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Slain educator mourned by Evergreen colleagues

Students and faculty at The Evergreen State College and Lakes High School in Lakewood are trying to come to terms with news that a beloved member of both school communities was killed this week in his Tacoma home.

Morris Perry, an education specialist, was found dead in his home Wednesday by his 15-year-old daughter, according to the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

He'd been stabbed several times with a screwdriver.

"This has come as a shock to everyone who knew him and to the entire campus, for that matter," Evergreen spokesman Anthony Sermonti said.

Perry began working with GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) at Evergreen in November 2003. He brought more than a decade of experience in social welfare and psychology as they apply to children and family dynamics, Sermonti said. He had previously worked with the state's Department of Social and Health Services.

The purpose of GEAR UP, a federally funded grant program, is to help disadvantaged students prepare for educational opportunities after high school.

"He was very popular with his co-workers and folks around campus," Sermonti said. "He was known for being a very polite man and a real hard worker. He was very committed to the students."

He frequently worked with Evergreen students in a peer-to-peer capacity, Sermonti said. But he was devoted to the students at Lakes High School, helping them make the transition from middle school to high school.

"The staff and students were very saddened to hear of his passing," said Clover Park School District spokeswoman Kim Prentice. "He touched their lives, and they'll remember him with great fondness."

Perry worked at Lakes High School for the last two years, mostly with freshmen and sophomores, supervising college assistance as well as training them on the seven habits of the highly effective teen, Prentice said. He also arranged field trips and guest speakers to get students excited about their future.

The school is providing additional counselors for students and staff who are having trouble coping with the news, she said.

Likewise, Evergreen is providing services for its community to handle the loss.

"The College and GEAR UP are working with students affected by this to make sure they're OK," Sermonti said. "We're making sure people's emotions are taken care of."

Steven Dwayne Anderson, a transient, has been charged in Perry's death. He faces one count of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree robbery.

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