Two Degrees; one solid legacy for Elizabeth Berry and her dad

Two Degrees; one solid legacy for Elizabeth Berry and her dad

Whether through food, faith or traditions, most families enjoy shared “legacy.” For Elizabeth Berry and her father, Terry Pierce, their bond includes an education at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Pierce graduated in 1970 with an undergraduate degree in business administration. Berry, already a college graduate, just earned her master’s degree in counseling. So, Elizabeth’s commencement ceremony on May 18 was a proud shared moment for the entire family.  

Regarding her desire to pursue higher education, Berry takes a huge amount of inspiration from her folks. “I always wanted to be a scholar, and I get that from both of my parents,” she noted.

Faith is another shared family value. Berry added, “My parents are also both very service-oriented and taught me to lean heavily on my faith.”

Pierce is originally from Superior. After his father, Maurice Pierce, died when Pierce was just 19, he felt a deep responsibility to help his mother and siblings.

He joined the ROTC, and enrolled at UW-Superior, graduating in 1970. Later, he enrolled in the Air Force, and spent 20 years in the military, retiring in 1990 as a Lieutenant Colonel.

A special, full-circle moment happened for Pierce many years later when he returned to campus for the first time since graduating to watch his daughter cross the stage and earn her graduate degree.

Berry originally thought she’d be a teacher. She earned an associate degree in education from the University of Phoenix online. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Western Illinois University.

After years working in clinical office administration, however, she began feeling burned out. A spiritual awakening changed her path forever.

Berry decided to pursue a chaplaincy certification. She earned a Master of Arts and a Ph.D., in Christian counseling from Newburg Seminary, for which she is currently writing her dissertation – on the interconnectedness of spirituality and psychology.

To pursue professional licensure, however, Berry knew she must tackle yet another degree. Her dad had an idea …

Online Accessibility

“My dad always received the UWS alumni newsletter, the Superior Voice,” Berry explained. “One day, as he was reading it, he said to me, ‘You know … some really great people have gone to that university.”

Berry got the hint. She enrolled in UWS’ Master of Science in Education – Counseling program, which she completed remotely from her home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where she lives with her partner, Christopher Knoll, and his teenage daughter.

“Everything has been so accessible,” she noted of the program’s online format.

“My lead professor, Dan Russow, has been extremely approachable and always kept regular communication with our cohort. I never felt isolated; in fact, I didn’t even feel like I was in a different town.”

Berry currently works as a hospice chaplain for Adoray Home Health and Hospice in Baldwin, Wisconsin. Her goal is to open a rural, private clinical mental health practice, counseling people who are home bound or can’t travel far. “I’d like to make mental health care more accessible,” she said.

A Shared UW-Superior Experience

The shared experience of a UWS education has been a powerful one for Berry and her father.

“The UWS connection makes me really proud,” she said. “I had heard about the possibility of getting a legacy tassel for Dad for commencement, so I emailed the Alumni Association.

“They responded enthusiastically, and offered him not just a legacy tassel, but a Distinguished Alumni tassel. I feel like that was such a great way to honor my dad, who has not only done a great job raising me and my five siblings, but who is just a super human being.

“It’s so nice to see others acknowledge him,” she added. “There is no plaque big enough to give to him. It took me a long time to follow in his footsteps, but I’m so glad I did.”

“I am touched to be honored,” Pierce added. “My dad, Maurice, went to the University of Wisconsin-Superior too, so it truly is a legacy. I’m thankful for the opportunities this university has provided for our family.”