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Architect Marjorie Pierce, oldest alumna, dies at age 99

Marjorie Pierce (Class of 1922) at her 50th reunion at MIT.
Marjorie Pierce (Class of 1922) at her 50th reunion at MIT.

Marjorie Pierce, 99, of Weston, who had been MIT's oldest living alumna, died December 7 at the age of 99.

Ms. Pierce graduated from MIT in 1922 with an SB in architecture and received a master's degree in architecture from MIT the following year. Her classmate Martha Munzer predeceased her in September.

Ms. Pierce practiced architecture for more than 70 years. She was president of the MIT Women's Association from 1940-44 and was instrumental in raising the endowment for the Ellen Swallow Richards Professorship, named in honor of MIT's first woman student and faculty member.

She participated in a variety of volunteer roles for the Association of MIT Alumni and Alumnae, including serving as treasurer and then vice president of the Class of 1922, a member of the Alumni Fund Board and the National Selection Committee, and as a committee member and board leader of the Association of MIT Alumnae (AMITA).

Ms. Pierce visited MIT for her class reunion in 1997 and again in 1998, when she enjoyed the exhibit "125 years of Women at MIT" in which she was featured.

The oral history of her life was recorded by an MIT student as part of the AMITA/MacVicar Oral History Project. In the oral history, she talked about the home-made fudge she sold to put herself through school and the architectural prize she believed she was denied because she was a woman. When clients balked at hiring a woman architect, she would list the limitations of male architects. "They don't know how a house works. They don't know how a kitchen works. Why should they design it?" she recalled telling wary clients. "Here's a stove that men designed, and you have to reach across over the burners to reach the shutoffs."

Ms. Pierce, who left no immediate survivors, was buried December 13 in Lynwood Cemetery in Weston. A memorial service will be announced at a future date. Contributions in her memory may be made to MIT for the Independent Residence Development Fund, MIT Rm 10-110, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 15, 1999.

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