NATCHITOCHES – Jerry Pierce, who served over 57 years on staff at Northwestern State University and as vice president of External Affairs since 1990, died Tuesday, Nov. 8 after a brief illness.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Pierce’s impact at the university, in the community and around the state was profound, not only as an administrator, but as a writer, humorist, ambassador, fund raiser and mentor to personnel at all levels of administration, including nine NSU presidents.
“Mr. Pierce has been part of the fabric of this institution since the mid-60s and served under several presidents with integrity and class. He will be irreplaceable,” said NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones. “I consider him a friend and a mentor who has always been there to provide sage advice.”
“Words cannot express the magnitude of the impact that Jerry Pierce had on Northwestern State University and on me professionally and personally,” said Dr. Chris Maggio, NSU’s immediate past president. “He knew everyone on a statewide level and opened so many doors for me. There was not a day in my presidency that Jerry and I didn’t talk. Whether it was in preparation for visits to the Capitol, meetings with donors or presentations to constituents, Jerry was there for me with research done, briefings prepared and communication tips provided. He was such an effective communicator.”
“Jerry Pierce is the greatest story-teller I have ever known,” said Dr. Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System and former NSU president. “All of us in the Northwestern State family should be grateful that he dedicated that peerless talent to serving our alma mater for nearly 60 years. His loss leaves a void that will never be filled, but his legacy will never be forgotten.”
A graduate of Springhill High School, Pierce was recruited to Northwestern in 1957 as a football trainer and was a four-year letterman in that position. As a student, he was an N Club officer and sports editor of the university newspaper. He joined the staff of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans after receiving his journalism degree in 1961 and became executive sports editor at age 24.
Pierce returned to Northwestern in 1965 as Sports Information Director. He later served as News Bureau director and assistant to the president before he was named vice president of External Affairs, overseeing NSU Athletics, NSU Foundation and Alumni Affairs, News Bureau/Media Relations, Sports Information, the Wellness Recreation and Activities Center and the NSU Recreation Complex. He worked for years with legislators and other elected officials as the university’s governmental affairs representative, served as institutional representative to the NCAA and Southland Conference and was a former president of the conference. He co-chaired Northwestern’s Centennial celebration and 125th anniversary activities. Pierce represented NSU as a speaker and master of ceremonies at hundreds of events across the state for decades and as host or guest on numerous radio and television shows and special broadcasts.
Pierce brought the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame to Natchitoches in 1972 and directed the program for nearly 20 years. During that time, he was named one of the 20 “Most Influential People in Sports in Louisiana” by The Times-Picayune. He played a leading role in establishing the Long Purple Line, NSU’s alumni hall of distinction, and the NSU Athletic N Club Hall of Fame and was a recent inductee into both entities. Pierce received numerous journalism awards and honors for other civic, social and professional activities.
In addition to writing and editing several decades’ worth of news releases and publications at NSU, has also wrote thousands of stories and articles of all kinds for Louisiana newspapers and statewide publications. Pierce received numerous Louisiana Press Association awards for general interest columns, features, sports columns, editorials and was recognized by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association and College Sports Information Directors of America for news stories and sports publications.
Among his many other projects, Pierce was author of a book of columns published by the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives and wrote the text for the 200-page coffee table book “Northwestern at 125” commemorating NSU’s 125th anniversary. He was Northwestern’s liaison for the filming of “Steel Magnolias” and “The Man in the Moon” and was co-editor of “Steel Magnolias Scrapbook” on the filming of the movie in Natchitoches.
Other professional recognition includes 50-year membership awards from both the Louisiana Press Association and Council for Advancement and Support of Education and membership of Blue Key National Honor Society. He was awarded lifetime membership in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association and was the first recipient of the organization’s Mac Russo Award for contributions to the ideals and progress of the organization.
Pierce was extensively involved in civic activities in Natchitoches through the years. Among his honors and recognitions, he was recipient of Natchitoches Mayor’s Award for Community Service, American Legion Natchitoches Parish Man of the Year, Natchitoches Parish Chamber of Commerce President’s Award; City of Natchitoches Achievement Appreciation Award, Lieutenant Governor’s Louisiana Ambassador Award, member of Chamber of Commerce first Ambassadors’ Club, finalist for Chamber of Commerce Natchitoches Parish Man of Year; Kiwanis Club member and officer; charter member of the Mystic Krewe de St. Denis; member of The Agitators social organization; Dignitaries and Publicity Committee of Natchitoches Christmas Festival and member of First Baptist Church. He served as coach and counselor for youth sports programs and on budget, publicity and publications committees. He was also an avid tennis player and was a member of USTA teams that won more than a dozen state championships, five regional titles and a national championship.
Pierce provided substantial financial support to the university and was recognized for more than 20 consecutive years of contributions to the NSU Foundation. He and his wife Regina established endowed scholarships at the university in athletics and academics.
In addition to Regina, Pierce is survived by two sons, a daughter, nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren.