“Remembering Dick St. Pierre,” by Dr. Beth Mortensen
On December 21, 2021, when Dick St. Pierre passed away, Wyoming Catholic College lost one of its most-enduring supporters—and our family lost one of its dearest friends.
Dick was the longest-sitting member of the College’s board of directors, having been appointed by Bishop Ricken in 2005. When the Bishop met Dick at his grandson’s confirmation, he immediately saw that Dick’s experience in university administration would make him a great asset to the seedling college. Dick and his wife Peg had moved their family from Massachusetts to Wyoming in 1980 when Dick became president of Central Wyoming College in Riverton. Before that, Dick had earned two masters degrees in science and a doctorate in education while teaching at several Massachusetts community colleges, and filling, as Peg said, “every administrative job that came down the line.” Dick completed his doctoral studies with the help of Peg, his partner in everything for 61 years, who would read Dick’s textbooks onto a tape recorder so that Dick could study while commuting between the two colleges where he was working full-time.
The many ways that Dick developed Central Wyoming College during his time there (like bringing in public radio and television) are a matter of public record. But we got to know Dick’s concern for building up the education of individuals. Dick and Peg raised four daughters and an adopted nephew, seeing them enter the fields of law, education, and law enforcement. When John and I met the St. Pierres, they were raising two granddaughters. In the last six years, they provided regular day-care for their great-granddaughters, Emery and Saylor.
The St.Pierres became something of adopted grandparents to our children. At their home, the St. Pierres always delighted our kids by giving them each their own brown glass bottle of root beer, earning the children’s nickname of “the St. Beers.”
In 2010 my husband John won an award from the Pope for his doctoral dissertation, and Dick and Peg told us that they wanted to come along to Rome to support John when he received his award. The trip involved the typical misadventures of a Roman holiday: learning upon arrival that our hotel had moved nine blocks away, navigating the pouring rain every day with four small children, and our unsuccessful attempts to find a king-size bed for Dick’s 6’5” frame. (The solution was 3 twins—two lengthwise and one across the bottom!) But we were also blessed to meet with Pope Benedict XVI, with the St. Pierres right at our side.
Peg shared with me a beautiful story from Dick’s last days. Just before being admitted to the hospice where he spent the last five weeks of his life, Dick rose in the middle of the night, “to water the plants.” Peg was surprised by his newfound concern, but then she heard Dick calling the plants he was “watering” by the names of his children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren. “I have to water them so they’ll grow,” he said.
Dick St. Pierre spent 17 years watering our little plant here at Wyoming Catholic College, and he was blessed to see it grow into something vibrant and flourishing. May he rest in peace.