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The Times
  • Harold William Pier

  • Harold William Pier, professor of chemistry at Utica College of Syracuse University from 1963 to 2000, died on Oct. 19, 2012, at his home in Remsen, after a brief bout with cancer.

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  • Harold William Pier, professor of chemistry at Utica College of Syracuse University from 1963 to 2000, died on Oct. 19, 2012, at his home in Remsen, after a brief bout with cancer.
    Many of his students recall how he made a forbidding topic, organic chemistry, clear to them for the first time. Dedicated to the liberal arts ideal, he was a strong advocate of writing-across-the-curriculum and other teaching methods aimed at bridging the gap between science and other kinds of learning. After retiring from Utica College, he continued to teach as an emeritus professor there and also at Mohawk Valley Community College.
    Pier, 77, was born into a family of teachers and engineers in the small Appalachian town of Mount Jewett in western Pennsylvania. Growing up in this environment imbued him with a sensitivity to the struggles of working-class Americans. Though his parents were Republicans, he became a staunch liberal Democrat. This past spring, he traveled to Wilkes-Barre to register Pennsylvania voters for the upcoming presidential election.
    His upbringing also left him with an enduring fascination with railroads, whose mighty bridges and tunnels sliced through the mountains to connect his home town to the broader world. He requested that his family remember him at the site of the Kinzua Bridge, a tall railroad trestle near Mount Jewett. In his retirement, he volunteered as a trainman on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.
    Pier earned a B.S. in chemistry at Penn State, an M.A. at Columbia University and a Ph.D. at the University of Delaware. Following his graduate work, he decided to pursue a career in college teaching, rather than a more lucrative one in industry. Utica College was attractive to him partly because of its location in the foothills of the Adirondacks, the “forever wild” landscape he would avidly explore till the end of his life. Readers of the Observer Dispatch online may be familiar with the blog Pier co-edited about Adirondack wilderness trekking, “Trails Less Traveled.” In 2011, he became president of the Tramp and Trail Club of Utica, and was an energetic organizer and trailblazer for many hikes, bikes, and snowshoe and cross-country-ski outings. He loved bird-watching and gardening.
    A connoisseur of classical music and jazz, he played the trumpet and flugelhorn in several Utica College theatrical productions, and sat in at local jazz jam sessions. He also played in the bell choir at First Presbyterian Church of Little Falls.
    Pier is remembered by his partner, Nancy Coleman; his four sons, Jerome, Edward, David and Gregory; his step-daughter, Amanda Zecca; and two granddaughters, Arianna Pier and Aisha Pier. He was preceded in death by two siblings, Laura Eleanor Pier and Alan Rutherford Pier, and survived by three others, Jerome Roland Pier, Louise Bement and Lejune Ely.
    A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 10 a.m., at the Utica College Library Concourse. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Harold Pier’s name to the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, http://www.adirondackrr.com.

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