Mary Alyce Pearson (née Carpenter) died peacefully on March 21, 2016, a week shy of her 75th birthday, in Berkeley, CA, after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years. She is survived by her husband of 52 years (wed on September 7, 1963), P. David Pearson of Berkeley CA, her son Matthew Pearson and her daughter Susan Pearson, both of Evanston IL, and three grandchildren. She was the daughter of Edward Monroe Carpenter and Alyce Mary Guzzi Carpenter; she was the younger sister of Edward Monroe Carpenter, II, who preceded her in death in 2012.
She was born in San Rafael CA on March 28, 1941. Her family moved when she was a toddler to Palo Alto, where she completed all of her public schooling and graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1959. She completed a BA in History at Berkeley in 1963, followed by two Master’s degrees: an MEd from Stanford University with teaching credential in History in 1964 and an MA in Public Affairs from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota in 1978.
She taught middle and high school history in Porterville CA, Brooklyn Center MN, and Columbia Heights MN. After moving with her family to Urbana IL, in 1978, she worked as a researcher for the AFL-CIO and as a project manager for several public service projects in the School of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She went on to hold several development positions at UIUC, finishing her fundraising career as the Assistant Dean for Development in the College of Education.
She retired in 1995 when she and David moved to East Lansing MI. There she turned her energies toward two long-standing passions, photography and writing. She also served as a volunteer for CARE (Capital Area Response Effort), a group that accompanied police to respond to domestic violence calls. In 1997 she converted to Catholicism and was an active member of the Saint John’s Catholic Church.
In 2001, she and David moved back to Berkeley CA. There she served on the Board of Directors of the YWCA Berkeley / Oakland from 2002 – 2010, and served as President of the Board 2009 - 2010. Mary Alyce was an active member of the campus parish, the Newman Center, where she also participated in its progressive Theology Book Club. She participated in several divisions of the UC Berkeley Section Club, namely the Writers Workshop and the groups focusing on photography, birding, hiking, and tennis. While a member of the Writer’s Workshop, she published three feature articles for the Home section of the San Francisco Chronicle. Mary Alyce helped organize the group’s anthology of essays, Roots and Tendrils, and one of her photos served as the book’s cover.
Mary Alyce demonstrated her commitment to social justice, political engagement, and community service not only in her advocacy for victims of domestic violence and in her anti-racism work with the YWCA, but in other ways as well. She participated in the League of Women Voters, volunteered on several political campaigns, brought her children out to march for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois in 1982, and protested in opposition to both Iraq wars. In 1994, she served as the first woman president of the Rotary Club of Urbana IL. In Berkeley, she volunteered as a reading partner with children in Richmond’s public elementary schools.
Mary Alyce sought intellectual, aesthetic, and embodied pleasure in many forms. She was a dedicated athlete, running the Chicago Marathon twice, playing tennis into her 70s, and practicing Tai Chi for nearly three decades. Mary Alyce loved sports cars and took special joy in driving her 3 different editions of the Mazda Miata over the decades. She and David participated in gourmet food clubs, hosted memorable holiday parties, attended dance, music, and theatrical performances, and traveled to Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa.
She is remembered by her family and friends in all the places where she lived as a woman of grace, intellect, compassion, and commitment—an incredible friend, listener, talker, wife, and mother. She shared her wide and welcoming smile with everyone she met, inviting all to share the exciting worlds in which she found intellectual, cultural, spiritual, and emotional nourishment. She loved to laugh and did so often.
A celebration of her life and legacy will be held at the Berkeley City Club (2315 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704) at 2 pm on Saturday, April 16, 2016. The service page of this website has information for out of town guests about lodging and directions to the event.
In lieu of flowers the family prefers a contribution to research on Alzheimer’s via the Alzheimer’s Association or to the Pearson Family Fellowship honoring Mary Alyce Pearson at the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley.
Anyone who would like to leave a remembrance of Mary Alyce for the family to include in a Book of Memories (electronic and printed), can do so in one of three ways:
- Click on the submit a remembrance link and compose or paste in your contribution
- E-mail it directly to Matthew
- Mail a paper copy to Matthew Pearson, 1209 Hull Terrace, Evanston IL, 60202
A final request: To properly plan for the event, the family would appreciate it if those planning to attend the celebration on April 16 would RSVP.