Brooke Peirce, 81, English professor, department chairman at Goucher

April 06, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Brooke Peirce, a retired Goucher College English professor who imparted a love of Shakespeare and classical literature to his students, died Tuesday of lung cancer at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Cockeysville resident was 81.

"His teaching was always superb, and he was a voice of culture and sanity in the faculty," said Rhoda Dorsey, former Goucher president. "He was polite, Southern in his ways and he loved language. He told a good joke, was funny and read constantly."

Born in Washington and raised on Baltimore's University Parkway, he was a 1939 City College graduate. He earned a degree in English and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at the University of Virginia in 1943, where he also belonged to the Raven Society.

After serving two years in the Army during World War II, during which he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, he earned his master's degree and doctorate at Harvard University. His dissertation was on Elizabethan poetry.

In 1951, Harvard awarded him a Dexter Traveling Fellowship, and from 1951 to 1954 he was an instructor in English at the University of Virginia.

Goucher's then-president, Otto Kraushaar, hired him as an assistant professor of English in 1954. Dr. Peirce was named professor in 1966 and retired in 1985. He was chairman of the department of English and dramatic arts from 1964 to 1967 and from 1972 to 1975.

He was a recipient of Goucher College's Distinguished Professor Award.

He taught at the State University of New York at Oswego from 1986 to 1988 and at Villa Julie College from 1988 to 1998. He also occasionally taught at then-Essex Community College and at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

For many years, Dr. Peirce taught courses in Shakespeare, mythology and the ancient classics in translation.

"He constantly quoted Homer, Ovid, Cicero, Virgil and Homer," said a Goucher teaching colleague, John Rose. "He was ever the gentleman who sought comfort for others, never pressed his own advantage and was a truly forgiving person."

"His distinguishing hallmark was that he loved people and they loved him," said friend Catherine R. Gira, president of Frostburg State University. "At restaurants or theater lobbies -- anywhere -- he would strike up a conversation and people would come out of their shells and start talking. There was something about his personality that made you feel instantly at ease. His students and colleagues adored him."

Family members said that he attended countless plays and musicals. He frequently traveled to England for performances of the Royal Shakespeare Company and other West End theatrical productions. Family members said his grave marker will be inscribed with the line from Shakespeare, "Good night, sweet prince."

In 1956, he purchased on old inn along York Road in Cockeysville. He later restored and enlarged the residence, where he maintained an herb, iris and daylily garden.

Among Dr. Peirce's memberships were the Modern Language Association, the Renaissance Society of America, the American Association of University Professors, the English Institute, the Classical Association of the Atlantic States, the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, the Friends of the Towson Library, the Maryland Association of Departments of English, and the Southern Atlantic Modern Language Association.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. April 26 at Haebler Chapel on the Goucher College campus in Towson.

Survivors include his wife of 50 years, the former Carol Marshall, a University of Baltimore English professor; a nephew, Lawrence Pierce of Northampton, Mass.; and a niece, Brooke Peirce Heraty of Boston.

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