St. Bede names Paul Perona distinguished alumnus for 2022

Perona will be honored during the Bruins Brunch on Oct. 2 of homecoming weekend

The St. Bede Alumni Association announced Paul D. Perona is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2022.

Perona will be honored and presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award during the Bruins Brunch on Sunday, Oct. 2, during St. Bede’s homecoming weekend.

“I am humbled and honored to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award,” Perona said. “I have always been proud to be a Bruin.”

Perona was a recognized athlete and scholar at St. Bede, graduating in 1956. After graduation, he attended the University of Notre Dame (B.A., 1960) and Northwestern University Law School (J.D., 1963). Paul returned to live and work in the Illinois Valley and has been a consistent and honored participant in St. Bede’s lay community ever since.

Over the decades, Perona has supported St. Bede by chairing multiple fundraising efforts and hosting Abbey priests at his home or visiting past coaches and teachers in their retirement.

He practiced law in the Illinois Valley for more than 50 years and handled cases at all levels of the court system, including the United States Supreme Court, and has been recognized by local and state bar associations for his leadership and involvement. Serving as president of the Illinois Valley Chamber of Commerce and as a board member for several local banks, Perona has been an active local presence to foster economic and industrial development.

He has provided free legal services to the needy through Prairie State Legal Services, which named him the first Volunteer Attorney of the Year. He also served as a “big brother” in the juvenile court system, providing stability and guidance to youths who frequently ended up before the court.

Perona’s many good works extend far beyond the courtroom. In the mid-60s, the Rev. Father Sebastian, on leave from St. Bede as he served in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood, put together a program that involved direct interaction between inner-city children and Illinois Valley families. African American teens lived with local families for a few weeks, for both parties’ benefit. Perona and his wife Carole were one of the first families to volunteer and later aided war refugees.