A lot has happened in Louis Michael Perez’s life since he worked at The Alligator and earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.
“I went to work for The Gainesville Sun,” said the UF CJC Class of 1969 alumnus, “and one year later, The New York Times bought a bunch of newspapers in Florida, including The Gainesville Sun.”
Perez was at The Gainesville Sun for about six years when he was offered the job of editorial page editor at another NYT-owned publication, The Ledger, in Lakeland, in 1976. He was there for about five years before getting promoted to executive editor, a position he stayed in until he retired in 2011.
A Bartow resident — who on his father’s side was from Spain and mother’s side from Cuba — Perez said he learned a lot from his time at UF and took advantage of the resources that were offered to him.
“I also had great professors who mentored me throughout the years,” Perez said. “Buddy Davis was my strongest influence, closely followed by Joanne Smith and Hugh Cunningham and the great Dean, Rae Weimer, who rescued me from flunking out.”
In addition to working at The Alligator, Perez also was as a correspondent for his hometown newspaper, The Tampa Tribune, which helped him gain experience and build his resume.
Perez said he is very grateful to have graduated from such a tremendous university. And UF is proud of Perez as well. In 2011, he was recognized as an Alumnus of Distinction; and in 2001, he was inducted into the Florida Alligator Hall of Fame.
Over his career, Perez has achieved many other accomplishments, among them being named to the Florida Freedom of Information Hall of Fame, serving as past-president of Florida Society of News Editors and representing The New York Times as a board of director of the Inter-American Press Association, where he was also the U.S. vice chairman of the Freedom of Press Committee.
But he will never forget where it all started.
“The contacts and friends I made at the University of Florida,” Perez recalled, “the networking — and the reputation of the school — definitely served me well throughout my career.”