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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Frederick Pierce and Christine Pierce (second and third from left) were joined by family, friends and members of the SDSU community to celebrate at the Pierce Greek Life Center. (Sharon Penny/SDSU) Frederick Pierce and Christine Pierce (second and third from left) were joined by family, friends and members of the SDSU community to celebrate at the Pierce Greek Life Center. (Sharon Penny/SDSU)

Pierce Family Champions a Lasting Legacy and Diversity in Fraternity and Sorority Life at SDSU

The Pierce Greek Life Center aims to extend access to fraternity and sorority life and serve as a hub for students’ professional development.
By Aaron Burgin

Generations of the Pierce family gathered on Aug. 15 in front of a wall inside of a building at San Diego State University’s Fraternity Row carrying their namesake. There, you will find a collection of photos of three generations of the family.


Above the photos reads the following: “Celebrating the vibrant spirit and rich Greek life legacy that spans generations of the Pierce Family.”


It’s this legacy that the Pierce family is trying not only to preserve at San Diego State University, but to expand to future generations of Aztecs that might not otherwise be exposed to fraternity and sorority life. 


The family celebrated at the Pierce Greek Life Center (PGLC) named in honor of the $3 million endowment from alumnus Frederick W. Pierce IV (‘84, ‘88) and Christine F. Pierce to enhance and grow fraternity and sorority life at SDSU.


Pierce, who holds a finance degree and an MBA from the College of Business Administration (now Fowler College of Business), is president and CEO of Pierce Education Properties, a San Diego-based national student housing investment and operating company that built SDSU’s Fraternity Row — where PGLC is located.


“It’s a great day for SDSU, and a great day for Greek life at SDSU,” Pierce said. 


Pierce embodies the leadership that the center is striving to instill in the next generation of fraternity and sorority students at SDSU. He is a trustee emeritus of the 23-campus California State University (CSU) system. He was also a staunch supporter and spokesperson for the Friends of SDSU campaign in support of 2018’s ballot Measure G. San Diego voters approved the measure, resulting in the sale of the former city-owned stadium property to SDSU to establish SDSU Mission Valley and its first completed component, Snapdragon Stadium.


The family patriarch credits his experience in SDSU’s fraternity and sorority communities with the development of the leadership skills that have served him throughout his career. He was a charter member of SDSU’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity and president of the chapter’s third pledge class. 


“Greek life has changed my life, and I suspect it has touched and changed many of your lives as well and will continue to do so,” Pierce said. “Because you're not just Greek as an undergraduate. It’s with you for life…and that’s a good thing.”


The Pierce family was flanked by current members of SDSU’s fraternity and sorority community — some donning the colors and letters of their respective fraternities and sororities — SDSU President Adela de la Torre, local luminaries as well as alumni and philanthropists, Ben and Nikki Clay


“When you think about what it means to create an endowment, decades from now, students in Greek life will have these types of support structures because of the generosity of the Pierce family,” de la Torre said, pointing out that the gift was the largest of its kind nationwide. 


SDSU becomes one of only three universities nationwide to have an endowed Greek Life Center. The University of Arkansas and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio are the others.


Through scholarships, internships, and experiential learning programs, the PGLC will facilitate opportunities for students to pursue their passions, develop their leadership skills, achieve their goals, gain real-world experience, and expand access to fraternity and sorority life to a broader range of students. 


There are 44 recognized sororities and fraternities at SDSU, including general and culturally-based organizations, with over 4,000 student members. 


Fred Pierce said that his impetus for the donation was to open the opportunity of pledging a Greek organization to a wider range of the campus community by providing scholarships to those for whom costs could deter participation. 


“Showing up here, I knew I wanted to go Greek from day 1, but today, that’s probably not the case for most students, which is why investing in Greek life has never been more important,” Pierce said, pointing out that many first-generation students aren’t exposed to fraternity and sorority life in their families. “We need to open our arms and welcome those students into the Greek community.”


Pierce urged people in attendance to consider donating to fraternity and sorority life as well, which will continue to promote the mission of diversifying and strengthening the community. 


“We need more than what we’ve contributed,” Pierce said. “With your support, it will enable us to give one or two or 10 more scholarships, or one or two or 10 grants to participate in leadership development.”


Among the speakers at Tuesday afternoon’s ceremony were students Patrick Nieves and Regena Gomes, members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., respectively. Both students espoused the benefits of fraternity and sorority life, which include lifelong friendships, connections and an enhanced campus experience. 


“Joining the fraternity and sorority community has allowed me to gain more friendships than I ever thought was possible as a commuter student,” said Nieves, a third-year kinesiology student. “This community of friendships and connections that go beyond what house you are in makes Greek life the place to be and something I knew I had to be a part of.”


Gomes, a fourth-year premed student from Baltimore, said that joining AKA helped ease her transition to the west coast. 


“The community I made has helped me feel less homesick,” Gomes said. “Being from the East Coast, it was difficult for me to feel at home in California, and my line Sister gave me that home feeling here.”


Also among the students in attendance was Pierce’s youngest daughter, Riley, an incoming first-year student at SDSU. One day, Fred Pierce joked, Riley’s picture could be on that wall next to her family members, extending the Pierce family’s legacy.


Riley, who said she was excited about the upcoming year and the prospects of joining a sorority, smiled when asked what she thought about her parents’ contribution. 


“I think it’s really great what my parents are doing,” Riley Pierce said. “It will open the doors for other students and give them a new perspective on Greek life. I am really proud of them. They love SDSU, and this gift shows it.”




To support fraternity and sorority life at SDSU, please contact Jennifer Stanley, A gift of any amount makes an impact.