Founder of SJV College found dead in irrigation canal

Tulare County Sheriff’s Office deputies discover deceased co-founder of San Joaquin Valley College Robert Perry floating in a canal north of Visalia

(Rigo Moran)
(Rigo Moran)
Darren Fraser
Published June 28, 2023  • 
12:00 pm

TULARE COUNTY – Robert Perry, one of the co-founders of San Joaquin Valley College, was found dead in an irrigation canal north of Visalia, where he presumably drowned. 

Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies made the discovery just after 7 p.m. on June 25. According to reports released by deputies on June 27, it was determined by the Tulare County Coroner’s Office that Perry, 84, died of natural causes after he had a cardiac episode before falling into the water.

According to a press release issued by San Joaquin Valley College (SJVC), “Robert was a remarkable individual whose pioneering spirit and unwavering dedication to education transformed countless lives. His commitment to providing accessible and quality education to students from diverse backgrounds was a positive force for change in the Central Valley and beyond.

“As we mourn the loss of an extraordinary individual, we recognize that Robert’s vision and impact will endure through the achievements of the many thousands of graduates, students, faculty and staff whose lives he helped to improve. His legacy will forever be etched in the history of San Joaquin Valley College.”

Perry co-founded SJVC with his wife, Shirley, in 1977. The couple’s two sons have run the college since 1995. According to the college’s website, SJVC offers an array of programs, including business, medical and dental, trades, general education and professional development and training. The college has 16 campuses located throughout California.

According to the 2022 SJVC Impact Report, as of 2021, SJVC has awarded over 72,000 certificates and degrees. Between 2018-2020, the college has helped educate more than 3,500 graduates per year. In 2019, SJVC produced the most licensed therapists in California. And since 1998, SJVC’s complimentary dental clinics have served more than 20,000 patients at a savings of over $7 million in free services.

Darren Fraser