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#146 Pierson Mapes, Class of 1959, Propelled NBC to the Top

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Leaders & Legacy

“When Pier put his mind to something, he was on it. And he was going to bring it in. And he did.” – General Gordon R. Sullivan ’59, Classmate (War Whoop 1959 photo.)

The son of an advertising executive, Pierson “Pier” Mapes grew up in Sterlington, New York, a hamlet 30 miles outside of New York City. While at Norwich, Mapes majored business administration, was in the Corps of Cadets, and joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He assumed many leadership roles across campus, including treasurer of Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity and president of Canterbury Club. In addition, he made the dean’s list two out of four years and took an avid interest in photography, participating in Camera Club and serving as a staff photographer for both the Guidon and War Whoop.

Pier Mapes ’59 and his legendary bugle. He served as president of NBC Television from 1982 to his 1994 retirement. (Photo: Jennifer Langille.)

Following his graduation and commissioning in 1959, Mapes served in the Army for four years, becoming a captain in the Signal Corps. He then embarked on an eminent career in broadcast television that would span more than three decades. In 1963, he took his first position with NBC television, holding a variety of jobs in affiliate relations and sales before moving to a competitor for seven years.

He returned to NBC in 1978, and four years later became president of NBC Affiliates Group, comprising 200 stations nationwide. At the time, NBC’s ratings were well behind network TV competitors CBS and ABC. Within three years, NBC was in the number-one spot, propelled by iconic 1980s series such as Cheers, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and Hill Street Blues. He remained with the network until his retirement in 1994.

Devoted to his alma mater, Mapes served Norwich generously throughout his life, notably, as chair of the highly successful Norwich Forever! campaign and as a significant benefactor of the school’s Communications Department. In 1990, he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award and an honorary doctorate from Norwich. He also served on the Board of Trustees and was a member of the Partridge Society. With his leadership and example, the Class of 1959 shattered class giving records for their 40th and 50th reunions. He passed away in 2015.

More information on Pier Mapes is contained in the Roll of Honor for Pierson “Pier” Mapes written by Jacque E. Day that appeared in the winter 2016 Norwich Record, and a posthumous tribute to him written by Erin Gats ’16 for the College of Liberal Arts newsletter.