A Leadership Duo for the Times


During challenging times, it takes outstanding leadership to help communities and organizations come together and prevail. Friends of Acadia could not have asked for two better leaders than Laura and Vassar Pierce to support Acadia, and rally others to do the same, amidst a worldwide pandemic that changed everything.

In early 2020, when Laura and Vassar agreed to co-chair the 31st Annual Benefit Committee, they had no idea of the circumstances under which they would be planning and executing the largest fundraiser of the year to benefit Acadia National Park. Suddenly, and without notice, they needed to re-imagine a 30-year tradition that not only raised critical funds for conservation projects in Acadia, but also engaged park lovers in building strong connections.

In March of 2020, it became clear that the Friends of Acadia Annual Benefit would need to pivot from a highly social in-person event to a virtual event supporting our beloved park at a time when nothing was certain, and resources mattered more than ever.

Annual Benefit Committee Co-Chairs Laura and Vassar Pierceare all smiles after the 32nd Annual Benefit. (Photo: Lily LaRegina/Friends of Acadia}

With passion, commitment, and creativity—backed by strong expertise in fundraising and event planning—Laura and Vassar rallied to hit it out of the park. And, after a highly successful first virtual benefit in 2020, they agreed to do it again, co-chairing the second virtual benefit in 2021 with similar results. What’s perhaps most impressive is that this dynamic husband and wife duo made it look easy.

There’s no question Laura and Vassar are passionate about Acadia and Mount Desert Island, something they have demonstrated over the years in many ways. As the great-great-grandson of Charles W. Eliot, one of Acadia’s founders and advocates during the establishment of the park, Vassar has a deep-rooted connection to Acadia. In 2006-2008, he spent summers constructing Bates cairns and educating visitors on Leave No Trace principles as a Friends of Acadia Ridge Runner and Special Projects Intern. In addition, his extensive experience with public speaking led him to excel not only at Friends of Acadia, but within his career in philanthropy where he served most recently as the Interim Director of Advancement at Pomfret School.

Laura’s connection to Acadia and Mount Desert Island began when she met Vassar more than 12 years ago. A talented interior designer, Laura launched a seasonal interior design shop called Rusticators in Seal Harbor where they now live. You may recognize her work in prominent projects such as the redesign of the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor. With a background in event planning and development, Laura not only excelled as a benefit co-chair, this year she joined Friends of Acadia’s Board of Directors.

Laura and Vassar Pierce are both “special persons” to the Friends of Acadia family. Their devotion to Friends of Acadia and Acadia National Park is impressive, and as wonderful as they are as individuals, they’re even more powerful as a team. Friends of Acadia is fortunate to benefit from their collective passion, commitment, enthusiasm, and incredible talent.

MARISA MARINELLI is Friends of Acadia’s Senior Development Officer for Major Gifts and Events.