In Memoriam - Dick Pierce

To: UCSC Community

From: Gary Griggs, Director, Institute of Marine Sciences and Steven Davenport, Assistant Director, Institute of Marine Studies

“Marine Studies” at UC Santa Cruz lost a good friend last week.  Dick Pierce, a man with a great sense of humor and an inspiring spirit, was a creative problem solver, and was instrumental in the early development of Long Marine Lab and many other facilities and programs within the Institute of Marine Sciences. 

Dick was born in Oakland in 1932, and grew up in Berkeley.  He received a BA in Business from UC Berkeley, served in the U.S. Navy, and then received an MBA from UC Berkeley, an MS in Animal Sciences from UC Davis, and a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from UC Berkeley.

Dick came to UC Santa Cruz in 1970 as a researcher while finishing his doctoral work at UC Berkeley.  He came with funding from the National Science Foundation for the study of the diving physiology of marine mammals.  In 1972 Ken Norris came to UCSC to head the emerging marine studies program and engaged Dick in the program as his “executive officer”.  Dick immediately became a participant in the search for a marine laboratory site, and with his considerable practical skills, had influence in the selection and acquisition of the present Long Marine Lab site.  Later, when the Marine Studies program was formally established as an Organized Research Unit in 1976 (then the Center for Coastal Marine Studies, now the Institute of Marine Sciences) with Bill Doyle as founding Director, Dick became Assistant Director and the key player in the design and development of the Long Marine Lab, including its seawater system, wet labs, marine mammal pools, and the “Shed Aquarium” (the predecessor to the Seymour Marine Discovery Center). Out of U.S. Navy surplus parts, Dick also put together our first coastal research vessel, the 40-foot Scammon, and served as its skipper for a time.  The Scammon advanced UCSC’s study of the wet side of the coast for 13 years.

His practical knowledge, common sense, and can-do attitude earned the respect of designers, engineers and contractors, and his outgoing personality charmed them.  As a result LML got very high quality work from the modest resources available. During the creation of LML, with very tight financial resources, his ability to move ahead in the face of obstacles was a huge asset. In those early days no facilities project was ever fully funded, so Dick, with great competence and confidence, led the small marine studies staff in the direct completion of almost every construction project, facility improvement, or large equipment installation that was done, once again leading to modest costs for difficult facilities projects. His hand was in everything from the big picture (where to site a seawater ocean intake), to the smallest detail (how to control the lights in a photo-period lab).  Furnishings and equipment for a new marine lab with no budget?  Military surplus! Seawater tanks for wet labs? Cattle water troughs!  Additional research office space for a quickly expanding program?  Used office trailers! Dick had the creative energy to bootstrap marine research facilities and equipment as fast as our program could grow.

Dick’s abilities went beyond facilities and construction—he was a program planner with a practical bent.  Among other programs, he was instrumental with Bill Doyle in the establishment of the Friends of Long Marine Lab, the community group that now helps keep the Seymour Marine Discovery Center running. Dick’s talents also spread further than the marine program at UCSC—For a year he served as Special Assistant to Vice Chancellor Wendell Brase then two years as Executive Assistant to Chancellor Robert Sinsheimer. He retired in January 1989.

He showed us all how to do more with less, and have a great time doing it—he was an inspiration to many at UC Santa Cruz.

Dick passed away quietly in Santa Cruz on August 25 after a long illness.

Dick will be missed, but his legacy within the Institute of Marine Sciences will endure.  Dick’s family will publish an obituary in the Santa Cruz Sentinel in the near future with more information.