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Donald Pierre


1936 – 2018 -
Dr. Donald Pierre passed away in Bozeman on Feb. 7, 2018, from complications due to Parkinson's disease.

A gathering will be held on Feb. 20 from 4-7 p.m. at the Dahl Funeral & Cremation Service Tribute Center at 300 Highland Blvd in Bozeman. The funeral mass is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21, at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church at 11 a.m. followed by a luncheon in the basement of the church.

Don was born on July 2, 1936, in Bloomington, Wisconsin. He was raised in Champaign, Illinois, where as a youngster he delivered newspapers, stocked shelves in a grocery store, caddied at a golf course, bussed tables at the local eatery and even worked as a carhop at a drive-in restaurant. In addition, Don spent one summer working on his uncle's dairy farm and another on a road-repair crew.

Don Pierre graduated from Champaign High School in 1954. While in high school, he lettered in football and wrestling. As a senior wrestler, Don placed fourth in the state of Illinois at 154 pounds. He would have a twinkle in his eye when saying he placed fourth in 1954 at 154. He also started as an undersized-offensive guard on his conference-championship football team. Don benefited from his offensive-line coach's preference for brains, speed and tenacity over muscle and weight. The classroom was another aspect of high school where Don excelled. He was an honors student all four years and was elected class president his senior year.

After high school, Don attended the University of Illinois, Urbana, where he lettered twice in wrestling and was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. In 1958, he accepted a Hughes Aircraft Master of Science Fellowship and attended the University of Southern California part-time while working at Hughes. Upon graduating from USC with an MSEE degree in 1960, Don accepted a fellowship to attend the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he earned a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering in 1962.

In the fall of 1958, Don met the love of his life, Mary Albin, in southern California. They were married in November of 1959 and had three children.

Dr. Pierre came to Montana State in 1962, advancing in rank from assistant professor to associate professor in 1965, and from associate professor to professor in 1969. During his thirty-eight years at MSU, he served for many years as the group leader of the Electronics Research Laboratory Systems, and for five years, he was the head of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. After retirement in May of 2000, Don continued to work part-time at MSU for another half-dozen years.

The majority of Dr. Pierre's professional contributions were with control systems and optimal design and operation of systems. His 1969 book "Optimization Theory with Applications" was reprinted by Dover Publications, Inc., in 1986. He coauthored a second optimization book, featuring nonlinear programming in 1975. As a result of sponsored research from various companies and federal agencies, he authored or coauthored well over 150 professional papers in collaboration with numerous students and peers. He also mentored 17 Ph.D. students during the course of his career. In 1982, he received an N. L. Wiley Faculty Award for Meritorious Research at MSU, and in 1987, he was chosen for the MSU Faculty Teaching Award for Outstanding Teaching and Commitment to Honors. In 1991, he was elected a Fellow in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (the IEEE) and served the IEEE in a variety of roles, including chairman of the Montana Section (1986), the Board of Governors of the IEEE Control System Society (1990-1992), and the associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education (1991-1997). During his professional career, he was a registered professional engineer in Montana, and he served on the editorial advisory board of the International Journal on Computers and Electrical Engineering

Don was a long-time member of the Bozeman Council of the Knights of Columbus and a life member of the Elks. He was also a member of the Education Committee of the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (2001 – 2005); a member of the board of directors of the Bozeman Senior Center (2002 – 2008); a mentor in the Bozeman School District Child Advancement Project (CAP) (2001 – 2009); and a volunteer at Monforton School for math contest practice sessions (1995 – 2008).

After his retirement in 2000, Don took on the challenge of writing a western novel entitled "Yesteryears Western Trek." The story is about a young boy's adventures in the 1860s as he travels west through the Big Horn Mountains to Montana. Don's extensive research on the history of the area helped the story come to life and have a wonderful realism. Don has mentioned in the past that the writing of his book would not have been possible without valuable input from the Bozeman Senior Center Creative Writers.

During his life in Bozeman, Don was an avid fisherman, camper and backpacker. Nothing made him happier than a camping/fishing trip to the Big Hole River with his family where he could reel in brook trout by the dozens. In addition, he loved climbing the mountains of southwest Montana, challenging himself on extremely difficult ascents such as Gallatin Peak, Elephanthead Mountain, Crazy Peak, Hollowtop Mountain, Echo Peak, Mount McKnight and Beacon Point, just to name a few.

Don had many hobbies he enjoyed during the course of his life. He and Mary loved to square dance, and he dabbled in wine making during his younger years. As he got older, he took up the game of golf and also enjoyed playing pool. His life-long passion, however, was the Green Bay Packers. A shareholder in the Packer organization since 1999, Don rarely missed the chance to cheer on the 13-time world champions during a televised game and was even able to attend a Packers-Eagles game at Lambeau Field in 2013.

Don was preceded in death by his father, Joseph Pierre, his mother, Odile Pierre, and his older brother, Dale Pierre. He is survived by his wife Mary Pierre of 58 years and his children: Mike Pierre (Barb), Louise Weldon (Jim), and John Pierre (Lori Franc) as well as his eight grandkids: Denise Pierre, Brian Pierre, Kelley Pierre, Dana Pierre, Madison Weldon, Andrew Weldon, Jesse Franc, and Ally Franc. Don also has six surviving siblings: Diane Rowder, Doug Pierre, Mary Pierre, Pat Tweedale, Debbie Thorsen and Denise Fitzgerald.

Don will be greatly missed by his family, and all of the people he came to know over the years. His contributions to this world will never be forgotten.

The family would like to thank the staff at Bozeman Lodge, Spring Creek Inn, and Hospice of Bozeman Health for their excellent care as well as Dr. Michael Herring for his dedication to Don. In lieu of flowers, contributions are welcome to the Don and Mary Pierre MSU Foundation Endowment Fund, which supports electrical and computer engineering graduate students. Donations can be sent to: Don Pierre Honorary Fund, MSU Foundation, PO Box 172750, Bozeman, MT 59717-2750.

Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at www.dahlcares.com.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle from Feb. 11 to Feb. 18, 2018
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