Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

William J. Perry (1994–1997): Secretary of Defense

William James Perry served under President Clinton first as deputy secretary of defense (1993-1994) and then as secretary of defense (1994-1997). He was also undersecretary of defense for research and engineering during the Carter administration (1977-1981).

Perry was born in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, in 1927. He was trained in mathematics, receiving his B.S. and M.S. in that subject from Stanford University, and his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University.

From 1946 to 1947, Perry was an enlisted man in the Army Corps of Engineers and served in the occupation of Japan. He joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1948 and, from 1950 to 1955, was a second lieutenant in the Army reserves.

After leaving the Army, Perry worked as a laboratory director at General Telephone and Electronics (1954-1964), founded and became president of ESL (1964-1977), served as executive vice-president of Hambrecht & Quist (1981-1985), and founded and served as chairman of Technology Strategies and Alliances (1985-1993).

From 1971 to 1977, Perry was a part-time lecturer in mathematics at Santa Clara University. He also taught part-time as a professor at Stanford University from 1988 to 1993, while simultaneously codirecting Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control. Perry is currently a senior fellow with the Hoover Institution and a professor at Stanford University.