“Chester Pierce’s career was exemplary on many fronts. He was an academician and a researcher. He conducted pioneering studies on stress in varying environmental conditions including the extreme climate of Antarctica. He was an expert in early childhood education and contributed immensely to ‘Sesame Street.’ His intention was to project by a TV series his philosophy and vision for equality and accessibility. All children should be provided with the opportunity to aspire. … Personally he had a quiet sense of humor, was deeply inspiring, and was an excellent listener.”
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President and Founder of the Center for Health, Culture, and Society and a former president of the Black Psychiatrists of America
The APA Foundation (APAF) has launched an endowment campaign for one of APA’s most prestigious awards—the Chester M. Pierce Human Rights Award, which recognizes the extraordinary efforts of individuals and organizations to promote the human rights of populations with mental health needs.
The endowment campaign seeks to secure $100,000 in pledges between April 1 and September 30, with APA/APAF contributing a matching $50,000 to endow this award in perpetuity. The endowment will cover the costs of the winner’s presenting a lecture at APA’s Annual Meeting and receiving a honorarium.
The award was originally established in 1990 as the APA Human Rights Award. It was renamed in 2017 to honor Pierce for his dedication as an innovative researcher on humans in extreme environments; an advocate against disparities, stigma, and discrimination; and as a pioneer and visionary in global mental health.
Pierce’s influence as a writer, thinker, clinician, and researcher is profound. In 1968, he and other Black psychiatrists founded the Black Psychiatrists of America, and the following year Pierce and his colleagues confronted the APA Board of Trustees with the need to address racism as a public health issue. He wrote and spoke widely about racism and published dozens of articles on the way Black and White people interacted with each other, first coining the term “microaggressions.”
Pierce was the senior advisor on the creation of the acclaimed children’s television series, “Sesame Street.” He spent the majority of his career as a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a professor of psychiatry and education at Harvard Medical School. He was the first African American full professor at Massachusetts General Hospital, where in 2009 the hospital’s global psychiatry program was named after him. He was also a trailblazer outside of psychiatry—as a football player at Harvard, he was the first African American to play in a major college football game south of the Mason-Dixon line (University of Virginia).
APA members are asked to pledge a gift by downloading the pledge form here and emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org. All donors will be honored by having their names placed in a book to be on display at APA headquarters. ■
Do You Care About Human Rights? Make Your Pledge Now | Psychiatric News