Pearce Hyatt ’22: Art, Science and Honoring Friendship
Moving across the country for school, taking on creative outlets, losing a dear friend – these are all defining moments that led Pearce Hyatt ’22 on the path to pursuing a double major in biology and studio art at Davidson.
“In high school, I worked as a search-and-rescue volunteer and then worked for a year as an EMT before applying to colleges,” he said. “I came into Davidson with the idea that I would take science classes and pursue medical school.”
While he always loved art, too, it wasn’t on his radar screen in terms of an academic focus until a few significant life moments adjusted his plans.
Biology was Hyatt’s first declared major, and he gives credit to Professor Debbie Thurtle-Schmidt for further inspiring his interest in the field and helping direct his path, which now includes a position with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a virology lab. The two-year fellowship in Washington, DC, finds Hyatt working directly under Dr. Bernard Moss, a seasoned virologist who has won distinguished awards including the Dickson Prize in Medicine, the Invitrogen Eukaryotic Expression Award and the ICN International Prize in Virology.
“He’s old school NIH. I’m excited to work with someone with so much experience,” Hyatt said.
For as much as science is a passion point for Hyatt, art has always been present, too. Freshman year, he decided to take an art class taught by Art Department Assistant Professor Katie St. Clair. He loved the class, and St. Clair encouraged Hyatt not to stop there.
“Katie St. Clair was such an excellent mentor and guide,” he said. “She was the voice that said, ‘you’re good at this, you should pursue this.’ I decided to take an advanced painting class in the spring in part because of Katie and in part because I wanted to continue pursuing areas outside of science.”
By the time 2020 rolled around, Hyatt had enough credits to fulfill the minor requirements for studio art, but following the loss of one of his best friends, Isaac Scharbach ’21, who shared Hyatt’s love of art, he decided to jump in further and double major instead.
“I used art to continue a relationship with someone I couldn’t physically continue a relationship with,” Hyatt explained. “Whenever I sketch in my sketchbook, I feel that connection with Isaac. I find that powerful. So I guess I came into the major kind of backwards, but I love it.”
Studio art isn't Hyatt’s only creative outlet. Since sophomore year, he has been a part of the band RLO. They released their first album in 2020, which featured songs describing their college experience. Their newest album, which releases later this spring, is more of a “concept album,” as Hyatt described.
“I was inspired by Andy Shauf’s concept album about a bar in Toronto,” he said. “Then we got into the idea of creating a concept album. By creating something different and abstract, I find myself being able to talk about the things I want to talk about. It’s a more diverse way of describing my emotions and feelings.”
Though he now spends his days at the NIH, Hyatt will continue his artistic journey, too. He plans to apply for residencies with a few print shops in the area. If selected, he will be able to use their machines for printmaking. Following his two years in DC, he plans to pursue medical school.
Hyatt is grateful for the foundation Davidson has provided as he begins the next chapter. He made the right decision, coming all the way to the other coast to become a Davidson Wildcat. Through academic exploration, friendship and loss, he has discovered new pieces of himself over the last four years.
“I really do think there is something about Davidson—the small-town vibes, the community. I’ve really been able to go in-depth in various areas. It’s all been meaningful,” he said.