Donor Spotlight: Tracy Pierson
We love learning about the lives of our supporters, and especially what motivates them to do good in our community. Today's post is our exchange with Tracy Pierson, who is one of the founding publishers of 247Sports. His true Bruin spirit and values of generosity and kindness inspired us to share his story.
Where are you from, and what do you do?
I'm from California, graduated from UCLA in 1983 with a degree in English. After a few different writing jobs (Hollywood, travel writing), I settled into sports media. About 20 years ago, I was one of the founding publishers for the Rivals Network, which then evolved into Scout, and now 247Sports. I primarily publish the UCLA news site in the network, Bruin Report Online, and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary last November.
What attracted you to the cause of student homelessness?
As you go through life, you pick up causes that, for whatever reason, really resonate with you. When I was in my 20s, a friend of mine worked in a homeless shelter, so her experience really stuck with me. Then, my parents were first generation Americans, and education was always the first order of emphasis in my family. I think education -- particularly higher education -- is one of the redeeming keys of our civilization. It has been the most viable path for Americans to improve their lot in life, like my first-generation parents. So when I heard about the state of student homelessness, I was immediately drawn to the issue because it combined two elements that, like I said, have meant something to me.
What attracted you to our shelter, in particular?
When I learned about Bruin Shelter, it added another layer of meaning for me personally to the issue of student homelessness. Like I said, homelessness and education were both something that resonated with me, and then to combine that with such a worthwhile, pioneering organization from my own alma mater -- I couldn't conceive of anything more worthwhile.
What was your most meaningful memory from college?
When I was at UCLA, one of the outreach programs connected to the University was called Concern. It was a volunteer organization that went out into the Los Angeles community, mostly to connect with elementary-age children. I remember one experience when I was playing basketball with what was probably a 12-year-old boy on the asphalt court of his school. When he found out I was an English major, he started reciting the "To Be or Not To Be" speech from Shakespeare's Hamlet, as he was playing, dribbling around me. We both started reciting together as we were playing. It really struck me how something that was written 400 years ago could make two people from different backgrounds and ages relate to a common human experience -- while playing basketball.
What motivates you to stay involved?
I've had two of my own children at UCLA recently. My daughter graduated in 2018, and my son is currently a junior. They have kept me aware of what's happening at UCLA from a student perspective, and to really enable me to understand what a student's experience is like at UCLA, and what it would be like if that student were homeless. I also know exactly what it costs for a student to get through UCLA. I'm extremely fortunate that I've been able to provide for them, but it's always a reminder for me of the students who don't come from the same opportunities.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I've traveled to over 70 countries. I think traveling is one of the most personally fulfilling things someone could do -- getting out in the world, learning about other cultures and, particularly, other people and their experiences. I was in Calcutta, India, in the 1980s and worked at Mother Teresa's shelter for a short time. I learned more in that one experience about humanity than I have in any one experience in my life. I learned, first and foremost, the key to life, in both establishing your belief system and even in your personal life, is trying to walk in someone else's shoes.
Tell us about an accomplishment that sparked a moment of personal growth.
I'd have to say the No. 1 experience that sparked personal growth in my life was that experience of working in Mother Teresa's shelter.
Why do you think student homelessness should be a priority for the Los Angeles community?
As I said, I think education is the force that propels any culture or civilization toward progress. Educating our children should always be our first priority. The fact that there are students who have so clearly embraced the desire to be educated, and recognize the power of it, that they're willing to sacrifice and overcome so much is awe-inspiring to me. Their strength and personal fortitude is the best of what we humans have in ourselves, and it should be the nearest to our hearts.
Thank you Tracy for believing in the power of a diploma; we need more community leaders like yourself!