John A. Pergolin, 87, of Warminster, a teacher and coach who became the longtime director of financial aid at St. Joseph’s University, died Thursday, Jan. 24, of complications from a stroke at Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health.
During three decades at St. Joseph’s, starting in 1969, Mr. Pergolin co-chaired the scholarship committee. He not only arranged for thousands of students to get financial aid, but closely monitored their academic progress. If they faltered, he offered himself as a mentor.
“Any time a student would get into academic difficulty, nine out of 10 times it was in the first semester,” he told an interviewer. Without Mom and Dad around, the students have to learn to manage their time.
He also had an impact on the financial aid field as a whole.
“Jack was beloved throughout the Pennsylvania financial aid community,” said Robert McBride, associate vice president of enrollment management at St. Joseph’s. “He was very involved in both local and state professional organizations, and served as an informal mentor. Jack took the time to listen, advise, and guide.”
A native Philadelphian, Mr. Pergolin graduated from St. Thomas More High School in 1949 and St. Joseph’s in 1956. He served in the Navy in 1957 and 1958.
Prior to his university post, Mr. Pergolin became a teacher and head varsity basketball coach at Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia, and then a teacher and athletic director at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster.
At Dougherty, he coached the undefeated 1964 basketball team that won the Catholic League championship. Msgr. Joseph M. Corley, dean of 18 churches in Delaware County, played on the championship team.
“Mr. Pergolin had a very good team to start with,” said Corley. “He was very clear with what he expected and the plays that he designed. He was approachable.”
The team competed for the City League title but lost its final game of the season to Germantown High School. In 2009, the team was inducted into Dougherty’s hall of fame.
Mr. Pergolin stayed in touch with Corley. “He was a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good friend,” Corley said. “He cared about other people.”
In 1999, when it came time to retire from St. Joseph’s, Mr. Pergolin couldn’t just walk away from the field, so he joined the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust as financial aid director. The scholarship is a project of the Golf Association of Philadelphia.
Mr. Pergolin spent the next 13 years interviewing potential recipients and acting as the link among the trust, the caddies, and institutions of higher learning. In 2001, he created a program in which more than 30 colleges and universities agreed to match between $500 and $4,000 of a Platt Caddie Scholarship.
Because of the match, 28 caddie-scholars received $32,700 from academic institutions in addition to their trust-funded scholarships in 2008-09 alone, the trust reported.
“He’s made a lasting imprint on the lives of a bunch of kids,” David Junkin, a Platt Caddie trustee, said on the website. “For that, we will be eternally grateful. It is impossible to underestimate Jack’s value and accomplishments to the trust. He leaves behind a very wonderful legacy.”
Junkin said that when problems developed with a financial-aid application, a phone call from Mr. Pergolin smoothed the way. “He had a great personal touch,” Junkin said. “I believe his most valuable asset was his ability to interact with and mentor our caddie scholars.
Mr. Pergolin retired for good in 2012 at age 81. In leisure time, he enjoyed golf and followed St. Joseph’s basketball and Philadelphia sports teams. He was a longtime member of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Warrington.
He is survived by his wife, Margaret “Peg” Pergolin; children John A. Jr., Meg Ferry, Michael A., and Mary Jo; and four grandchildren.
A viewing from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, and a second viewing from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, at the Shelly Funeral Home, 1460 Easton Rd., Warrington, will be followed by 11 a.m. funeral services Wednesday at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, 1795 Columbia Ave., Warrington. Interment will be in St. John Neumann Cemetery, Chalfont.