Campus mourns loss of beloved alum

Alicia Dougherty, Assistant News Editor

Homecoming King Purcell Pearson celebrates with his court members and Chancellor Dwight Watson Oct. 12, 2019. (Dane Sheehan)

The UW-Whitewater community mourned the loss of one of it’s youngest and most beloved alumni Purcell “Percy” Pearson Wednesday, Feb. 17 with a candlelight vigil on Wyman Mall. The 22-year-old spring 2020 graduate was fatally shot from a vehicle near West Wisconsin Avenue and 23rd Street in his hometown of Milwaukee Feb. 6. 

Pearson was a psychology major with aspirations of becoming a psychologist. After being accepted into the McNair Scholars Program, he conducted a study on the negative influence of stereotypes portraying Black males and how it affected Black men’s self-image. 

“He was a very astute scholar and he was heading on his way to become a therapist. There are not that many therapists of color, so he wanted to fill that gap because mental health was so important to him,” said  Dr. Kenny Yarborough, Chief Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer and fellow fraternity member of Alpha Phi Alpha, for which Pearson served as president. “He was equally goofy as he was brilliant,” said Dr. Yarborough. “He loved to see people happy, see people smile, and he would be the type of individual that if you were having a bad day he was going to do his part and try to make it better.”

Members of the Zeta Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. speak at a candlelight vigil for UW-W alum Purcell Pearson Feb. 17. From left to right: Leonard Brox, Langston Charles, Freddie Nelson III, Jalen Whipple, Alfred Parchia, Aaron Broadwater, Associate Vice Chancellor Kenny Yarbrough, Devin Lewis. (Dane Sheehan)

Pearson’s research was fueled by his passion to help others within his community. He presented his findings in numerous symposiums.

“He was very, very concerned about young Black men in his community in Milwaukee. He was concerned about how young Black men think about themselves based on the kinds of information they get from the media,” said Pearson’s project mentor, Dr. Carolyn Morgan. “He would come into my office two or three times a week to check in, and he came in when he knew I needed a hug. I’m a quiet person, but Percy was larger than life presence, willing to do anything. He wanted to be a leader and it was all out of compassion.”

Pearson was president of his fraternity’s Zeta Iota chapter and 2019 Homecoming King. He had planned to earn a doctorate in clinical psychology and open up a mental health practice in an impoverished, multicultural neighborhood.

Chancellor Dwight Watson holds a candle in memory of Purcell Pearson during a candlelight vigil on Wyman Mall Wednesday, Feb. 17. (Dane Sheehan)

“He was so young — he just graduated. He was just starting life after college,” said fraternity brother Clint Myrick. “It’s just so tragic that this happened. He was a really warm and loving, caring person. If you were in the room with him for five minutes, you would love him.”

City of Milwaukee police are still looking for the shooter.