Ever since they first came to Tokyo nearly 30 years ago, Tim and Lee Pierce have been committed, reliable, community people. Separately and as a duo, they have allied themselves to associations that appeal to them. They came as parents, and are now grandparents, whose conversations often bring in mention of “the children.” They are scholars and workers, a strong family and social contributors.
In Pennsylvania, Tim was educated up to eighth grade in a one-room school. He moved on to a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia, to Kenyon College, Ohio, and eventually to the University of Rochester in New York. He completed his doctorate in nuclear chemistry. Lee came from Tonawanda, near Niagara Falls. She studied biology at the University of Rochester, and entered medical school. After a year she decided against continuing with medicine, and returned to the University of Rochester. “I emerged with a master’s and a Ph.D.,” she said, then added with a laugh: “And an ‘M.r.s.’ “
She embarked on postdoctoral work and began teaching embryology. “As I moved on to teaching adults, I found I really liked it,” she said. Tim’s appointment in research and development of glass and ceramics technologies brought the couple and their two small boys to Tokyo in 1972. Apart from two years away in the 1970s and one year in the ’90s, they have been here ever since.
The boys stayed until their school days were over, when they went away to college.
Soon after they first arrived in Japan, Tim and Lee immersed themselves in local lore. They joined in with a group that went rice planting, and in appropriate dress waded in flooded paddies — taking care not to tread on tiny frogs — and stayed overnight in a temple. They went tea picking, and sailed out with fishermen on a commercial expedition. On more familiar territory, “quickly we became very involved with St. Alban’s Church,” Lee said. “It is a very wonderful place, which always had a marvelous Sunday school. We are both on the vestry, and helped run the auction last year.”
Lee returned to work when she went to teach biology at the University of Maryland. This university has 2,000 students in Asia and 2,500 in Europe. “There are students on all seven continents,” Lee said. When she decided she would learn “once again” to speak Japanese, she enrolled in a Maryland course and readily acquired yet another bachelor’s degree, this one in Asian studies. As teaching techniques change, she is keeping up with distance education designing that makes use of the Internet.
“St. Alban’s, scouting and the College Women’s Association of Japan — these have been my triangle,” Lee said. Her inclinations chimed exactly with CWAJ’s commitment to education and cross-cultural exchange. Lee’s CWAJ membership and work with its scholarship program date from the ’70s. For 10 years she has been working with CWAJ’s annual lecture series, which generates funds used to support the organization’s scholarship and education programs.
Lee holds herself available to bake for appropriate charitable occasions. She likes fabrics, and is skilled in quilting and knitting. Both she and Tim have enjoyment in their large personal library, which is meticulously kept. Their collection of chopstick rests is on show under glass on a table top. Both Tim and Lee have pleasure in displaying and using their blue-and-white dishes and jars.
For many years Tim and Lee have been patrons of Tokyo International Players, Asia’s longest-running community theater organization. They always mark on their calendars TIP’s production dates for the year ahead, to be sure of not missing any show.
“TIP has reliably good standards,” Lee said. “Sometimes they put on shows that otherwise we would not see, and they are always good. We always like their selections. Once St. Alban’s choir appeared in a TIP play. We know many people who go to the shows, and usually find someone going on the same evening as we, so we make it an occasion and get together for dinner either before or after. TIP is a cut above all other theatrical companies we have seen.”