Eight Questions for Officer Joe


Photo Courtesy of: moravian.edu

If you have ever been on Moravian’s South Campus, chances are you’ve bumped into or at least heard of Joe Perno. 

A police officer at Moravian College since 2011, “Officer Joe,” as students affectionately call him, partrols mostly South Campus, paying special attention to Main Hall. 

The Comenian recently sat down with Perno to learn more about his background and work at Moravian. 

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am from Brooklyn, New York. I have always had a love for music; I played the violin as well as sang in choir. I graduated from Fordham University, majoring in psychology, and became a police officer in January of 1982. I was one of many officers working on September 11, 2001, and have since visited all three sites and said prayers. I married the love of my life, Catherine, in 1984, and we were blessed with two boys and my princess, Allison.

What drew you to work at Moravian?

I had taken the job of a Moravian police officer so Allison could go to school here. I felt I could touch the lives of so many young wonderful men and women that attend Moravian College. I never dreamed that it would be those young men and women that help me each and every day after the loss of my daughter move forward. I truly can say it is the friendships and respect of these young men and women that make me want to be here each and every day.

What moment in your life has had the biggest impact on your career?

The biggest impact of my life has to be the loss of Allison. It has made me understand and have the compassion and drive to treat every student here as if, as the students say, I was their uncle or a family member. I truly care about the students here at Moravian.

What is your favorite aspect of Moravian and why?

I guess [it’s] the feeling of being a family with the staff, students, and faculty. Yes, you have that annoying family member that gets in trouble, but there are so many great and wonderful friends here that make it a family. I have been lucky enough to have been nominated for the ODK Award for eight of my nine years here and have won that honor from the students twice. 

What does being a Moravian police officer mean to you?

I get to watch over and protect those I care so much about. I have two student weddings and already heard of a third and possibly a fourth I will be invited to. I always have a special place for the residents on South Campus including the ladies of Main Hall.  

Allison would have been a sophomore at Moravian this year. The garden outside Main Hall acts as a memorial for her. Why a garden and what legacy do you believe the garden shows to students?

The memorial stone my wife and I placed with the permission of the College by Main Hall was a place to encourage the feeling of life and growing each and every year. Just how special life is and how we need to appreciate the time we have here with family and friends. The garden gives that each and every year as it blooms with beauty both in and out of Main Hall. In her short time on this planet, she touched so many lives and we want to continue this each and every year.  

Many students have said that because you lost your daughter at such a young age, you treat every student as if they were your own. How do you feel about this sentiment that you are basically everyone’s dad on campus?

The most wonderful part of my job is that I get to watch each and every one of you come into Moravian as freshmen scared, and for some, bright-eyed. I get to watch you grow each and every day. I even thank your parents for allowing me to share the time with you during these years. But most of all I get to watch you walk at graduation. That to me is the most wonderful thing. I will never get to see Allison walk, but each and every year I get to watch what beautiful individuals you have become and how you have grown doing this. It is like watching Allison year after year walking at graduation. 

Finally, is there anything you would like to add or say to the staff and students of Moravian?

To all of those that have made me smile through the years, the tears I have shared with you, the support of you all from the minute you walk onto South Campus to the minute you walk at graduation will continue to help me each and every day so I can continue to go on. I say thank you!