Award Profile: Frankie J. Perry ’68

Frankie J. Perry ’68

2021 Lassiter Lee McKissick Walker Trailblazer Award

In 1973 when she started working at Wachovia Bank, Frankie Jeannette Perry was fond of reciting this motto: If you can’t be outstanding, stand out!

Talk about practicing what you preach.

Perry has stood out her entire life, from her childhood days growing up in Durham, to her time at Bennett College in Greensboro, where she made excellent grades and was a campus guide to the Board of Trustees. Later, after transferring to UNC, she continued her path of excellence.

Perry graduated from UNC in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, before teaching science, health, math and physical education in Nash County and being named Nash County’s Science Teacher of the Year in 1969. She also taught a night literacy program for adults in Nash and Edgecombe counties, but is most widely known for spending nearly 40 years in banking.

Perry retired in 2011 as Senior Vice President and Senior Trust and Fiduciary Specialist for Wells Fargo. She is the 2021 James Lassiter, J. Kenneth Lee, Floyd McKissick Sr. and James R. Walker Trailblazer Award recipient.

“Frankie is a beautiful soul, and you never have to guess where she’s coming from,” says Edith A. Hubbard, who nominated her and is one of the first Black women to graduate from UNC. “She’s one of those people you can go to in confidence, or you can go to her when you want to party. She’s just a totally loving, lovely human being. And if she tells you she’s going to do something, you can take that to the bank.”

Though she’s had an illustrious career and mentored countless young people, Perry is quick to try to shine the spotlight on others. And she is unequivocal in saying that her mother, Elaine P. Thompson, a former certified nursing assistant at the Burn Unit at UNC Hospitals, was her biggest role model.

“My mother was the kind of person who would never quit,” Perry says. “She was very quiet and never wanted to raise a ruckus or bring attention to herself. She was a quiet worker if ever there was one. She worked three jobs at all times and really wanted me to accomplish far more than she had. She’d say, ‘I know you can do it, Frankie. I know you can.’ ”

Perry is affiliated with many boards and organizations. In fact, she and Hubbard met in 1973 through the WTVD Advisory Committee, to which they still belong.

Many people know about Perry’s business acumen, but not everyone knows the emphasis she puts on family and friends. Suffice it to say, her love and loyalty have no limits.

It’s not uncommon for Perry to rent four penthouse suites at Myrtle Beach and invite two dozen family members and friends to join her on vacation. She asks only that guests turn off their cellphones during meals so engaging dialogue and fellowship can occur.

Treating people to beach trips is the least of Perry’s benevolence. She has helped send many young people in her family to college, and when she was able to do so, she moved her mother in with her, asked her to quit working and “treated her like the queen she was.”

Hubbard can’t say enough about Perry.

“I can call her 24-7 if I need something, and if she can do it, it’s done,” Hubbard says. “We are kindred spirits. She’s amazingly close to her family and a positively brilliant business woman who can navigate unimaginable waters. She can hold her temper when she needs to and stand her ground at the maximum, optimum time. She’s a tactician in knowing which battles she’s going to win and which she’s going to lose, and she acts accordingly.”

Not surprisingly, Perry believes in Luke 12:48, “To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required.”

“If God has given me this much, I feel like I have to bless others,” Perry says. “I’m still working at age 75, doing wealth management for clients.”