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Yellow Ribbon Series: Ralph H. Kohlmann
Marine and Widener Law graduate enjoys a distinguished career as a JAG attorney.
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An Enduring Legacy
Hugh B Pearce

A proud participant in the Yellow Ribbon GI Bill Program, Widener Law is committed to providing a positive learning environment to the dedicated service members of the United States armed forces. The Yellow Ribbon series highlights the students, faculty, and programs that connect the Widener Law community with the brave veterans who have served their country so admirably.

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.

The Trial Advocacy competition that bears Hugh’s name continues, with the 20th annual competition just passed and the 21st scheduled for next spring. In addition, the school recently created a scholarship in Hugh’s name. Hugh’s mother, Arlene, and brother, Robert, visited the campus to mark the occasion. They were joined by several of Hugh’s former classmates from the Widener Law class of 1990, including Widener Law National Advisory Council member Leif Sigmond Jr.

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.