Alexis and Pierce Selwood ’61: Witnessing Monumental Change

April 3rd, 2015 / Gift Planning
Selwood family

Pierce Selwood ’61, holding a photograph of his father, with, from left, his daughter, Allison Selwood Catanzaro ’90; his wife, Alexis Fuerbringer Selwood; and his granddaughter, Alice Catanzaro ’17.

One winter night many years ago Pierce Selwood ’61 was holed up in his assigned carrel in the depths of Firestone Library, surrounded by books and periodicals, engrossed in his senior thesis on Canadian monetary policy. He sensed someone standing outside. 

“Excuse me,” an older man said, “I’m just curious about what you’re doing.” The gentleman peppered Selwood with questions about his paper for half an hour. Finally the stranger said, “Oh, by the way, my name is Stewart, Jimmy Stewart.” 

Selwood will never forget that night, when a legendary member of the Class of 1932 (and University trustee at the time) connected with him across generations based on their mutual love of learning. In a similar—but much more personal—way, Selwood is intrigued by today’s undergraduates, including his granddaughter, Alice Catanzaro ’17. 

He spent some time with Alice and her Princeton friends last spring, and found it “so unbelievably exciting to see their interests and their enthusiasm and how they work with ideas,” said Selwood, a retired commercial litigator who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Alexis Fuerbringer Selwood. Their daughter, Allison Selwood Catanzaro, is a member of the Class of 1990, as is their son-in-law, Peter Catanzaro.

The Selwoods’ admiration for the way the University “puts fire in people’s minds,” and the “monumental and positive” changes they’ve seen at Princeton through the experiences of their daughter and granddaughter, inspired them to establish a charitable remainder unitrust. This gift generates income for Pierce and Alexis now; when the trust ends, the remainder will benefit the University and Smith College, Alexis’s alma mater. It also allowed a sizeable tax deduction the year it was created. “It’s a win-win gift,” Pierce said.

Endorsing Princeton’s Evolution

The Selwoods appreciate the many ways in which the University has changed with the times, from the admittance of women and the no-loan financial aid policy to increased socioeconomic diversity and expanded opportunities for students to gain a global perspective. Alexis, a psychotherapist who helped found California Clubhouse, a day program for people who are mentally ill, is especially pleased that the University is fostering social entrepreneurship.  

The Selwoods also treasure what Princeton has NOT changed: its devotion to the liberal arts, which proved influential in Pierce’s own life. He entered Princeton thinking he would study physics, but an advanced chemistry course his freshman year changed his mind. “I passed. That’s all I can say,” said Selwood, whose father was a postdoctoral fellow and instructor in Princeton’s chemistry department in the 1930s. (He loved to tell his family about the time he spotted Albert Einstein in the front row at one of his lectures.) 

The experience led Pierce to explore other courses and discover his strength: economics. “It was a natural for me,” said Selwood, an only child who reveled in the lifelong friendships he developed in college. “At some point,” he said, “you realize you want to give back to the things that matter most to you.” 

For more information on including Princeton in your estate plans or making another kind of planned gift, contact one of our philanthropic advisors in the Office of Gift Planning at 609.258.6318, or e-mail