NATCHITOCHES – When discussing sustained runs of tremendous success in Northwestern State athletic history, the last quarter-century of Demon baseball is at the forefront of any conversation.
While the long list of Southland Conference championships and remarkable accomplishments will live on in the NSU record books, one of the players involved is stepping forward to invest in the program’s future, and is challenging other baseball alumni to join him.
Will Pearce, an outfielder from 1994-96 who played on two Southland Conference championship teams, has created “The Pearce Demon Dirtbag Scholarship” for NSU baseball.
The endowment is part of the Perpetually Purple endowed giving program operated by the Demons Unlimited Foundation, the 501-c-3 private foundation which supports NSU Athletics. The announcement of Pearce’s scholarship was made by Dr. Haley Taitano, associate athletics director at NSU and executive director of the DUF.
“My time at Northwestern, being part of the baseball program, has made such an impact on my life,” said Pearce. “I’m convinced my baseball days molded me into the man I am, and gave me so many of the qualities that have helped me have success in my professional career. It gave me so many great memories and relationships that I’ll carry throughout my life. It was incredibly fun for me and my family.”
In addition to initiating the scholarship, Pearce is collaborating with another Demon baseball alumnus, first-year head coach Bobby Barbier, to enhance the team’s locker room facility. He is also reaching out to his teammates, emphasizing his graduating class of 1996, to get them involved, and encouraging other former players during the “golden era” of NSU baseball to do the same.
“To not give back, to me, makes that experience all for nothing. It’s our responsibility as alumni to create a better environment for these players today and those coming tomorrow. We need to collectively move the program forward through our support and involvement,” said Pearce, who played for coaches Jim Wells and Dave Van Horn as a Demon when NSU was on a roll of capturing three straight Southland titles (1993, 1994, 1995), getting an at-large bid to the 1994 NCAA Tournament and posting the Demons’ first-ever Division I regional victory at the Stillwater Regional.
Now Pearce, an executive partner for New York Life in Dallas, is contributing to many more wins and accomplishments for the Demons.
“I’m helping to set a trend. This baseball program has been incredibly successful over the quarter century since Coach Wells got here in 1990. The guys who helped win a ton of games and nine championships need to really get involved in supporting Demon baseball,” he said. ”Not enough of us have reconnected yet, so there’s a lot of opportunity to come together and quickly make a big difference.
“We’re talking to our entire senior class about getting involved and challenging other classes to get on board.”
As for the unique name of Pearce’s scholarship endowment, he wanted to emphasize values that are essential to championship success. In college baseball, “dirtbags” are scrappy, hustling players who get their uniforms dirty with their extraordinary effort.
“I want it to reward a guy who has to work hard for everything: a spot on the team, his grades, playing time. This is for the player who hustles in every way, and is not the most gifted player and student. It’s the kind of player I had to try to be. We’re not all the Terry Josephs (two-time Academic All-American outfielder and the 1995 Southland Player of the Year) and Reggie Gatewoods (1994 All-American pitcher, honors graduate) who worked very hard, too, but were just simply better students and better players.
“Some guys have to work very hard just to get a decent grade point average, and that approach definitely carries over to how they play baseball. This scholarship is going to reward a grind-it-out player and student who has the respect of his teammates and coaches,” said Pearce.
Pearce also has a $100,000 life insurance policy with NSU Athletics as the beneficiary. Taitano, who is also a former athlete (pole vaulter) at NSU, said Pearce’s passion for Northwestern has been obvious to her since the day they met.
“I’ve gotten to know Will very well over the last five years, as he is ever present at NSU Alumni gatherings in the Dallas area as well as those that we host in Natchitoches at Brown-Stroud Field,” she said. “Will is a special guy, and it’s only fitting that his love and appreciation for Northwestern be perpetuated by a scholarship bearing his name. His generosity over the years has been unwavering, and his enthusiasm for motivating others to give back in inspiring. We are very appreciative of Will and his continued support of Northwestern State Athletics and Demon baseball.”
The goal is to grow the endowment, through outright donations or deferred gifts, over the next five years from the current $1.7 million level to over $5 million. So far, gifts have come from former athletes and their families, supporters of the university and most notably, iconic retired president Dr. Randy Webb and his wife, Brenda.
The program is separate from the efforts to supplement the annual budget for the athletics program with donations, corporate partnerships and special fund-raising events.
A minimum commitment of $10,000 is required to create an endowment fund. It can be established with an outright gift such as cash, a stock transfer or property sale, a life insurance policy, or can be included as a provision in a will or bequest. Arrangements can be made to fund an endowment over an extended period of time.
To inquire about the Perpetually Purple program, contact athletics director Greg Burke ([email protected], 318-357-5251), or Taitano ([email protected], 318-357-4278). Information is also available on the NSUDemons.com website.