Tom was raised and educated in the public schools of Norman, Oklahoma. Among his favorite childhood memories are the evenings he and his family spotted orbiting reflections in the night sky; first of Sputnik, and then of Echo. Perhaps this early experience led to his career with the SETI Institute. Tom pursued undergraduate studies in aerospace engineering at the University of Oklahoma and received a BBA from O.U. in the early 70's. Over the next dozen years, he moved up the ranks of university research administration, eventually moving to the west coast, earning an MBA along the way, and meeting several SETI scientists.
In 1984, Tom Pierson developed the concept of a non-profit research organization that could serve as an institutional home for scientists and engineers interested in devoting their careers to the study of life in the universe. In November of that year, he incorporated the SETI Institute as a 501(c)(3) non profit research organization, and February 1985 saw the Institute receiving its first grant. Pierson has served as the administrative director for the SETI Institute since its inception, and also serves on the Institute’s Board of Trustees.
The SETI Institute, well known for its stellar team of scientific principal investigators and distinguished Board of Trustees, has become widely recognized as one of the leading organizations in the world focused on the study of life beyond earth. The Institute pursues three core missions – astrobiology research, the development and use of signal-processing technology to search for signals from advanced technological civilizations in our galaxy, and the development of formal and informal science education materials and programs that utilize life in the universe research as an enticing tool to educate students and the general public.
Pierson is a Member of the International Academy of Astronautics and has received numerous recognitions, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Public Service Medal. Pierson has served on several non-profit Boards. He is a lifelong golfer, an avid cyclist, and enjoys racquetball. Tom is married and has three children.