In its near century and a half of history, Peirce has developed a tradition of looking for ways to expand and offer relevant courses to students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to achieve a quality college education. Already a nationally recognized business school by the turn of the 20th century, Mary B. Peirce was interested in expanding the school’s scope beyond the United States. Peirce administrators traveled to Latin America to meet with educators there to see if there was an opportunity for Peirce to enroll students from Cuba, Nicaragua, and other countries in Central and South America. The end result was the “Spanish American Department” which offered business and other courses taught in Spanish, as well as English language courses. In addition to the coursework, there were several events, activities, and organizations sponsored by the department, including an annual Latin American Ball and the Latin American Club.
Starting a new program of this scope wasn’t simple. Bi-lingual faculty members were hired, additional classroom space was rented, and Spanish language marketing materials were created. Manuel Vera Estanol, an educator from Mexico was hired to run the department. School Director Louis B. Moffett met with existing faculty to introduce the program in 1902, and faculty members were given lessons on Spanish name pronunciations and basic phrases to help the new students feel welcome.
The program lasted over four decades, during which time the Peirce family and other Philadelphians hosted hundreds of students, some of whom took positions in the United States after graduation while others began careers in their home countries. Based on the success of the program, Mary Peirce was selected to be on the board of governors of the Washington-based Pan-American Association.
A few months ago, we had the privilege of a visit from the grandson of one of the graduates of the department. He told us his grandfather (who emigrated from Cuba in the 1920s) always talked about his time at Peirce fondly, so a visit to Philadelphia had to include visiting his relative’s alma mater.