Donald E. Pearce, a former Baltimore County school board president and Hereford community leader, died Friday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center after an apparent heart attack. He was 61.
When his oldest son, Mark, started first grade in 1969, Mr. Pearce joined the PTA at 5th District Elementary School. It started a relationship with public education that lasted until his death. Just before he died, Mr. Pearce, who had retired, was working with his son's business, Pearce Educational Technologies, a computer hardware and software company.
He was in his workshop doing calculations when he collapsed, said his wife, Peggy Dillon Pearce.
"Education was really important to him, and particularly that every child have an opportunity," said Mrs. Pearce, a biology teacher at North Carroll High School in Carroll County.
He started as a PTA president, then became a member of an advisory council to the school board. In 1980, then-Gov. Harry Hughes appointed Mr. Pearce to the Baltimore County Board of Education. Mr. Pearce became its president in 1986 and held that office until he left the board in 1990.
"Don was a very persuasive person, and because he was known throughout the community as a person of great integrity, people listened when Donald Pearce spoke," said Robert Y. Dubel, superintendent of Baltimore County schools from 1976 through 1992.
"He was a very analytical person, with a scientific background, and that made him a good planner and problem solver. He was very persuasive in getting funds to apply technology to classroom instruction. And he had a very deep feeling about children. He believed that we were building the future of the county through the educational system."
As a school board member, Mr. Pearce was a proponent of values education. He helped to shape the values program in Baltimore County and gave seminars on the concept to fellow members of the National School Boards Association.
He was an electrical engineer, and worked for Becton Dickinson in Sparks as director and project manager for designing medical instruments from 1980 until he retired in 1994. Before that, he worked for the former Johnston Laboratories Inc. and Aircraft Armaments, both in Cockeysville.
He majored in electrical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, but at graduation time was a few electives short, his wife said.
"He's considered an alumnus, but never went back [to complete his degree]," she said. "He never felt that it was important. It was never needed for his work, and he was too busy with the school board and other things to pick up those electives."
Mr. Pearce also coached basketball and baseball in recreation leagues and established the Hereford Community Association in 1988. He was its first president.
Mr. Pearce was born in White Hall, moved to Hereford as a child and lived the rest of his life there. He was named Outstanding Senior of his Sparks High School class in 1953.
Mr. Pearce attended the Hereford United Methodist Church and chaired a building committee working on the current expansion. He also was a lay delegate and member of the administrative council.
Services were to be held at 11 a.m. today at West Liberty United Methodist Church, 20400 W. Liberty Road, White Hall.
Survivors, in addition to his wife and son Mark M. Pearce of Parkton, are another son, Matthew E. Pearce of Sparks; and a grandson.