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Staff Spotlight: Denise Pearson

06/06/2019

Her signature hair color – Raging Red – makes a statement, blazing with an energy that makes SLU staff member Denise Pearson stand out in a crowd, for both her fashion sense and her dedication to helping others in her professional and personal lives.

Denise Pearson

SLU staff member Denise Pearson is an alumna, a student and is active in numerous campus and community causes. Photo by Ellen Hutti

“God wired me to be hyper,” Pearson, an international admissions counselor and Designated School Official (DSO) for INTO SLU and the Office of Admission, joked. “I have to burn energy all day.”

Hardwired to Help Others

When not assisting students from around the world, Pearson spends hours volunteering for SLU and for community causes.

She has served as recording secretary for the Urban League Guild, as a board member and in leadership roles for her church. She volunteers with Habitat for Humanity.

Pearson has also turned tragedies into her personal rallying cries. She has lost two grandchildren: her granddaughter, Alyssa, to heart failure at age 3, and her grandson, Robert Smith, juvenile diabetes at age 16. To honor her grandchildren, Pearson has spearheaded fundraisers for juvenile diabetes research in Robert’s memory, and she takes part in other charitable drives to honor Alyssa.

“Just holding on to my faith, that’s what’s kept me going,” she said.

Gaining New Degrees and New Perspectives as a Billiken

Pearson is a 10-year veteran of SLU, working first as an admission assistant before shifting into her current role helping international students, a niche she didn’t expect to find herself in but one that she loves.

“This job is never dull,” Pearson said. Through her admissions work, she spends her days researching international education systems and working with global Billikens to fulfill the legal and academic requirements they need to meet as SLU students.

Denise Pearson as a graduate
Denise Pearson graduated from SLU's School for Professional Studies in 2016 and is now pursuing a graduate degree in the School of Education. Submitted photo

“This job requires thinking eight hours a day,” she explained. “It has been such a blessing. I  know God gave me this job – I believe international admissions are my niche.”

A mother of five, grandmother of 12, and great-grandmother of two, Pearson is also a SLU alumna and current graduate student. After taking her first SLU job a decade ago, she considered taking advantage of the University’s staff tuition benefit. But she was initially hesitant to return to college as a non-traditional student.

“I thought, ‘I’m community college, I’m not SLU,’” Pearson recalled.

But the pull to get her degree won out and Pearson graduated in 2016 from the School for Professional Studies – the same year that her daughter, Denise, earned her degree from Fontbonne University. Pearson is now studying for her master’s degree in student personnel management through the School of Education.

Embracing Leadership at SLU

While at SLU, Pearson has found that lunch invitations can mean more for her than a good meal out with a friend. They’ve become opportunities to embrace leadership roles on and off-campus.

Pearson has taken part in the Women’s Commission’s “Women Leading Women” mentorship program and has found that lunch invitations usually lead her to take on more leadership role at the University.

As a member of the SLU community, she is a member of the Staff Advisory Committee (SAC), has served as a student ambassador for the University’s Atlas Week programs and has interned with the TRIO Programs.

She serves on SLU’s Black Alumni Association Board, and is a regular fixture at campus events, and is easy to spot, both by her hair color and due to her enthusiastic embrace of all things SLU.

“People know I love to eat,” she laughed. “People seem to be drawn to me and that’s led to these opportunities.”


Staff Spotlight is an occasional series dedicated to revealing the stories behind the name badges of SLU's staff members. To suggest a staff member to shine a light on, contact Newslink or call 314-977-2519.