John N. Pearce, former director of the James Monroe Museum and
Memorial Library and former professor of historic preservation at the University of Mary Washington, has been honored with the prestigious History Award from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The distinction, given for lifetime contribution to American history, is awarded to only seven Americans each year.
Diana Wallace Perrussel, regent of the Overwharton Parish Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, presented the gold medal to Pearce on Saturday, November 12 at the residence of UMW alumna Judy Barton who nominated her former professor.
“Who deserves this award more than John Pearce?” said Barton ’93 who spent more than a year pursuing the nomination. She considers herself lucky to have been his student. “He’s so full of knowledge in all subjects,” she said.
Pearce was recognized for his leadership of the James Monroe Museum and his long-standing devotion to preserving history in Fredericksburg and other parts of the nation. Among his vast accomplishments, Pearce worked to restore the 1849 building that houses St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, raised money to preserve the 18th century Masonic cemetery, established the only Welsh festival on the East Coast to honor the heritage of the fifth president of the United States, helped create the James Monroe Presidential Center and served as liaison for the Enchanted Castle site established by Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood in the early1800s.
Pearce retired from the James Monroe Museum in 2010, and in 2011 the University of Mary Washington granted him emeritus status as director of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, director of the James Monroe Presidential Center and university liaison for the Enchanted Castle Site.
He began his career at Mary Washington in 1984. His 27 years of service to the University included positions as a professor in the department of historic preservation and as director of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, the James Monroe Presidential Center and the Center for Historic Preservation. In addition to teaching courses in the historic preservation department, he played a key role in developing the department’s museum studies curriculum.
An expert on the life, times and influence of James Monroe and decorative arts, Pearce became director of planning and programs at the James Monroe Museum in 1989, and he was named director of the museum in 1996. During Pearce’s tenure, the museum expanded and enhanced its programs, increased its scholarly activity, improved its facilities and strengthened connections to the University.
He has held memberships on several campus committees, including faculty affairs, special programs and exhibit spaces. Within the community, Pearce also served on several boards of directors of history and preservation organizations, including the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, the Memorial Foundation of Germanna Colonies in Virginia, Inc. and the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation.
Pearce was named a Winterthur Fellow and a National Society of Interior Design Fellow at the National Trust Summer School in England. In addition, he received the Governor of Maryland’s Award and the Trustee of America Award at Mary Washington.
His articles have been published in numerous publications, such as the Dictionary of American History, the Encyclopedia of World Art, and the Local History Encyclopedia. He is the author of “American Painting 1560-1913.”
Pearce earned a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Yale University and a master’s degree in early American culture from the University of Delaware.