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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Frederick W. Pierce IV ('84, '88) and Christine F. Pierce photographed at Snapdragon Stadium. (SDSU)

SDSU Fraternity and Sorority Life Receives a Major Boost

A $3 million gift from Frederick W. Pierce IV and Christine F. Pierce will create a Greek Life Center endowment at SDSU.
By Tobin Vaughn

San Diego State University’s Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity has announced a $3 million endowment from alumnus Frederick W. Pierce IV ('84, '88) and Christine F. Pierce to enhance and help sustain fraternity and sorority life at SDSU.

The gift will establish the Pierce Greek Life Center (PGLC), designed to serve as a locus for extending leadership skill development and access to fraternity and sorority life to a broader range of students.

Pierce holds a finance degree and an MBA from the College of Business Administration (now Fowler College of Business), and is president and CEO of Pierce Education Properties, a leading national student housing investment and operating company based in San Diego and the developers of SDSU’s Fraternity Row. He is a member of The Campanile Foundation’s board of directors, the Fowler College of Business advisory board, The Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate board and the SDSU Mission Valley Residential and Public Art advisory boards.

When Pierce talks about leadership, he speaks from experience.  He is a trustee emeritus of the 23-campus California State University (CSU) system and past president of SDSU Alumni. Most recently, Pierce was a spokesperson for the Friends of SDSU campaign in support of 2018’s ballot Measure G, which was approved by San Diego voters, resulting in the sale of the former city-owned SDCCU stadium property to SDSU to establish SDSU Mission Valley and its first completed component, Snapdragon Stadium.

A two-time recipient of the alumni association’s Distinguished Alumni Award, Pierce provides annual support for scholarships awarded through the organization. “San Diego State changed my life and was the gateway for my future success and lifelong friendships,” he said. “It made me want to be a philanthropist and give back as much as I can to SDSU.”

Window to opportunity

Much of Pierce’s life-changing SDSU student experience and his leadership skills came through his participation in fraternity and sorority life, where he was a charter member of SDSU’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and president of the chapter’s third pledge class. Largely through his own initiative, Pierce sought opportunities to maximize and hone his leadership and organizational abilities when very few institutional leadership skill-building seminars or tutorials existed in the 1980s.

Pierce recalled how, with no formal training, ambitious students became officers in their campus clubs and organizations. “Leadership development really was missing,” he said. “Nobody taught you how to do it, you just learned it or gravitated toward it.”

Through his endowment, Pierce hopes to establish programmatic elements such as scholarships and leadership skill development events and instruction that he believes will take fraternity and sorority life at SDSU to a  higher level. “This is an opportunity to share best practices and open up the window to opportunity at SDSU that wasn't there back in the day,” he said.

Pierce also envisions a Greek Life Center serving fraternities and sororities that are more inclusive. He noted SDSU’s student population includes many first-generation students from traditionally underrepresented populations. Their parents have little or no experience with universities, let alone Greek life. Many come from economic backgrounds that may prohibit them from affording the costs associated with joining a Greek organization.

“We have got to be welcoming to what is the entire face of San Diego State and not a narrow portion of its population,” Pierce said. He intends for the scholarships provided through his endowment to play a large role in breaking down financial barriers to entry into fraternity and sorority life.

Changing world

Pierce noted SDSU and the world have changed markedly over the past 30 years, and “It's important for the university to offer programming that is available to everybody. Providing these kinds of opportunities to the broadest array of the (student) population is the right thing to do and it's going to help us as a society to move forward together better.”
Student Affairs and Campus Diversity Interim Vice President Christy Samarkos agreed. "The Pierces’ generous and visionary gift will allow our division to extend the opportunities provided by fraternity and sorority life to enhance the SDSU experience and success of our students,” Samarkos said.

“This gift supports our mission to provide leadership skill development through value-based engagement, programming, and advising,” she added. “The Pierce Greek Life Center will foster lifelong personal connections and relationships to an increasingly diverse group of students that we are helping prepare for roles in our community, state, and nation."  

Fred Pierce embodies the lifelong personal connections and relationships Samarkos references. In addition to the leadership skills he gained through his Greek life experience, he also managed to develop an enduring social circle that has greatly enriched his life. “Today, most of my closest friends are from my fraternity and SDSU as a whole,” he said.

So grateful is Pierce for his Greek life experience, that he encourages students who may not imagine themselves as a member of a fraternity or sorority to seriously consider joining. “They're going to get so much more out of their college experience,” he said, adding that as a participant in Greek life, “you are involved in activities that bond you to the university, expand your college life and make your degree much more valuable.”

“We want that to be available to the entire student body. I think it's a chance to make a real change at the university.”

More than 20 members of the Pierce family extending through four generations are members of fraternities and sororities nationwide.  When the Pierces’ youngest daughter, incoming first-year student Riley, joins a sorority this fall, she will become the seventh member of the Pierce family to join a Greek organization at SDSU.

To support or learn more about the Pierce Greek Life Center, please contact Jennifer Stanley,