Throwback Thursday: Mother Figure

Anna Pierce, far right, poses with her classroom of students in the primary department of the Normal College's "model school" in the late 1890s. The teacher at left is Aurelia Hyde '95. (Photo courtesy of University Archives)  

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 20, 2017) — The namesake of Pierce Hall had an abiding passion for the education of young people. Anna Eloise Pierce ’84 began her career as a 15-year-old schoolmistress in a one-room log cabin before coming to the Normal College at age 17 in 1883.

Anna Pierce

Anna Pierce's official portrait, unveiled in 1927. The State College News noted "her capable hands, which have grasped each task with courage and sincerity." 

Upon graduation, she worked at the institution for nearly a half century, first as a secretary to President Edward Waterbury, then as a substitute and then full-time teacher. Part of her duties included student teaching in the college’s “model school” (above), whose Primary School taught children 5 to 7 years of age.

Her primary focus, however, was on the nurturing of first year college female students, for whom she conducted courses on etiquette, proper dress and proper conduct — both in the classroom and with young men. “I am in my office every morning and the latchstring is always out,” she wrote to first-year females in her yearly greeting. She held formal teas for them.

When the Normal College became the New York State College for Teachers in 1914, Pierce became the first “Dean for Women.” She authored a pioneer book, Deans and Advisors of Women and Girls, and advocated dorms as a place for quality conditions, social support and wholesome college spirit befitting young ladies.

Two years after her retirement, in 1935, it became equally befitting to name the first female dormitory on the Downtown Campus “Pierce Hall.”

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