Chester Pierce Honored in Campus Fitness Challenge

By , March 3, 2017
Image courtesy of ESPN's blog, The Undefeated.

Image courtesy of ESPN’s blog, The Undefeated.

Each year EcoOpportunity, Harvard’s Longwood Campus (HLC) Green Team, hosts “Take the Stairs”–a team-based campaign to encourage and support movement throughout the Harvard community. Hundreds of members of the Harvard community register to increase the quality and quantity of their daily movement, and to track this data with the ultimate goal of “climbing” the highest peaks around the world. This year, EcoOpportunity made a unique decision to map its challenge to a peak renowned not for its height, but rather for its connection to the Harvard community: Pierce Peak, named in honor of Dr. Chester Pierce.

Dr. Chester M. Pierce (1927-2016), Harvard College Class of 1948, Harvard Medical School Class of 1952, was emeritus professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and emeritus professor of education at the Harvard School of Education. He was the first African American full professor at Massachusetts General Hospital, and practiced in the Department of Psychiatry for over 25 years. Dr. Pierce was also the Past President of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Orthopsychiatric Association, and was the founding president of the Black Psychiatrists of America. In 1970, Dr. Pierce was the first to use the term “microaggression” to describe insults and dismissals he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans. He served on 22 editorial boards, and published over 180 books, articles, and reviews.

Dr. Pierce dedicated much of his time to working with organizations that helped to promote human rights, conservation, and youth education. For example, he acted as a consultant for the Children’s Television Network, the Surgeon General of the U.S. Air Force, the US Arctic Research Commission, the Peace Corps, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Pierce Peak, (5,872.7 ft, or 1,790 m) is located in Antarctica two miles south of Sullivan Peaks at the northeastern edge of Mackin Table in the Patuxent Range, Pensacola Mountains (coordinates: 84°0’52”S 63°0’09″W). In 1968, the peak was named in honor of Dr. Pierce who, with Jay T. Shurley, studied the psychophysiology of men while asleep and awake–both before, during, and after two sojourns at the South Pole Station, during the winters of 1963 and 1966. The mountains surrounding Pierce Peak were also named in honor of Dr. Pierce’s team-members and co-authors, including Shurley Ridge, Brooks Nunatak, and Natani Nunatak.

Joan Ilacqua, Archivist for Women in Medicine at the Center for the History of Medicine, conducted an oral history with Dr. Pierce in 2015 as part of Equal Access: Oral Histories of Diversity and Inclusion at Harvard Medical School. Topics discussed included attending Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, specializing in psychiatry, Navy service, researching in Antarctica, and being the first President of the Black Psychiatrists of America. To listen, or to read a transcript of the interview, visit OnView.

Registration for Take the Stairs runs from March 1st through 15th, and is open to any Harvard affiliate with a HarvardKey. Visit the website to learn more.

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