BREWER, Maine — Florence Peirce didn’t grow up in Brewer, but she was such a beloved teacher that she was made an honorary member of the Brewer High School Class of 1928, according to her 1983 obituary.
Peirce served the school as the mathematics teacher between 1923 and 1946 and her daughter Jean Margaret Peirce decided to honor her mother’s memory by leaving a nearly quarter-million-dollar endowment for the Brewer High scholarship fund, Charles Peirce III of Bangor, grandson of the late Brewer educator, said Friday.
Jean Margaret, his aunt, “wanted to pay tribute to her mother,” he said, describing his grandmother as a pioneer. “It was kind of unusual for a lady to attend college, let alone end up in math and science and be a teacher,” he noted.
“[Aunt Jean] wanted to set up a scholarship fund in Brewer, where her mother spent a good deal of her time,” he said.
Florence Peirce was raised in Massachusetts and moved with her sister and family to Bradford as a youngster.
“She was a remarkable woman, having graduated valedictorian from Higgins Classical Institute [in Charleston] in 1903 and from Colby College in 1913 at a time when not many females went to college,” Charles Peirce said.
Because his grandmother enjoyed math and science, he and his sister Catherine Hopper of Orono, who are co-trustees of the endowment, decided to designate the funds to those who follow in her footsteps.
“We thought that it would be kind of neat to award a scholarship to someone who was pursuing math or science as a career,” he said.
Jean Margaret Peirce, who died in January, left the Brewer School Department $222,018, which includes funds from her sister Charlotte Peirce, who died in 2008, their nephew said. The sisters also left the University of Maine, their alma mater, around $333,000, Charles Peirce said.
The Brewer School Committee accepted the donation, along with a $5,000 donation from Dr. Edward Harrow and his wife, Maxine, of Holden, during its December board meeting on Monday, Superintendent Daniel Lee said this week.
With the new donations, Brewer’s scholarship fund totals around $530,000, Lee said, adding that the school board also created a subcommittee on Monday to review the fund’s books to see whether it is performing well.
Florence Peirce and her daughters, Jean Margaret and Charlotte, are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery. Florence’s obituary asked her friends to contribute to the Brewer High School Alumni Scholarship Fund.
In addition to teaching in Brewer for 23 years, Florence Peirce was a member of the Bangor League of Women Voters, a legislative chairwoman of the Women’s Council of Maine, and ran for office as a state representative for Penobscot County, “missing by only a few votes,” her obituary states.
She held numerous other posts in Republican, church and women’s groups and was a substitute teacher in Sanford at age 69, it states.
“She was quite a pioneer in various activities,” Charles Peirce said of his grandmother.