Pérez appointed as UT Trustee, replacing Velásquez
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has appointed a former Toledo Latino to the University of Toledo Board of Trustees for a term that runs through 2020. Juan José (“John”) Pérez, now a Columbus attorney, replaces Baldemar Velásquez, founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), whose term recently expired.
“I am very excited to be making a contribution to the university and since it’s my alma mater, I’m looking forward to working with my school again,” he said.
Juan José (“John”) Pérez
Pérez is a graduate of the University of Toledo College of Law. He served as a federal law clerk to late U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas J. Walinski while still living in Toledo until 1987, when he joined a Columbus law firm where he later became a partner. Pérez also served for three years as general counsel and vice president of administration for a publicly-traded, international company in Columbus.
Pérez became a founding partner in a law practice in 1997, which later became Pérez & Morris, LLC, the only Latino-owned law firm in Central Ohio. According to a bio on the firm’s website, his main practice is commercial and construction litigation, including large loss property recoveries, where he has achieved successful jury verdicts and arbitration/mediation results, including many in excess of $1 million. Pérez has many Latino clients and offers bilingual services.
“The obligation is to all students, make sure they are well-educated and have an opportunity to excel,” he said. “I do, however, being Latino, bring that perspective to the table and know the culture. I can help the university get some perspective on that.”
Pérez, 55, has received the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan award from the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA). His law firm for many years has sponsored El Día de Los Reyes Magos (The Day of Three Kings), a toy drive in Central Ohio by the Ohio Hispanic Coalition (OHCO) to provide toys during the holidays to 2,000 underprivileged kids. He also has assisted with a drive to provide toys and blankets to children hospitalized in the poorest of hospitals located in Guadalajara, México. An OCHLA bio called him “a dedicated Latino community advocate, leader, mentor and advisor.
Pérez himself comes from humble beginnings. He is the son of migrant farmworkers, helping his parents pick vegetables as a child. His father only obtained a sixth grade education and his mother only attended elementary school.
“My parents were always very much in favor of education,” he said. “They were always committed to us graduating from high school and attending college. In fact, I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school and go on to college, so that prompting toward education has carried over to our kids.”
Pérez is certainly no stranger to assisting the cause of higher education. He even participated in a recent study of 20 Latino entrepreneurs in the Columbus area for a student’s doctoral dissertation. The author concluded that hard work, perseverance, personal sacrifice, and autonomy are important cultural traits common to successful Latino entrepreneurs such as Pérez.
“This new economy, in my opinion, there are two things that are going to get you success,” he said. “One is a good education and the other is hard work. So I want to be involved with the students and ensuring that happens, make sure they get a good education like I got and go out in the world and be successful.”
Pérez, who is of Mexican descent, and his wife, Joan, have three adult sons: John, Jr., an attorney in Columbus; Jonas, who obtained his doctorate and now works for a medical device firm in Atlanta; and Jamie, who works in the landscaping industry in Columbus.
He returns to Toledo often, because his mother Alamar and sister Adalia continue to run the family business, La Paloma Bakery, and still has aunts, uncles, nephews, and nieces living here. His father, who passed away last year at age 76, established the business as the first Mexican pastry store in Toledo in 1987.