“You have to be part of a strong team to succeed,” believes Doug Pierson ’92. He should know. As Senior Solution Manager currently leading a 1,000-person worldwide philanthropy program at Microsoft, Pierson is combining personal interest in giving back to others through his work at the Seattle-based company as his team targets $1.5 million in donations this year, spanning 34 countries and an equal number of charities. And then there is Pierson the risk-taker (calculated, he insists) whose personal interests have taken him to far-flung corners of the world and to three of the “seven summits”—the highest summit on every continent. Mountaineering to Pierson is a spiritual experience. “You challenge yourself physically and mentally,” he says. “You’re constantly checking yourself and the environment, and you are always concerned about yourself and your teammates.” But teamwork to Lieutenant Colonel Pierson also is about being a United States Marine, leading a battalion, deploying overseas on multiple occasions—including to Iraq twice after 9-11; about successfully leading his company of Marines into and out of Iraq without any fatalities; about joining an all-volunteer mountain search and rescue team as a field team member, and about helping to save those who become trapped or lost in the mountains.
In 2008, Pierson tackled Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain and became one of only 3,500 people to ever stand on the roof of the world, proudly displaying a small OWU banner upon reaching the summit. One of only six personal items he brought to the top, he donated it to the university along with a handful of small summit rocks for the geology department to analyze. So taxing was the climb that only four of his nine teammates targeting the summit actually succeeded in topping out, his team experienced eight ‘near misses,’ he lost 30 pounds, and caught a minor case of frostbite at 26,000′ while sharing his sleeping bag with two Sherpa in minus 20-degree temps. While a challenge, he also found it so rewarding an experience that soon after he decided that he would look to climb Everest again someday. That day will occur in spring 2013 and he is actively pulling together his sponsorships for that expedition. “It is so incredibly beautiful up there. Imagine sitting on the wing of an airliner in flight, you can see for what seems like forever, in every direction. It’s one of the only places I feel incredibly close to God and to loved ones who have passed. To me, it is a truly a personal, spiritual and soul filling experience.”
Talking with Pierson, one can almost feel his energy and passion for life. He majored in politics and government at OWU, minoring in zoology because Jed Burtt was his favorite professor (bird watching at 7 a.m. was not one of his favorite college experiences but traveling to the Galapagos definitely was) and admits to visiting the top of the University Hall bell tower a time or two. “We saw graffiti up there dating back to 1896,” he recalls. At one point in OWU’s history, the University Hall bell clapper mysteriously went “AWOL” the night before graduation—only to end up that day on the President’s doorstep painted in Sigma Chi colors. Change of subject… “I’m a big fan of tradition and deep study of history,” says Pierson, who was immediately drawn to the ambiance and unique historical significance of Williamsburg, Virginia and The College of William and Mary, where he later received his M.B.A in Information Technology and International Marketing. This led to a consulting position with PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM Global Business Services but as his mountaineering skills continued to improve, Pierson decided to leave his job at IBM to prepare for his 2008 Everest climb. It was his dream, and he had to pursue it.
“Someone once asked me what my definition of success was” says Pierson, continuing that success “is different for everyone. I respect other views, and am truly happy for those that set out their personal goals and drive to fulfill them, no matter what they are. I define success as living every day to the fullest. I don’t want to be 90 and look back with regrets. Never give up, no matter who or what stands in your way- it’s your dream, your life.” At the end of the day, however, Pierson’s hope is that the legacy he leaves will include something about his strength of character and how he encourages others to not hesitate in trying their best and achieving their own personal version of success.
“I’d like to think that people view me as solid. That I am there when my friends need me, that I support others, and that I always try to do the right thing.”