University of South Carolina

Alumnus makes investment in future SC doctors

By Jeff Stensland, stenslan@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-3686

As a young man, James T. Pearce Sr. enrolled at USC with the hopes of becoming a doctor. It wasn’t in the cards. In December 1941, he was about to enter his final semester of school when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. Pearce, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, got called to serve and left Columbia for the Pacific theatre.

After the war, which included fighting in the Battle of Okinawa, Pearce decided to join the family business—a hugely successful food and beverage distribution company—rather than pursue a medical career.  Now at 91, he has no regrets about not becoming a doctor, but says he always held the profession in the highest regard.

He proved that recently with a $1 million donation to the USC School of Medicine Greenville to help establish a $50 million scholarship endowment to attract top notch students. The gift was made in honor of three Upstate physicians who have cared for him and his family through the years.

“One of the things I made up my mind to do in my later years was to make a contribution to health care, but I didn’t know exactly what to do or how to best do it,” Pearce said. “I’m a believer in this kind of giving because it’s an investment in the future. And if you give while you’re still around, you get to see some of the benefits.”

Pearce has been giving back—or as he has prefers to say “investing in USC”—for a long time. He made his first donation of $10 to the school more than 50 years ago. Since then he also has given nearly $3 million, with much of it going to South Carolina Honors College’s Carolina Scholars program. Along with his donation to the medical school, he also donated $500,000 to the Carolina Scholars program.

“I’ve received a lot of letters through the years from students who have benefitted from those scholarships, and that’s made me very happy,” he said.

USC President Harris Pastides praised Pearce at a alumni event in Greenville where the donation was announced. "This generous gift to USC Medical School-Greenville will have a timeless impact on our future physicians, the citizens of Greenville and our state," Pastides said.

The scholarship endowment at USC School of Medicine Greenville, which opened this fall, is important because medical school admissions are highly competitive. The school has received more than 2,300 applications for 50 slots available to first year students next fall. Those who come to Greenville for training will be more likely to practice medicine there, said Dean Jerry Youkey.

As a longtime resident of Greenville, Pearce said he believes the medical school will continue to help the region prosper. “What finer monument to a great, successful city than having a medical school?”

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 04/17/13 @ 8:00 AM | Updated: 04/18/13 @ 9:37 AM | Permalink