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Robert L. Pearson, Co-Founder
In MemoriamRobert L. Pearson, Pearson Partners International’s esteemed co-founder and chairman emeritus, passed away peacefully on January 18, 2023. For nearly 23 years, Bob led our firm, team, family and global executive search industry with excellence, honor and integrity.
Bob co-founded Pearson Partners International in 2002 with his son Keith Pearson at the height of a storied career in executive search. He contributed his lifelong passion for executive search and his love of his family to our firm. Bob was a role model, and his leadership will have a lasting impact. We miss him tremendously.
Below, we share Bob’s obituary.
Robert Lawrence Pearson
April 19, 1939 – January 18, 2023
Robert Lawrence Pearson passed away peacefully on January 18, 2023, in Dallas, Texas, at 83. Bob was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1939 to Jonas and Caroline (Reilly) Pearson and was raised in Chicago. He earned a bachelor of science degree, magna cum laude, in electrical engineering from Michigan State University. At MSU, national honor societies Tau Beta Pi, Blue Key Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa accepted Bob into their membership. He served on the Inter-Fraternity Council and was elected president of his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. He subsequently earned a master of science degree, magma cum laude, in industrial management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
While Bob was at MIT, NASA awarded him a fellowship. He was a member of the MIT Instrumentation Lab (now Draper Laboratory) that designed the navigation, control and guidance systems for the Apollo Program spacecraft and lunar modules. He was also a member of the a cappella group The MIT Logarhythms. Bob believed his greatest achievement at MIT was meeting the love of his life, Norma Dale, at nearby Brandeis University on a blind date.
Bob’s early career was at RCA Missile and Surface Radar Division and then McKinsey & Company. He co-founded a financial services firm in St. Petersburg, Florida, later merging with Raymond James & Associates. After a stint in Wisconsin running an eponymous manufacturing firm, he moved his family to Fort Worth and then Dallas. (He said he wasn’t a native Texan but got here as fast as he could.) There, he embarked on his career passion: executive search. He was Executive Director of Russell Reynolds Associates and later Chairman and CEO of Lamalie Associates / LAI Worldwide, the world’s third-largest executive search firm at that time. He shepherded LAI through an IPO (the first search firm to go public), followed by a successful secondary public offering and eventual acquisition. After attempting retirement and deciding it wasn’t for him, Bob co-founded Pearson Partners International in 2002 with his son Keith Pearson, and his daughter Jill Pearson joined the firm a few months later.
As CEO and Chairman of the Board until handing the CEO reins to Keith in 2013, Bob led the firm’s team in growing from a small, regional firm into a midsized executive search firm with a global partnership across more than 39 countries. In 2018, he reluctantly retired again and was named Chairman Emeritus of the firm.
Bob served on numerous corporate, civic and philanthropic boards over the course of his career, including Baird Capital Partners, LAI Worldwide (NASDAQ), Pentagon Technologies, Pearson Partners International, Tatum CFO, the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, the 2011 Dallas Mayor Rawlings Inaugural Campaign, the Dallas Museum of Art (including on its Corporate Council fundraising committee), Gilda’s Club of North Texas (as a founding sponsor), Ronald McDonald House of Dallas (as a partner and sponsor), the MIT Club of Dallas and Fort Worth (including as a past President), MIT Enterprise Forum in Dallas, The Family Place, YMCA of Dallas, and the Dallas Museum of Natural History (predecessor to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science), where he was a member of its fundraising Stones and Bones Club and served on the organizing committee that brought the historic Ramses II exhibit to Dallas.
In 2013, Bob was honored with the AESC (Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants) Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant contribution over three decades to the growth and evolution of the executive search profession. In April 2023, the AESC honored him with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2020, Bob was awarded the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis Who’s Who.
Bob was a fervent runner, completing the New York City Marathon five times, and he had a lifelong passion for deep-sea fishing and golf. Bob and Norma enjoyed learning the cultures of many of the world’s countries, traveling extensively across six continents. Their most cherished memories were of Africa. They enjoyed many happy years on the ocean in Islamorada, where Bob loved boating and fishing, and in the mountains of Colorado Springs, where he enjoyed playing golf on the beautiful Broadmoor courses. He loved music and often danced spontaneously with Norma to his favorite songs from Willie, Waylon, Johnny and Jimmy. Bob adored dogs and over the years was loved fiercely by two Boxers, a German Shepherd, two Great Danes, four Schnauzers and a Maltipoo, who all joyfully met him on January 18 at the Rainbow Bridge.
Bob will be remembered most as a loving and cherished husband, son, cousin, father and grandfather. Bob’s beloved wife, Norma (Dale) Pearson, joined him in Heaven just a few short weeks later on the eve of their 60th wedding anniversary. He was preceded in passing by his parents, Jonas and Caroline (Reilly) Pearson. He is survived by his daughter Jill Pearson; son Keith Pearson and his wife Stephanie (Riska) Pearson; grandchildren James Dezell III, Elizabeth (Dezell) Wegener and her husband Alex Wegener, Sophia Pearson, Jonas Pearson II and Olivia Pearson; and cousins in the Stummer family. His children and grandchildren loved spending time with him and were the light of his life.