Purdue News

2005 Honorary Degree

Catherine Shevlin Pierce
Doctor Of Letters

Catherine Shevlin Pierce

Catherine Shevlin Pierce has distinguished herself as a leader in international economic and social development. Her work has been instrumental in promoting gender equality and human rights and in giving women visibility and voice in development activities.

She has been engaged in international development for the past 30 years, initially at The World Bank and subsequently at the United Nations. From 2000 to 2003, she was the Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Regional Technical Team for the Pacific, based in Suva, Fiji. Pierce worked with governments and civil society organizations in the Pacific region to raise their awareness of the impact of population trends, environmental degradation and globalization on small-island developing states and to strengthen their capacity to address these concerns successfully.

Pierce has worked with groups in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East to improve women’s health, educational levels and economic opportunities. She assisted women in remote areas of northwest China and rural Uganda to set up and manage small scale enterprises designed to enhance their income earning potential.

Born and raised in New York City, Pierce received her bachelor’s degree cum laude from Marymount College, Tarrytown, N.Y., in 1963 and holds advanced degrees from Purdue University (history) and from Georgetown University (demography). She has written widely on population and sustainable development and was elected (1983) to the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. Her involvement with the UN Training Programme in Population and Development, based in universities in Botswana, Chile, Egypt, India and Morocco, enabled Pierce to combine academic interests and program management. She retired from the United Nations in 2003 and currently consults in the area of international development and teaches in the Global Affairs Program at New York University.

Throughout her UN career, Pierce mentored new staff, junior professional officers and summer interns. She made numerous presentations to university groups throughout the United States and to community organizations, particularly in Greenwich, Conn., where she resided for 25 years.