Scholarships Honor Bermejo, Pierce, and Martin Luther King Jr.

It has been a Berklee practice to recognize its own through scholarships. Recently, two scholarships were established to honor the contributions of former faculty members Mili Bermejo and Bill Pierce as well as Martin Luther King Jr.

Dan Greenspan, former Berklee faculty member and renowned bassist, recently established the Mili Bermejo Scholarship in memory of his wife, beloved voice faculty member Mili Bermejo, who passed away in February 2017. The fund will support a deserving international vocalist majoring in performance, songwriting, or composition. Contributions of any amount can be made to the fund at www.berklee.edu/giving/make-gift.

At a December 6, reception marking the retirement of Woodwind Department chair Bill Pierce ’73, professor Kenn Brass presented a plaque to Pierce on behalf of the Association of Faculty and Staff of African Descent (AFSAD). It cites Pierce for his outstanding service, commitment, and inspiration. AFSAD has established the Bill Pierce–Martin Luther King endowed scholarship to be awarded to currently enrolled Berklee students who work to benefit communities of African descent on or off campus.

Through payroll deductions from dedicated faculty and staff members and a donation from Jackson Shultz and Berklee’s Faculty Union, the amount of $50,000 to fully endow the fund was reached. The scholarship and the plaque will honor Pierce’s legacy at Berklee for years to come.

Many of Pierce’s colleagues took turns at an open mic during the December reception to reminisce about his storied career as a jazz saxophonist and educator. As a performer, Pierce played alongside such artists as Art Blakey, Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard, and many more. During his years of teaching, he mentored Javon Jackson ’87, Miguel Zenon ’88, Antonio Hart ’91, Mark Gross ’88, Walter Smith III ’02, and many more. (For a faculty profile on Pierce, visit this page.)

Senior vice president for academic affairs/provost Larry Simpson stated: “This moment for me is bittersweet. For so long, Bill Pierce has been a bright light at Berklee. His integrity, artistry, and commitment to his students and the craft have been unmatched. I can’t say that we’ll replace you, Bill. We will find a chair, but your chair will always be open.” Professor Jackie Beard shared recollections of his former teacher and later, faculty colleague. “We go way back,” Beard said. “But he helped me to come way forward. Thank you Bill.”