Richard Pearce
1932 - 2020
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Richard Pearce died on April 5, 2020 at Tockwotton on the Waterfront in East Providence from the effects of the post polio syndrome.
He was born in New York City on April 14, 1932 to Ethel and Samuel Pearce. He grew up in New York City, where he attended P.S. 6 and the Bronx High School of Science. In 1953 he graduated with Highest Honors in Philosophy from Hobart College. In the summers, wanting to experience the world outside of New York City, he hitchhiked out west to stack hay, work at odd jobs, and drive a combine on the wheat harvest. One summer he worked 26 jobs. After graduating from Hobart, Summa Cum Laude, he studied Philosophy in graduate school at Columbia University. He soon met Jean Kudo, a recent Swarthmore graduate from Urbana, Illinois and fell in love. In 1954, questioning his major in Philosophy, he withdrew from Columbia University. Toward the end of the Korean War in 1954, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Richard and Jean were married in between basic training and clerk typist school, shortly before he was shipped off to 7th Army headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Jean joined him there, and for 18 months they lived off base and enjoyed travelling in Europe on the few passes he received from the Army. After his discharge, he returned to New York City a Korean War veteran.
Upon his return to the United States, he changed his focus to English Literature and later received his Master's degree from Columbia University. While writing his Ph.D. dissertation he accepted an appointment to teach in the English Department at Alfred University in Alfred, New York. In 1962 he was awarded his Ph.D from Columbia. He accepted a position in 1964 in the English Department at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts where he taught for 37 years. During his teaching tenure, he mentored many young colleagues. He enjoyed teaching and research, publishing six books on modernist narrative: Stages of the Clown: Perspectives on Modern Fiction from Dostoyevsky to Beckett, 1972; William Styron, 1971; Critical Essays on Thomas Pynchon (Editor), 1981; The Novel in Motion: An Approach to Modern Fiction, 1991; and Molly Blooms: A Polylogue on Penelope and Cultural Studies (Editor, with an essay, "How Does Molly Look through the Male Gaze"), 1994.
He will be remembered for his leadership of the English Department, commitment to shared governance through his work on faculty committees and in AAUP, and most especially for the mentorship and friendship he extended to so many junior faculty members. For his colleagues the screen porch in summer and woodstove in winter at the Pearces' house was a source of great food, drink, music, and intellectual sustenance. Richard was a coach, cheerleader, fan, and friend, always open to new ideas and new people. He modeled this for young faculty in his commitment to students, the creativity and excitement that went into his teaching, and his devotion to each new scholarly project. He truly embodied the best of what the Wheaton community valued and nurtured.
Following his retirement, he became an avid fly fisherman and developed a new interest in Native American Ledger Art. After travelling west to interview women ledger artists and conduct research, he was inspired to write his latest book, Women and Ledger Art, 2013, the first published study focusing on this topic.
While very involved with his college community and research, Richard was a loving husband and father. He and his family went on camping trips exploring different areas of the country , and his sense of adventure and humor always made the trips exciting. His passion for nature and gardening was inherited by both daughters who love working in their gardens. In connection with conferences or research, Richard and Jean enjoyed traveling to other states or countries and would return home with stories of interesting people, beautiful places, and delicious food.
In addition to being remembered by his friends and colleagues for the range of his intellect and enthusiasm, Richard will also be remembered for his positive attitude toward life and people, his warmth and quirky sense of humor. Richard died of complications of post polio syndrome, having initially contracted polio as a 9 year old in summer camp. He left his wife Jean, to whom he was married 65 years, daughters Karin Pearce-Small and Emily Pearce-Spence, sons-in-law James Small and Gerard Spence, and grandchildren Dylan and Austin Small and Lucy and Jeremy Spence.

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Published in Sun Chronicle on May 20, 2020.
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5 entries
May 28, 2020
I truly enjoyed times we spent with Dick. I was lucky enough to be a part of a few porch and dinner evenings. He was a delightful person to know, always curious, always entertaining and an excellent host. Condolences to his family. He will surely be missed.
Linda Kollett
May 28, 2020
knew Dick for many years as a Wheaton colleague. He combined scholarly knowledge with a great sense of humor. Sonia and I send our condolences to his family.
John A Walgreen
May 24, 2020
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Sharon Roy
May 22, 2020
What an incredible human being he was! Thank you for sharing his story. No wonder his daughter, my friend Emily, is so awesome too!
May 20, 2020
With deep sympathy.
George Economou
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