Jerry Pierce, a Northwestern State University legend who “trained” nine school presidents under his watch and elevated Natchitoches as a tourism destination by facilitating the filming of the movie “Steel Magnolias” there, died Tuesday after a short illness. He was 83.
Jerry Pierce Obituary
Pierce, who has also worked in Northwestern since 1965 and is known throughout Louisiana as the university’s most fine ambassador through decades of service, was executive vice president of external affairs at his beloved school when he also died. When asked by a reporter recently why he never retired, Pierce reported “Why would you leave something you love before you have to go?” His friends and colleagues described Pierce as a master communicator and storyteller.
“I’m heartbroken; he loved Northwestern more than anyone I know,” reported University of Louisiana System President Jim Henderson, his voice cracking. “Jerry was an artist in the way he communicated, both in words on paper or in speeches or in conversations.”
Pierce was survived by his wife Regina, two sons, Randy and Rick, and daughter, Natalie. The funeral is set to be at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church in Natchitoches which is under the direction of Blanchard-St. Denis Funeral Home in Natchitoches.
Jerry Pierce Legacy
Pierce who was a Northwestern journalism graduate, was employed at the New Orleans Times-Picayune as their reporter, editor, and executive sports editor at the young age of 24 before returning to NSU and serving as its sports information director.
He has also provided the first permanent facility for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1972 and in the year 1994 was named one of Louisiana’s 20 most influential sports figures by the Times-Picayune along with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, LSU athletic director Joe Dean, LSU basketball Coach Dale Brown and Grambling State football coaching legend Eddie Robinson.
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Pierce’s important role at Northwestern in the 1960s quickly expanded beyond sports as the university’s news bureau director, brand developer, and adviser to Northwestern’s presidents. And his influence extended beyond the university and also politics. Pierce was a vital person in Tri-Star Productions’ filming of the 1989 movie “Steel Magnolias” in Natchitoches and on the Northwestern campus.