Pierce Middle School hosts 75th anniversary fundraising event

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 8, 2013

 Pierce Middle School is planning a 75th anniversary dinner and auction next month. This historical picture shows the original cornerstone etched with the year 1939.

Pierce Middle School is planning a 75th anniversary dinner and auction next month. This historical picture shows the original cornerstone etched with the year 1939.

Photo provided by Pierce Middle School


GROSSE POINTE PARK — It was a different world when workers started erecting Pierce Middle School from the ground up; 75 years of history have passed between the first brick being laid and today.

It’s a milestone that will be remembered and celebrated Nov. 9 with a 75th anniversary dinner and auction at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.

“This has been a labor of love from many committed parents and staff members past and present,” Pierce Principal Gary Buslepp said.

While it’s a celebration of something old, the school is hoping that something new will come out of it by using the proceeds of the fundraiser to help renovate the auditorium.

“Our focus is currently on our seating,” Buslepp said in an email. “We need more leg room, for one. We currently have 900 seats and are looking to reduce that slightly in order to upgrade our seating and create more room (width as well as length).

“Our beautiful and historic auditorium was built in 1939, and we feel the need to improve the audience’s experience while viewing performing arts,” he said.

The school is looking toward multiple fundraisers with the dinner/auction as the kickoff. Refurbishing the auditorium will cost an estimated $225,000.

Tickets to the dinner/auction cost $50 per person.

“Attendees will have a great evening with hors d’oeuvres, open bar, dinner and dessert, plus the opportunity to bid on an array of fabulous auction items,” Cookie Etheridge, Pierce Middle School secretary, said in an email. “The proceeds from this event will go to the restoration of our auditorium.”

The silent auction includes tickets to professional sporting events, meals at local restaurants, jewelry, autographed sports memorabilia, artwork, spa packages and much more.

“Our live auction items include a one-week ownership of a time share in the Shenandoah Valley of the Massanutten Resort in Virginia with fair market value of $10,000,” Buslepp said. “Another is a one-week vacation at the Homestead in Glen Arbor, Mich., in October of 2014 valued at $2,000.”

Grosse Pointe Schools are not lacking in history, with buildings dating back several decades.

Pierce was initially built as the John D. Pierce Junior High School and Public Library, according to a 1939 article from the Michigan Society of Architects.

The article mentions how the building went up in less than nine months, which was a big deal during a time when similar buildings took at least a year. This was accomplished despite delays, including strikes and a labor shortage in various trades working on the building.

The article touches on the auditorium with a capacity of 950 and “a completely equipped stage.”

The article goes on to highlight décor, classroom and office space, and two gymnasiums.

It was a state-of-the-art building with all the character of the 1930s.

Deanna Kado, auction co-chairperson event planner, said she felt it is important as a community to support the schools.

“It is our responsibility to leave our schools in a better place than they were when we entered them,” she said in an email. “Someone in the past has done that for us, so we should also for the future. One of the best features of the Grosse Pointe School System is the sense of commitment from the community. It is my opinion that we have remained such a solid district because of that ongoing support.

She said the money raised will be used for a worthy cause.

“The auditorium at Pierce Middle School is a building that has so many memories for many in the community,” Kado said. “It is due some attention so that it will be here for generations to come.”

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the main office at Pierce Middle School. The school needs a final headcount by Oct. 21.