It began in the 1980s when Robert Roy Pearce developed a belief that colleges should improve the writing and communication skills of students from all majors. As a Clemson alumnus who came from a long line of successful and knowledgeable businessmen, Pearce decided to craft a plan designed to strengthen Tigers’ writing, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. So in 1989, Roy and wife, Margery “Marnie” Pearce, donated $1.5 million to Clemson University to endow the Roy and Marnie Pearce Center for Professional Communication.
After Roy Pearce graduated in 1941, “he went on along with his Class of 1941 to become a great benefactor of the University by starting the Pearce Center and helping to create the Class of 1941 Studio,” said Michael LeMahieu, director of the Pearce Center for Professional Communication.
When the Class of 1941 celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2001, they provided the University with a million dollar gift to fund the construction of the Class of 1941 Studio, which opened its doors in Daniel Hall in 2004 and became the home of the Pearce Center. Thanks to this gift, Clemson students have a space to utilize the latest technology and collaborate with one another one-on-one or in peer groups.
The Pearce Center has three signature initiatives — the Writing Fellows Program, the Internship Program and the Client-Based Program — all of which are designed to integrate students into real-world situations.
According to Austin Gorman, director of the program as well as of the Writing Center, “Our undergraduate Fellows come from all disciplines — engineering, economics, humanities, communications — and they work with faculty across the disciplines.”
Writing Fellows serve as peer tutors for a particular class and will work one-on-one with students throughout the course to improve their writing skills.
“One of the best things about being a Fellow is watching students be empowered through their writing and helping them realize that not only do they have powerful perspectives to share but also providing them with the means to do so,” said Claire Coward ’16.
Students immerse themselves in the world of professional communication through the center’s Internship Program. The program, which is affiliated with Clemson’s Undergraduate Professional Co-op Program, allows students to work on many long-term projects including writing, editing, video production and graphic design.
“I’ve had more of a confidence boost in the program. We’re allowed to create so many different things. They give us the power to get out there and create the product from start to finish,” said Maria Poulos ’15.
The Client-Based Program is also a signature initiative and was started in 2003 by the late Summer Smith Taylor, whose goal was to give Clemson students the opportunity to practice what they are learning in the classroom.
Students assist with deliverables ranging from website development and social media plans to rebranding. “The program matches classes to clients who need deliverables,” said Ashley Fisk, assistant director of the Pearce Center and director of the Client-Based Program.
The center has made an impact on Clemson as a whole by contributing to the University’s efforts to teach writing across the curriculum. For many years, the University has been recognized by U.S.News & World Report as a top school for Writing in the Disciplines. The 2016 ranking places Clemson among recognized schools such as Brown, Harvard and Stanford University.
The Pearces will always be remembered for their support, generosity and dedication to student success. Along with improving the communication skills of Clemson students, the couple established the Dr. R. Roy Pearce HD ’41 & Margery W. Pearce Library Endowment and provided funding for Clemson student scholarships.
“One of the many things I admire about the Pearces’ gift is the foresight in addition to their generosity by saying that the purpose of the Pearce Center was to increase the communication skills of all students regardless of discipline,” said director Michael LeMahieu. “The mission of the center wasn’t tied to a certain time and a particular place, but had foresight and vision. I think Mr. and Mrs. Pearce would be surprised to see the technology in the studio and all the different projects the students are working on.”
Due to the Pearces’ generosity, the couple will be inducted on November 20, 2015 into the Fort Hill Legacy Society, which honors donors posthumously for leaving $1 million or more to the University in their estate plans. A ceremony dedicating a bronze leaf in the Pearces’ memory will be held as part of the annual Legacy Day celebration. The leaves are placed under the Second Century Oak, which stands at Fort Hill on the historic site of the Trustee Oak and the University’s first Board of Trustees meeting.
“My grandfather credited his success in life to the training he received at his beloved Clemson College. He frequently quoted his professors and his football coach as well as the words of Shakespeare and John Milton. For our family, it is now an honor to see this love of communication that he acquired at Clemson be passed on to future students through the Roy and Marnie Pearce Center,” said Walker Pearce Maybank Buxton ’89, granddaughter of Roy and Marnie Pearce.
The Pearces’ passion for helping students of all disciplines grow will always be remembered as the center strives to provide students with memorable and beneficial experiences that will forever make a difference in their lives.
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