Clarence W. Pierce
Founder, Pierce College
Clarence W. Pierce, M.D., was already retired from two careers when he had a vision to build a school of agriculture in the West San Fernando Valley.
A physician by profession, Pierce was born in 1871 and raised on a farm in upstate New York. He moved to Los Angeles in 1894, earned his medical degree from USC in 1898 and worked as a physician in private practice for more than 30 years.
In 1933, after retiring from medicine, he joined his three brothers in their Pierce Bros. Mortuaries, serving as treasurer for the funeral homes. He always stayed close to his agricultural roots by working on a ranch he owned in Canoga Park.
In retirement, the doctor, known for his charming and persuasive personality, was encouraged to run for the Los Angeles Board of Education, a post he won in 1939. It was as president of the Board of Education in the 1940s that Pierce was discouraged to find that schoolchildren knew so little about agriculture and animals. Thus inspired, he led an effort to found the college.
Pierce urged the school district to buy land on unpaved Winnetka Avenue near his ranch that he believed would be ideal for the campus because of its fertile and diverse soil. Once the land--originally 392 acres in Woodland Hills--was secured, Pierce supervised construction of the campus and established its curriculum. The institution's initial focus was animal husbandry and crop cultivation. Pierce then retreated into the background, allowing the college's administration to direct its future development.
On September 15, 1947, his vision was realized when the Clarence W. Pierce School of Agriculture opened its doors to 70 students--all male, all agriculture majors--and 18 faculty members. The first president was Edwin B. Angier, who led from 1947 to 1955. He and the faculty shared Clarence W. Pierce's dream to provide an opportunity for hands-on training in agriculture sciences. It was six years before Pierce died (Feb. 3, 1953).
As the San Fernando Valley grew, the need for a comprehensive community college to serve the region was apparent. The college changed its name and its mission when it became Los Angeles Pierce College in 1956.
While the College remains unique in the greater Los Angeles area because of its farm and its agriculture program, it may be best characterized by its broad range of instructional programs and as one of the most respected community colleges and transfer institutions in California.
Clarence W. Pierce's vision and passion lives on as a thriving educational and cultural center. To this day Pierce College remains the only one of nine campuses in the Los Angeles Community College District and one of few in the state named for a person.
Clarence W. Pierce School of Agriculture opened 9/15/1947
The college was renamed Los Angeles Pierce College in 1956