Meet The Star of The Fourth of July Parade

Longtime HPISD planetarium director will serve as 2022 grand marshal

This year’s Rotary Club of Park Cities Fourth of July parade is shaping up to be out of this world. 

At least this year’s grand marshal, Donna Pierce, knows plenty about planets, stars, and galaxies after “88 orbits around the sun.”

The beloved teacher served as the director of her namesake Highland Park ISD planetarium from 1980 until she retired in 2021. 

“Who could be as lucky as I am? You get K-12, and you do the objectives that the teacher wants, and people want to come to the planetarium,” Pierce said. 

Affectionately known as “the planetarium lady,” Pierce also taught astronomy in the district from 1987 to 2001 and was the girls’ golf coach from 1990 to 2001. Many of her former astronomy students recall west Texas trips to the McDonald Observatory.

“I think I was put at Highland Park because kids would come and sit with me – in the dark, of course – and just talk about (how) they’re stressed out,” she said. “Their families, for the most part, are quite well along in their profession, and they want them to do something that they don’t want to do, and I’m a good example. I majored in architecture, and I teach astronomy, but give me credit, they both start with A’s!”

Former grand marshals Brad Bradley and Marla Boone.

Before joining HPISD, the Pampa, Texas native impacted Dallas as the planetarium educator at the former Dallas Health and Science Museum in Fair Park from 1965 to 1980 (The museum, now known as the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, relocated to downtown).

She’s been a leader in her field, serving as associate editor of The Planetarian from 1989 to 1995 and as an International Planetarium Society council member from 1988 to 1996.

Her accolades have included the Southwestern Association of Planetariums’ H. Rich Calvird Award in 1980 and 1982, the Distinguished Service Award from the Dallas Health and Science Museum in 1968-1972, and selection as a fellow of the International Planetarium Society in 1988.

As the girls golf “coach who didn’t play golf,” Pierce was named Metroplex Golf Coach of the Year in 1999 and National Women’s High School Golf Coach of the Year in 2000.

“How’d I get that job?” Pierce quipped. “What I’m so proud of, and you know the story, every girl stepped up. We built up from five girls to four teams.” 

Pierce also has enjoyed staying down to earth with volunteerism (when not flying open-cockpit planes). She volunteered with the Girl Scouts of North East Texas Council, was a member of the Junior League, and more. In 2018, she received the Southwest Jewish Congress Audrey Kaplan Inspiring Women of the Southwest Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rotarian Cathy Bryce introduced Pierce at the Rotary Club of Park Cities parade grand marshal luncheon in June: “Donna Pierce is a treasure for the Highland Park school district, the Park Cities community, the greater Dallas area, and all the way out to McDonald Observatory in far west Texas.” 

At a glance

The 2022 ‘Together We Serve’-themed Rotary Club of Park Cities’ Fourth of July parade will begin rolling from Highland Park Town Hall to Goar Park at 9 a.m. July 4. Since 2016, the event has benefited the North Texas Food Bank, and this year, Rotarians hope the multi-year total will surpass 1 million meals provided.

Parade safely

Don’t throw candy or other items directly at the crowd; instead, toss underhand and well away from your vehicle. 

Don’t throw candy to spectators standing off the curb and in the road. 

Don’t allow children under the age of 8 to throw candy or other items. 

Don’t allow children to ride in the back of a pickup truck if it is pulling a float. 

Don’t throw water balloons or shoot water guns or silly string.

Don’t throw balls or toys that can bounce back into the parade route. 

Don’t allow anyone to exit a vehicle or float once the parade has started. 

Don’t stop your vehicle during the parade or create a large gap in front of you unless otherwise directed. 

Don’t enter more than one vehicle in the parade. 

Don’t block alleys, streets, or driveways during lineup. 

Don’t leave young children unsupervised on or in parade vehicles during lineup. 

Don’t play speakers loudly during lineup out of respect for nearby residents. 

Don’t transport open flames on your parade vehicle, so no grills, smokers, etc.

Source: Rotary Club of Park Cities

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Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, former deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order.

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