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PIERSON, W. LEE, DR. Dr. W. Lee Pierson passed away in Branford, Connecticut, on March 17, 2014. He was born on August 21, 1939, in New Haven, the only child of the late Walter L. Pierson and Ida M. Pierson of Hamden. Loving husband of Andrée Riso Pierson for 50 years. Beloved father of Christina A. Pierson of Branford, and W. Glen Pierson of Hamden. Proud grandfather of Pierce, Andrew and Bríanna Linehan, all of Branford. Father-in-law of Charles P. Reed of Hamden. Brother-in-law of Marie-Anne Mallat of Beirut, Lebanon; and Chantal Matthews of Bonita Springs, Florida. Dr. Pierson was a graduate of The Choate School, where he received the Choate Seal Prize upon graduation in 1957. He earned his bachelor’s degree from
, a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in education from
. In the 1960s, he taught at Phillips Exeter Academy and served as a teaching fellow at Athens College in Athens, Greece. He also served as special assistant to four successive United States Commissioners of Education, promoting racial integration at public universities in the South on behalf of the federal government. A preeminent educator, Dr. Pierson spent most of his professional life leading independent secondary schools. In 1973, at age 34, he became youngest President of Athens College, in Athens, Greece, where he served until 1979. During his tenure, he oversaw a significant expansion of the endowment as well as construction of a new elementary school campus. While at Athens College, he also spearheaded the emigration and enrollment on scholarship of Cypriot children displaced by war. In 1979, he became Headmaster of Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York, a post he held for fourteen years. At RCDS, in addition to leading major capital campaigns, Dr. Pierson presided over the construction of the Klingenstein Library and the Dunn Performing Arts Center. In 1994, Dr. Pierson became Headmaster at the Francis Parker School in San Diego, California, a post he held until 2002. During his tenure at Francis Parker, Dr. Pierson oversaw a significant expansion of the school endowment as well as the construction of expanded classroom space, a performing arts center and athletic facilities. From 2004–2006, he served as Headmaster at The Collegiate School in New York City, the oldest educational institution in North America, founded in 1628. In his later professional life, he worked as interim Headmaster at leading independent schools throughout the United States, including Cincinnati Country Day School, Phoenix Country Day School, and the Indian Springs School. Over the years, he also served on various boards of trustees, including at Athens College, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the Phoenix Theater, The Windward School for learning disabled children, and Phoenix Country Day School. Dr. Pierson was a voracious reader of history and biography, whose main interests included American government and politics, and the British monarchy and parliamentary system. While he enjoyed travel, he loved and valued the Connecticut shoreline above all places, and the lifelong friendships forged there. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 29, 2014, beginning at 3:00 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1109 Main Street, Branford, CT 06405 (on the Green). A reception will follow. Memorial gifts may be made to The Connecticut Hospice, Inc., 100 Double Beach Road, Branford, CT 06405, or to any charity of one’s choosing. Arrangements are with the Hawley Lincoln Memorial.
Published in The New Haven Register on Mar. 23, 2014
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"Earning Dr. Pierson's Headmaster's Award is one of my life's highlights. In his remarks on the award, he..."
- Chris Ringewald
"I only wish my children to be lucky enough to have a teacher of such a quality."
- George Angelopoulos
"Dr. Pierson was one of the great mentors of my life and I will never forget his kindness and generosity...."
- Kevin Farrell
"I met Lee at Choate and was drawn to him because of his warmth and the feeling of quiet competence that..."
- Steve "Smokey" Gilford
"I attended Lee's memorial on March 29th with Mary (Bitsy) Nebauer, who taught at Rye Country Day School..."
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