Nancy Pierce headshot

WOUB Member Spotlight: Nancy Pierce

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Pierce has been a member of WOUB since 1984

ATHENS, OH – Overcoming adversity and helping others to do the same is what Nancy Pierce’s life in southeast Ohio has been all about. After growing up in a small Kansas town and experiencing gender discrimination, Pierce says she and her first husband “escaped” to Athens County in December 1976 and never looked back.

“We were looking to move to a certain kind of place,” said Pierce. “We looked at demographics, climate and even water supply. We visited places like Missoula, Montana, Eugene, Oregon and Morgantown, West Virginia. During that last visit, we went through Athens by accident, and picked up some literature. One of those pieces was a mimeographed Athens’ Women’s Collective newsletter. That newsletter spoke to me. And this is where we moved.”

The couple purchased a home in rural Athens County with no indoor plumbing and no working source of heat.

“It was a rundown old house on 30 eroded acres. But it was within our economic reach, so we bought it and started working on it. I still live there today,” said Pierce. “One of the things I love about living in this area is that it’s a community with folks whose ancestors grew up and made a living here—people with amazing abilities and community ties—and people like me who have moved here, the “newcomers.” Some of us came to buy land, others to join community. Some are connected to Ohio University. There are people with different political orientations who still know and respect each other as humans. I know my neighbor’s kids’ and pets’ names. We share a pond to fish in. I love the diversity.”

After graduating from Ohio State University’s law school in 1983, Pierce worked as an attorney representing low-income people through Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (SEOLS). And while she enjoyed SEOLS and the clients they served; Pierce discovered that law wasn’t quite what she wanted.

“I’m really glad I studied law because it gave me an awareness of how the system works, but I don’t like how it pits people against each other. The more money you have the more likely you are to win.”

Eventually, Pierce started working on her master’s degree in counseling at Ohio University. But while she was working on that degree, Pierce experienced a devastating personal tragedy.

“In 1996, my husband, John Pembroke, and I were in a plane crash. He was the pilot, and he was killed,” said Pierce. “We were on a trip home from Chicago. I was in the back seat studying for an exam, and we experienced some bad weather. The carburetor froze up, shutting off the engine. John tried to land in a field near Newark, Ohio and the wing hit a tree branch, flipping the plane over.”

Pierce experienced major injuries and was in recovery for some time.

“The plane crash has a whole lot to do with the way I feel about life in general,” said Pierce. “Given that people have basic resources and some basic level of support, adversity allows us all to grow. If we don’t have the resources and support, adversity in our lives can be tragic.”

After completing her counseling degree, Pierce became a mental-health counselor in community mental health. She’s now retired but has used all of her skills to support many different community organizations over the years.

“Currently I am working with the United Campus Ministry, the Athens Mediation Services Board and Athens ReThink Plastics,” said Pierce. “For 12 years, I was part of a nonviolent communication support group, and I directed the Calliope Feminist Choir for 21 years.”

Pierce has also served on the boards of the Ohio ACLU, Community Food Initiatives, the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Unrest Home; the steering committee of the Athens County Fracking Action Network; and the Executive Committee of the Athens County Democratic Party.

In spring 2017, she served as one of four citizen judges on Ohio’s first Human Rights and Environmental Justice Tribunal, formed to hear testimony about oil and gas fracking as a human-rights issue. In 2018, Pierce was named Woman of the Year by the Women’s Fund of the Athens County Foundation.

“It’s so important to be an active part of and serve your community,” said Pierce. “I am passionate about that and supporting our local businesses.”

Pierce has been a loyal member of WOUB Public Media since 1984. She believes it’s an important resource for the community. She listens to WOUB FM daily while cooking and doing the dishes and working in her garden. She listens when she drives. It’s an important part of her life.

“I can’t image not having WOUB. I’m really concerned about the loss of dependable and local media,” said Pierce. “I really like the fact that the people involved in WOUB are local, so when we hear something, we know those people who are talking. There’s accountability and credibility there. We know who they are, and we can actually talk to them. I know when I hear something on NPR, that it’s a solid first source of information. There is a high level of trust.  It’s a solid starting point. I don’t always agree but I can explore things more on my own if I do hear something I’m not sure about.”