All in the (Syracuse) Family

Syracuse University, the city of Syracuse, and family ties mean everything to the Pearce family.

It all started at 2208 East Genesee Street in Syracuse. All five Pearce siblings went on to attend Syracuse University when they came of age, with Stephen attending just before WWII rocked the country and the world. His brother, Walter Pearce L’29, acquired his law degree at Syracuse Law, along with his cousin by marriage Judge Richard Aronson L’29, who went on to become a New York State Supreme Court Judge in Syracuse.

Stephen met his soon-to-be wife, Shirley Plehn, at school while she, too, was pursuing her undergraduate degree at Syracuse. Many years later, Stephen and Shirley had a son, Ted Pearce L’77, who now serves as counsel at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP in Charlotte, NC. 

Ted’s path to law school began as he was studying Constitutional Law in pursuit of his undergraduate degree. A history major, Ted felt a strong draw and interest in law as he navigated through his studies. In many ways, he found the two disciplines to be quite compatible, and soon, he decided to explore these interests and apply for law school. When the time came for Ted to decide where he would go, there was one clear choice in his mind—Syracuse University College of Law.

Decades later, Ted’s son Andrew Pearce L’12 made that very same decision, with the influence of now over 120 years of family ties to the city and University. Andrew chose to study law at Syracuse not only because of his father’s positive experiences but also because of the strong reputation the College of Law has in the New York City area, where he spent the first 10 years of his career in banking prior to his current position as an Associate at Mintz in Boston, MA. The strong alumni base and connections in the city made Syracuse a front-runner for Andrew.

We spoke with both Ted and Andrew about their time spent at Syracuse as each is approaching a milestone class reunion this fall, Ted’s being the 45th and Andrew’s the 10th.

What are some of your favorite memories of law school?

Ted: Walking up the Crouse Irving stairs each morning during the winter on my way to law school. I particularly enjoyed hearing the alliteration in speech by Professor Richard Goldsmith and the enthusiasm of Professor Travis Lewin during his evidence lectures. I do remember that the graduation ceremony at Hendricks Chapel was quite delightful.

Andrew: I played on an intramural ice hockey team at SU made up of all law students, which was a blast. It was a great way to take a break from studying and really bond with other classmates who were going through the same experiences and challenges I was while getting my degree. We had so much fun playing against other teams and then grabbing beers and a burger afterward to let off some steam.

I also have some great late-night memories, particularly during my first year of law school, studying in the law school library until it closed at midnight and then popping down to a bar at the base of campus for a beer and sandwich. It was the perfect way to cap off a long day with some of my best friends.

Did any faculty make a lasting impression on you?

Ted: Professor Samuel Fetters ‘living people have no heirs’ and my daily runs with Professor Goldsmith.

Andrew: There were a number, but Professor Margaret Harding in particular taught a class that laid the foundation for the work that I do every day as a securities lawyer. Her class was a springboard for my career, fueling an interest that led me to my first summer associate position at an investment bank. The information she taught me was the initial foundation of my understanding of securities law, and her class had a larger-than-life lasting impression on me.

How would you summarize the value of your time at Syracuse Law?

Ted: I felt that my legal education at Syracuse was very solid. I never felt outgunned or outmanned by any of my legal adversaries I faced in my career who may have graduated from the “more prestigious schools.”

Andrew: I participated in the Law in London program during my 1L summer, providing me with eight weeks of working experience for a London borough in the legal council’s office. It was a tremendous experience and a great addition to my resume that was key in helping me secure my first job at Deutsche Bank. It was a fantastic program that I cannot recommend enough.

Thirty-five years passed between the year of Ted’s commencement in 1977 and Andrew’s commencement in 2012. In talking to his father about his experiences, Andrew believes that there are many similarities, but also key differences in their time spent at Syracuse. “I actually had a few of the same professors who taught my father, specifically Professor Robert Rabin,” Andrew said, “which was a really cool experience for me, and I think that the way students are taught law and the Socratic method of teaching has remained largely the same over the years. There is a lot of history and reasoning behind that.”

On the flip side, Andrew thinks law school is now a friendlier place with a more approachable culture for the new generation of law students. Students have increased access to professors and more chances to get help and have conversations outside of the classroom to enhance the student learning experience. “The new facilities with a fireplace in the Atrium and open concepts also make a big difference in the atmosphere for current law students, I’m sure, which I didn’t get to experience myself but are a very nice addition,” Andrew explained in reference to Dineen Hall.

Another way the College has changed is the advent of technology such as Zoom to conduct classes. In spring 2023, will join the College as a Distinguished Lecturer teaching a JDinteractive residency on Franchising in North Carolina.

With more than 120 years of history with Syracuse, we asked Ted if he foresaw any future Pearce family generations attending Syracuse University and/or the College of Law. He said, “I currently have one granddaughter. Though she is only nine months old, there is a generational promise!”