Back to Blog List

Honoring Chester Pierce with a New Human Rights Award; Your Opportunity to Participate in the Endowment Campaign


With a brilliant mind and soft-spoken warmth, Dr. Pierce throughout his life…reached out to those who were potentially marginalized…Like so many thousands of psychiatrists I benefitted from his unique personal kindnesses and remarkable contributions which are well honored by the Chester Pierce Human Rights Award.”   
Jonathan Alpert, M.D., Ph.D., Chair, APA Research Council, July 2021

As members of the Chester Pierce Human Rights Award Campaign Workgroup, we invite you to join us in supporting the endowment of this award at a critical time in our nation’s history.

Professor Chester M. Pierce, M.D., was a psychiatric physician, a Harvard gentleman, a scholar/athlete, the first African American president of his high school graduating class, a founder of Black Psychiatrists of America, and above all, a superb human being. An innovative researcher in stressful and deprived environments, Professor Pierce was the first African American full professor at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School; president of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology; and a commander in the U.S. Navy.

Dr. Pierce pioneered the concept of microaggressions, this especially is relevant to the contemporary quest for diversity, equity, and inclusion, nationally, globally, and across health, educational, corporate, professional organizations, and political systems. His prescient voice speaks loudly to us across time as we collectively grapple with the violation of human rights on display in our beloved America and across the world. As psychiatrists, we are uniquely equipped both to contribute substantively to the conversation on human rights and to find constructive ways to address its denial. 

With an uncanny ability to capture timeless truth, reflecting his deep understanding of what ails humankind, Pierce was able to formulate solutions for what impedes expression of our fullest humanity.  Dr. Pierce was a visionary, who could project into the future what is needed to bring about individual change so that fundamental societal change can be made real. 

As senior consultant toSesame Street” from its inception, Dr. Pierce’s influence impacted the lives of children throughout the world with these and other important developmental concepts.  Sesame Street is currently aired in 143 countries and carries the distinction of being the most popular and the most tested and researched children’s TV program of all time.

In his 1972 article, Becoming Planetary Citizens: A Quest for Meaning, Dr. Pierce described a future world and outlined a skill set he believed necessary for children and the next generation of professionals to acquire in order to be successful.  He opined that we must:

  • Develop a mindset that would “give greater credence to other people’s ideas, to correlate and integrate ideas from various disciplines - across barriers that now separate you. . .the only way we can live will be as planetary citizens.”
  • Inject the future more deliberately into education and preparation for adulthood, as change in the technological era will occur in less time than we might anticipate.  The present we know will not be sufficient to prepare them.
  • Understand the implications of pollution, increased consumption of raw material, energy sources and protein by a minority of the world’s population. 
  • Cultivate skills in conflict resolution, sound decision-making and learning to control one’s destiny through collaboration rather than through excessive, destructive competition. Ongoing segregation of our urban centers creates distance between groups of people, feeds xenophobia (fear of strangers) and makes common ground more difficult to identify.

The Chester Pierce Human Rights Award endowment provides an opportunity for us to share, reflect, and to be inspired each year to continue our collective search for a more just and equitable world. 

In order to endow this award in perpetuity and provide the recipient a lectureship at APA’s Annual Meeting, we need to raise a total of $100,000. We are within reach of our goal at $60,000. Please join us in this campaign by making a tax-deductible pledge/contribution via this Endowment Campaign Pledge form. Many thanks for supporting this historic and unprecedented initiative. 

See more information about the Chester Pierce Human Rights Award Endowment Campaign.

Eliot Sorel, M.D., DLFAPA and Cynthia Turner-Graham, M.D., DLFAPA
Chester Pierce Human Rights Award Campaign Workgroup


What APA is Doing for You


Comments (0)