‘An incredible human’: Jaffrey-Rindge community mourns teen after fatal accident at college

  • Trevor Pierce running for Conant at the 2019 NHIAA cross-country championships. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Trevor Pierce works on his Eagle Scout project at Jaffrey Grade School in 2018. File photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/14/2020 4:05:28 PM

Trevor Pierce, an honor student, Eagle Scout, athlete and friend to many in the Jaffrey-Rindge community, died after being struck by a trolley in Syracuse, New York Tuesday afternoon.

Pierce, a member of the Conant High School 2020 graduating class, was a first-year student at Syracuse University this fall, where he was studying political philosophy. 

According to reports, Pierce was at the intersection of Waverly Ave. and Comstock Ave., cross-streets on the Syracuse campus between the university’s library and a large public park, around 5:22 p.m. when he was struck by a trolley that serves as a campus shuttle. 

Pierce was transported to Upstate Medical University in critical condition and was pronounced dead at the hospital. 

“This is an unthinkable loss for Trevor’s family, friends and loved ones and the entire Syracuse University community,” Syracuse dean of students Marianne Thomson wrote in a letter to the school community Tuesday evening. 

Pierce was civic-minded, driven, and not afraid to speak his mind, earning him the respect and friendship of his classmates and his teammates on Conant athletic teams.

“He was such a dedicated and outgoing person and he always stood up for his opinions,” said Conant cross-country and track runner Alleigh Lapinsky. “We are all really going to miss him.”

Pierce was a three-season athlete all four of his years in high school, running cross-country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and in the spring, outdoor track, which included his favorite race to run, the 800 meters. Outspoken and always looking for a laugh, Pierce was a bit of a cut-up at times – Conant Class of 2019 member and teammate Chris Taylor remembers a long run freshman year where he and Pierce took a detour from practice to get burritos – but he threw himself fully into the sport.

Conant head coach Bill Edson said it was Pierce’s attitude that helped Conant rise from a middle-of-the-pack program to a serious championship contender; Pierce was named captain in his senior year.

“He pushed us to our limits because he had high expectations and a lot of personal drive,” Edson said, “and I think that rubbed off on our team. He had a lot to do with defining who we are.”

Conant teammate and Class of 2019 graduate Isabella Mormando said she was always amazed by Pierce’s ability to improve his times over the course of only a few races, a testament to his effort. But it was his off-the-track impact that stuck with her the most. 

“Not only was he a great athlete, but he was also a really special teammate,” Mormando said. “He had his heart in the sport in a way you don’t see very often. Whenever I’d have a bad race, he somehow always knew what to say. He was really my biggest supporter.”

Teammate and current senior Eva Shirey said that Pierce supported her, too, checking in with her before and after her offseason surgery and keeping in touch for meet results while he was off at Syracuse this fall. 

“He seemed like he missed the team a lot,” Shirey said. “We all had a really tight bond.”

Teammate Ethan Weinhold said Pierce “treated everyone like family.” 

“You could always count on him, no matter what,” Weinhold said. 

Junior John Mormando said Pierce brought “energy and enthusiasm” to the team, and helped push him to new limits after John joined the team as a freshman.

“Trevor was a determined and passionate person who could genuinely make people smile,” Mormando said. “I’m so happy I was able to run and improve alongside him.” 

Mascenic cross-country and track coach Mike Smith said Pierce, while a fierce competitor in the Conant and Mascenic rivalry, seemed to respect his opponents and find common ground with them.

“Considering how built up the rivalry between us and them, he always seemed to understand the bond between cross-country athletes and the collective struggles of our sport,” Smith said. 

Taylor said that he and Pierce became inseparable in high school.

“We were a dynamic duo,” Taylor said, “partners in crime.”

For Taylor, it was a moment at last year’s cross-country championships that best summed up Pierce’s character. Conant was dueling with Mascenic for a team championship when Matt Bernier, up front and pushing himself to the limit, collapsed on the course. Pierce caught up to his fallen teammate and, rather than blowing past him in the hunt for a better finish, stopped and picked him up. 

“It was what was most important to him,” Taylor said, “and shows his caring character.”

Pierce – and Bernier – would both eventually cross the finish line, as the Orioles finished in third place as a team.

“He had to make a tough choice,” Edson said. “In retrospect, you could say if he didn’t help him, we might have won. But it was the right choice, and you can’t deny that...It’s not about winning, it’s about the relationships that we build.”

Pierce grew up in Jaffrey with his mother, Jan Fischer. He was a notable student through his time in the Jaffrey school system; he won the Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School spelling bee multiple times, stayed on the honor roll throughout high school, and carried that dedication to academics to Syracuse University, where he was enrolled in the Renée Crown University Honors Program and staying in a dormitory reserved for honors students. 

Pierce took an interest in politics at a young age and took advantage of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary spectacle to inform himself about the presidential candidates firsthand. He attended several candidates’ appearances in the region during the 2020 election, including Andrew Yang’s full-to-capacity appearance at Peterborough’s Post and Beam Brewery, where Pierce – not to be denied – peered in through an open door to take in the event. At Syracuse, Pierce continued to explore the world of politics through his political philosophy studies. 

“He was an amazing speaker and always could sum up a moment very well,” Taylor said. “I believe he would have been an amazing politician someday.”

Pierce was dedicated to community service and was an Eagle Scout; for his Eagle project, he built a natural outdoor classroom at Jaffrey Grade School, complete with tree-stump stools and pollinator plants that attract butterflies. Aside from the work he  put in physically building the classroom setup, Pierce spent about 90 hours contacting local businesses and eventually convinced them to donate the equivalent of about $10,000  in labor and supplies. The outdoor classroom, at first perhaps a bit of  a novelty, is now being used regularly as JGS holds classes outdoors due to COVID-19 protocols. 

In January of 2020, Senator Maggie Hassan announced she’d nominated Pierce to the United States Air Force Academy, one of 53 students statewide to receive that honor. 

“These young people exemplify the Granite State spirit of service to community and to country,” Hassan said at the time. 

Pierce served as an intern at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript in the spring semester of 2020, reporting on everything from protests for racial justice to high school track and field to town meeting with the same vigor and thoroughness he devoted to all aspects of his life. 

“He was just a really incredible human with such a great mind and had such a bright future ahead of him,”  Isabella Mormando said. “He’s the type of friend who changes the way you see the world. I know he will forever hold a place in my heart as well as his other friends and teammates.”

Taylor said it feels like he’s missing “a piece of myself” following Pierce’s death.

“I aspire to be more like him,” Taylor said, “make others smile, to motivate others and to always be a great best friend. I will miss him always.”


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