Adrian Péré, director of counseling services for the University of New Orleans, died Sunday Jan. 3.
Known for his kind manner and devotion to serving students, staff and faculty in times of need and crisis, Péré leaves behind a community of colleagues and clients who say he made a quiet, indelible mark on an untold number of lives through his work at UNO.
Péré, who was 51 when he passed, first joined the University as an intern while working toward his master’s degree in social work at Tulane University. Rosamond Myers, assistant director and coordinator of clinical training for UNO, said that even then Péré immediately stood out for his compassion, attention to detail and unflinching professionalism and ethics.
“He was so outstanding, incredibly qualified, skilled and gifted,” Myers said. When a permanent position for an outreach coordinator for counseling services opened up in 2007, Myers said she was eager to get Péré on board.
Péré quickly became a go-to resource for those involved in student services before ascending to lead the department in 2009.
Dale O’Neill, director of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, and Christy Heaton, director of orientation and programs and enrollment services, regularly called on Péré to meet with student groups. Besides actively promoting the usefulness of UNO’s counseling services, he would often deliver timely and needed seminars and talks that dealt with everything from time management to diversity to life-school balance.
Péré was instrumental in establishing the Safe Space Allies program on campus in 2009 in an effort to raise awareness, understanding and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Heaton, who joined forces with Péré on that project, said he had a passion for inclusivity and felt it was important to help students who may be facing adversity or possible discrimination to identify advocates on campus among faculty, staff and peers.
Peggy Gaffney, director of diversity affairs, said Péré had a gift for simultaneously comforting and bolstering those grappling with complex feelings on sexual orientation and discrimination. “It was very emotional for some people,” Gaffney said of some of the hands-on training sessions that Péré led. “And he was very nurturing. Very gentle. Very sweet. Always with a kind smile.”
Péré also worked with individual colleges such as the College of Business Administration to help students on academic probation, delivering five or six lunch-hour seminars per semester on tailored topics such as study skills and test anxiety.
“He was always open,” said Enjilee Dunn, academic and intern advisor for the College of Business Administration, who first met Péré while she was a UNO student. “Even though he may not have known you on a personal level, you felt like he did.”
Péré arrived at the office at 7 a.m. daily, his colleagues say. O’Neill said he liked that quiet time to get the paperwork out of the way so that he could start seeing students as early in the day as possible.
“He went over and beyond,” she said. “I would like for us to be appreciative of all he gave to UNO. He was so selfless.”
Prior to seeking a career in social work, Péré served as an ordained Catholic priest, graduating from Notre Dame Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in 1993. Colleagues say he found his second calling in social work, however, and was particularly driven to serve the needs of UNO’s diverse student population.
“Adrian understood the UNO student,” O’Neill said. “He got it. He understood that the UNO student is not cookie cutter and our services should reflect that.”
Myers said Péré’s death represents a huge loss for the department, the community and all he touched or would have touched in the future: “He did something anybody could be proud of,” she said, “He made a difference in people’s lives. He changed people’s lives.”
Services for Péré will be held Friday, Jan. 8, at St. Francis de Sales Co-Cathedral, 500 Goode St. in Houma, with visitation starting at 8:30 a.m., immediately followed by a funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. His family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made in Péré’s name to the Archdiocese of New Orleans or the Office of Family (Life or Ministries).