PROFILE: Meg Pierce

January 16, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY SUSAN HANAFEE – If you want to know what it’s like to plan a big party that no one will attend in person, ask Meg Pierce. Meg and her sister-in-law, Julia Pierce, plus a host of other creative members of the Boca Grande Woman’s Club, are finalizing plans for the first-ever “virtual” Gala – the 25-year-old event that has been a highlight of the island’s social season and raises money for scholarships and local community grants.

This year’s Gala will start at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29. And even though there will be no tent with lavish decorations and tasty food, and no music from the Powerhouse Next Generation band filling the night air around The Gasparilla Inn & Club, participants will have fun. Meg and her team have been working hard to make sure that is the case.

The theme for the 2021 Gala – “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” – was suggested last January by Priscilla Masselink … but the image of Dorothy clicking her ruby slippers and saying “There’s no place like home” took on new meaning as the Coronavirus pandemic consumed the country.

“By early August, we had decided that the traditional Gala wasn’t going to be the right thing to do. We knew that even by the end of January, people wouldn’t feel comfortable coming out of their shelters,” Meg said.

While the Wizard of Oz still held sway with Meg and the planning committee, the catch phrase for the event was tweaked to “There’s no place like your home.” The question the committee faced wasn’t how to get back to Kansas, but how to entice islanders to participate in, and contribute financially to, an event they wouldn’t be attending in person.

“We knew we had to have a program and some reason for people to buy tickets,” said Meg, who had also helped plan the last two galas. “We came to realize that this was the perfect time to talk about what the Woman’s Club does, and how our efforts continue to weave together the fabric of our community.”

The Woman’s Club has a long history of community-centric activities, including leading the effort to bring water to the island years ago and, more recently, setting up an emergency relief fund to help businesses and individuals struggling during the pandemic. But Meg and her committee thought it was important to associate faces with the club’s various annual grants.

To accomplish this, they hired Matt Harris from the Ohio-based Blitz Studios to do three days of videotaping with local grant and scholarship recipients. Julia Pierce did the script. Dorothy and other characters from Oz will also be featured visiting around town.

Included in the program will be interviews with Sharon McKenzie of the Barrier Island Parks Society, Betsy Joiner with the Boca Grande Historical Society, Tim Ostrow, the bandleader at the L. A. Ainger Middle School in Rotunda West, and three student scholarship recipients.

“We edited it for a cocktail hour’s worth of programming, so people can get to know some of the members of our island community. Our goal is to keep viewers engaged,” Meg explained.

Meanwhile, the silent auction, which featured electronic bidding for the first time at the 2020 Gala, will continue in the same format for at-home participants. Auction bidding opens on January 27.

“The beauty of electronic bidding via your phone is that you don’t have to hover around the clipboards. They are right in the palm of your hand. Additionally, bidders will be warned that they have been outbid. The back-and-forth bidding turns into a fun conversation – and sometimes competition – between you and me about being outbid,” Meg said. “We are counting on everyone being as involved in the silent and live auctions and as generous as they have been in the past.”

The pressure of planning a big event like the Gala doesn’t faze Meg Pierce. She’s a goal-oriented New Englander who likes to keep busy. Along with her husband, Jeff, she divides her time between Boca Grande, Weston, Massachusetts near Boston and Woods Hole in Cape Cod.

During the time of this interview she was patiently wading through the questions, all the while knowing that she had at least two other meetings in a busy schedule before she could tackle her daily target of walking 10,000 steps, or approximately five miles.

“I have a 1,000-day streak going and it’s hard to think about breaking it,” she said. On a trip to India last February, she ended up walking 7,000 steps on the plane while flying from London to Mumbai.

Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Meg attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, studying biology and chemistry with the idea of becoming a medical doctor or PhD. After graduation she chose instead to pursue an MBA at night at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. It was there that she met Jeff.

The two discovered that they shared a desire to run the Newport Marathon in 1980, so they met at the crack of dawn to train along the Charles River and to get to know each other better. Although they successfully completed the run, Meg decided that marathon training was not for her. However, Jeff was, and the two were married four years later.

After the births of daughters Avery and Caroline, Meg left a job in high-tech marketing and retired to have a third daughter, Wally, and a new calling as a professional volunteer and traveler.

Along with being co-chair of The Island School Foundation, Meg is involved with Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, which recreates life in rural New England from the 1790s through the 1830s. She has also been a guide at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Jeff’s parents, Bob and Je-Je Pierce, were the first in the family to discover Boca Grande, coming to the island around 1980.

“They were tennis players and bought a condo at the Boca Grande Club. The rest is history,” Meg said. She and Je-Je have loved traveling together and have, over the years, taken recreational cooking classes in Italy and France.

Now three of the Pierce sons – Jeff, Fred and Richard – and their families, call Boca Grande home part of the year, with Meg and her husband building their beachfront home in 2010 not too far from the other Pierce residences.

Meg will undoubtedly continue her involvement with Boca Grande activities, even though she won’t return for a third year as the Woman’s Club Gala co-chair.

“As we pass the baton to a new group, they will have their perspectives on what to do and how to do it. This year we want the Gala to be a fun night ‘out’ even though people will be staying home.”