Remembering Hugh B. Pearce as Trial Advocacy Competition Approaches Final Round
Web Editor - Published: March 26, 2008
hugh bpearce

Hugh's parents, Carl and Arlene, and Robert standing in front of the helicopter they flew along Hugh's last route in September as discussed in the story. The picture is taken at Barnstable Airport, Hugh's intended destination. Note: the final round of the competition will be held on April 9th at 6pm on the Delaware campus.

Hugh Bryan Pearce enrolled at Widener Law in August of 1987 and maintained a full course schedule while serving as a helicopter pilot with the Delaware National Guard. On June 17th, 1989 while performing maneuvers with the National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer Hugh B. Pearce and five others lost their lives when the UH-1 Iroquois they were flying crashed in dense fog shortly after midnight near Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

In the wake of Hugh’s death, Professor Thomas Reed and John Wherry, Esq., at the time an adjunct faculty member directing the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program, created a competition between the two best advocates in ITAP and the two best advocates from Professor Reed’s Advocacy concentration course. They named the competition in honor of Hugh, who Professor Reed called “an especially gifted student with a flair for advocacy.” The competition later evolved into a trial advocacy competition pitting a team of advocates selected from the Delaware campus by the Moe Levine Trial Advocacy Honor Society against a team from the Harrisburg campus selected by the Trial Advocacy Honor Society there, but it retained the name. With the final round of the 19th annual Hugh B. Pearce Competition approaching, the legacy of Hugh Pearce remains strong.

Born on September 8th, 1954 to Carl and Arlene Pearce in Bishop, California, Hugh had two younger brothers, Robert and Mark. He attended the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego before enlisting as a Warrant Officer candidate in the United States Army. Hugh trained as a helicopter pilot and was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. During his time in the service, he served as part of the Multinational Force and Observers that was established in the wake of the Camp David Accords and had responsibility for peacekeeping on the Sinai Peninsula between Egypt and Israel.

After leaving the military, Hugh briefly attended Santa Barbara College of Law before moving east to Delaware to attend Widener Law with the encouragement of family friend and Widener professor Rodney K Smith, now the President of Southern Virginia University. While attending Widener Law, Hugh served in the Delaware National Guard as a helicopter pilot, served as a judicial clerk in the Superior Court of Delaware from September to December in 1988, and wrote case notes for the Delaware Law forum. “When Hugh had disappointments in life, he always picked himself up and kept going,” says Arlene Pearce proudly.

During his lifetime, Hugh left an indelible impression on family and friends that remains just as strong nearly twenty years after his death. Says Hugh’s brother Robert, “Hugh's death inspired me to change my life,” adding, “I had been talking to Hugh about going back to school – he always pushed me to try and do more with my life - and after he died I made a big change. I got accepted at Texas A&M for a Masters and later went to Colorado State University and got my Ph.D.”

hughPearceABrotherLostbookRobert wrote a book about his brother’s death entitled A Brother Lost: A Tribute to Hugh B. Pearce, and in his comments on the book, Rodney Smith wrote, “Hugh’s combined love of flying and people, including my family, made for a wonderful afternoon for all of us.  I recall the wide eyes of each of my children as they entered and later stepped out of the helicopter, as Hugh generously offered each of them a special ride.” Hugh clearly loved flying, a fact that Rodney clearly understood about his friend; “Even more striking, as a memory, than the excitement of the ride, however, was being able to see the expression on Hugh’s face as he shared his passion with me, a friend,” writes Smith.

“Hugh had a wonderful sense of humor,” remarks his mother. “One thing I remember clearly from my brother's funeral was that his friends spoke highly of his loyalty as a friend, how he never forgot birthdays of their kids, and things like that.  I remember one of his Army pilot friends who broke down and couldn't compose himself when talking about what a good friend Hugh was,” adds Robert. Mark, the youngest of the three brothers, recalls, “He was the kind of brother who would take you and your friends on a canoe trip down the river when the summer was getting lonely and quiet. He was the kind of brother who was always there when needed, be it by thought, word, or deed." Hugh’s mother described the essence of his personality by quoting the poet A.E. Housman; “Like the wind in the woods, through him, the gift of life flew high.”

This past September, Robert and his parents climbed into a helicopter and Robert flew them on the route that Hugh had been on when his helicopter crashed. Says Robert, “It was something I promised myself I would do.  It probably sounds silly, but in my mind I wanted to finish his flight for him.  We landed at Barnstable airport, his intended destination, and then took a taxi to the crash site.”

Both the Delaware and Harrisburg campuses held their respective final rounds of the Hugh B. Pearce Competition on Wednesday, March 19th. John Toresco and Steve Kwon will represent Harrisburg and Christopher Lee and Evan Perel will represent Delaware in the final round to be held on April 9th at 6pm on the Delaware campus.