(MEDIA ADVISORY: Media representatives are invited to attend the unveiling ceremony set for 10:30 a.m. on June 16 at the entrance to South Plains College campus.Interviews can be arranged after the event.)
Street sign dedication slated for June 16 at South Plains College
LEVELLAND – The contributions of one of South Plains College’s former faculty members will be recognized during the renaming of a street at the entrance to the parking lot on the north side of the Administration Building. At 10:30 a.m. on June 16, the Robert Pearce Place sign will be unveiled.
Pearce joined the Math Department in 1965. At that time, there were only three other faculty members who taught college algebra and higher level mathematics courses. Pearce is a graduate of West Texas State University, now known as West Texas A&M University in Canyon, and Texas Tech University where he earned his master’s degree. He conducted post graduate work at the University of Houston, the University of North Carolina and San Jose State. He came to SPC after teaching high school math for two years at Eunice Public Schools in Eunice, N.M.
“Being a community college math teacher, I was eligible to attend National Science Foundation courses and workshops,” he said. “As a result, we added linear algebra, computerized engineering graphics, Fortran computer language and a learning lab equipped with dozens of teaching tapes produced by our math faculty.
“These additions enabled our engineering students to transfer seamlessly to Texas Tech,” he said. “Our motto was, ‘Do whatever benefits the students.’ One of my greatest rewards was seeing students who dreaded math find that they actually liked it well enough to enter a math-related field.”
In addition to his teaching duties, in 1967 Pearce became the coach of the SPC baseball team. He had previous experience as a baseball player because he played baseball for West Texas State. He led the Texans to winning seasons in 1967 through 1969.
Pearce also enjoyed being a part of the officiating and support team that worked basketball games, track meets, University Intercollegiate League (UIL) tennis and UIL math contests. He became part of a group of top track officials in USA Track and Field. He worked Southwest Conference and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national meets.
During his 40 years of service to South Plains College, Pearce served as chairman of the Mathematics and Engineering Department from 1974 to 1998. He received the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1972. The award honors an SPC teacher for outstanding classroom instruction as a “Master Teacher.”
“I enjoyed my interaction with students and fellow instructors at SPC,” he said. “Most of our 60 years of a happy marriage (to his wife, Joy) have been intertwined with this college – from my employment to our children and a couple of grandchildren being students.
“My family will enjoy Robert Pearce Place for the coming year, and I will be honored,” Pearce said.
The SPC Street Sign Naming was one of the items in the live auction featured during the 23rd Annual South Plains College Scholarship Gala in February. The item was donated by the South Plains College Board of Regents, and grants the winner naming rights to the sign for one year.
This unique prize is the perfect way to showcase, honor or memorialize someone special in the lives of the winning bidder. Only the second year to be an auction item, it has generated at total of $6,900 for SPC scholarships. This year’s annual Scholarship Gala – though a live stream event – generated $159,900 for scholarships.
Richard and Carrie Ellis of Levelland outbid all competitors to win the street naming. Ellis is the president of Ellis Holdings, LP, a business enterprise that researches, capitalizes and manages private equity projects. He previously served two years as executive vice president for strategy and finance for Globe Energy Services, LLC and spent 13 years as the president of Paul Musslewhite Trucking Co, LLC, which operated more than 75 years in Levelland. He served on the South Plains College Foundation Board for a number of years and he currently serves on the SPC Board of Regents.
The couple decided to honor Pearce because of the positive impact Pearce had on his students. Ellis said he continues to hear from former students and community members about who he is as a person and the contributions he made as a math instructor.
“I had a college roommate and a great friend of mine, Kevin Dane, who once shared the impact Mr. Pearce had on him,” he said. “Kevin kept telling him that he attributed his success in the Engineering Program at the University of Texas to the deep knowledge of mathematics which he learned from Pearce. That’s the exact outcome that we want at South Plains College.”
Another one of Pearce’s former student is Ronald K. Baccus from NASA-Johnson Space Center. He credits Pearce as being one of the most influential people in his career. Baccus attended South Plains College from 1988-90 before transferring to Texas A&M University. He said, Pearce was able to explain concepts in a way that students could understand and relate to current projects.
“I used to wonder how the atmosphere of the smaller classes at SPC would impact my transfer to a four-year institution,” Baccus said. “I found that my education at SPC put me ahead of the game compared to my classmates who came out of those monster 400-student classes.”
Former student Ronnie Watkins, dean of administrative services at SPC, said, “I came to South Plains College in 1988 as an engineering student. Coming out of high school, I was a little worried if I could handle the math required to be a successful engineer. I wanted to have a good math foundation so I started at square one with college algebra.
“For the most part, we had a tight group of students who took all of these math courses together,” he said. “Under Mr. Pearce’s departmental leadership, I proceeded to advance through more rigorous math courses like Calculus I, II and III then on to Differential Equations. The two factors that I feel most affected my success were the small class sizes and excellent math faculty. I felt that I could speak with any of my professors at any time about course content that I was struggling with and I always got their undivided attention.
“Mr. Pearce taught me in all of my Calculus courses as well as some engineering courses.” Watkins said. “His slow, logical, methodical approach to math resonated with how I learned. He not only cared about my math skills, but he cared about me as a person. I consider Mr. Pearce as one of the most influential mentors I have ever had in my professional career. He inspired me to become more than I had imagined. He was an excellent math professor and even a better friend!”
For more information on scholarships, to donate or for more information about ways to support scholarships and students at South Plains College, contact Julie Gerstenberger, director of development and alumni relations, at (806) 716-2020.