In her passing, Selma Pierce’s legacy and life’s work is one that we can all learn from. She dedicated her time and efforts to helping people in need through her hard work and determination. Selma Pierce was a humble, caring, and generous individual who gave so much of herself to the Salem community and people, in turn, changing it for the better.
Selma Pierce came from an immigrant Chinese family and was a private Christian woman who took pride in doing good. Selma was brilliant from a young age, first earning an education at San Francisco Public Schools, then attending UC Berkeley. Pierce expanded her already vast bank of knowledge by going to UCLA Dental School and receiving her DDS degree. Selma continued her career as a general dentist until 1994 when she moved to Salem. Selma was a great example to everyone, especially young kids, that you can achieve your dreams no matter if that means pursuing education, career, or passion.
When Selma moved to Oregon, it was with her husband William “Bud” Pierce, and two kids; Kristina and Micheal. She was a very family-oriented woman and was married to Bud for almost forty years. Selma Pierce dedicated her life to those around her, including her family and community. Her motivation to help Salem citizens can be seen throughout the actions and services of her life that so positively impacted our town.
Although Selma didn’t continue practicing dentistry within the Salem area, she put her skills to use as a volunteer dentist for children in need. After her children, Kristina and Micheal flew from the nest, Pierce became much more heavily involved in local and state organizations such as the Oregon Community Foundation, the Chemeketa Foundation, the Salem Leadership Foundation, the OHSU Foundation, and the Assistance League. Adding to the list of admirable qualities, Selma gave valuable time and effort, donated money, and helped raise it for countless more charities in need. She did everything she could to help every cause she could. This meant not only personally volunteering, but finding resources, money, and help for causes in need. Some of these organizations include; Oregon Health & Science University, American Cancer Society, The Kroc Center, and Western Oregon University, to name a few. One example of the many ways Selma changed the lives of Salem citizens is, she helped raise awareness as well as $1.5-2 million for the community center.
Selma not only gave her time to these foundations, but she also gave her heart to them as well. Evyn Baker, a student at West Salem High School who knew and worked alongside Selma on a personal level, told the Spectator, “Yes, she donated to and sponsored many nonprofit events, however, she was someone so much more than that. She cared about the people in our community and most importantly she gave her heart to our community.” This speaks to Selma’s character and how she was involved in our community because she genuinely cared about making a difference in people’s lives and hearts. To recognize Selma Pierce and her husband Bud for all of the wonderful things they had done for Salem, they were awarded Salem’s First Citizens Award in 2009.
Selma acted as an amazing role model and took strides to motivate and inspire the youth of our town. Evyn Baker told us that what stood out to him most about Selma was her willingness to “…roll up her sleeves.” He said, “What I loved about Selma the most, she was never afraid to roll up her sleeves and do the work alongside others. Never bragging or boastful, she just did the work.” Evyn continues to say that many volunteers who worked with Selma didn’t know her as the person who donated money. Evyn tells us, “I didn’t know Selma as a donor…I just knew her as my mentor.” Evyn’s words demonstrate that Selma Pierce didn’t want extra praise or attention for her work, she simply did it to help people.
Selma Pierce can serve as a reminder to all of us that giving to our community is one of the most important things we can do. We should do it not only out of the goodness of our hearts and the motivation to help people, but also to honor and continue the work and legacy that Selma Pierce built through her kindness, humble heart, and willingness to give of herself for others.