that would be fulfilling in a completely different fashion from my music," said Perry, who intends to practice as a licensed therapist.

When Perry did not have performance shows "on the boards," rehearsals for the Metropolitan Opera extra chorus or voice lessons, he volunteered at various nonprofit organizations in New York. He began to see first-hand the long-term damage that can be done by domestic violence, substance abuse and homelessness, among other social problems.

His experience became much more personal and intense during the 1990s as he began therapy, which ultimately resulted in the dissolution of his marriage of 30 years and his coming to terms with being a gay man.

Perry wants to help counsel gay men and those who have been sexually abused as children.

"There are few resources for those struggling with sexual orientation issues, although that is beginning to change," he said.