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Chase Peterson Remembered

After Dr. Chase Peterson passed away on Sept. 14, the tributes for the former University of Utah president came pouring in from across the country. After graduating with a Doctor of Medicine from Harvard in 1956, Peterson began his career as a physician in Salt Lake City, where he was also a clinical instructor at the U’s Medical School. In 1967, he was recruited back to Harvard to become the school’s dean of admissions.

It was in that role where Peterson hired the first African-American admissions staff member and instituted an enrollment strategy that embraced students who were less privileged than your typical Ivy League undergrad. These measures were cited by the Supreme Court as exemplary when it ruled in favor of affirmative action in 1978 and again in 2005. And it is what compelled MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell to dedicate a segment of his television show “The Last Word” to pay homage to Peterson.

You can view Lawrence O’Donnell’s tribute below:

Of course, Peterson’s contributions were also felt here at the U, where he laid the foundations to the school’s groundbreaking genetics research, and held open office hours, first as the head of University Health Sciences and then as President of the University.

The current dean of the U’s School of Medicine and University of Utah Health Care CEO, Dr. Vivian Lee, wrote this commemoration, and also tweeted her condolences:

University of Utah President David W. Pershing recalled Peterson’s kindness, loyalty and impact in an email sent to the entire University.

Chase led this institution with optimism and joy, eager to share his vision for the university’s place on a world stage. For him, leaving the office of president in 1991 did not mean leaving this campus. He was lecturing as recently as this summer, a testament to his commitment to students.

Chase Peterson loved the University of Utah. His efforts to enhance the U’s teaching and research mission will be his legacy, evident always in the careers and contributions of thousands of students whose lives were made better by his service.

And on Twitter, there was a wellspring of reminiscences and tributes for Peterson.

In addition to RadioWest’s interview rebroadcast, KUED will also be airing its episode of Utah Conversations with Dr. Peterson on Sept. 28.

RadioWest also posted this video, “The Source of Love,” from its VideoWest series in commemoration.

The public is welcome to attend the following events in remembrance of Dr. Chase Peterson:

Viewing on Friday, September 26, from 4:00 to 8:00pm
Larkin Sunset Lawn location
2350 East 1300 South
Salt Lake City

Funeral service on Saturday, September 27, at 10:00am
LDS Monument Park North Stake
1320 South Wasatch Boulevard (2400 East)
Salt Lake City

Cards may be sent to:
Mrs. Grethe Peterson
910 S. Donner Way, #201
Salt Lake City UT 84108

  • Joe Gallagher

    Thank you, dear Dean Peterson, for your sense of a possible future for students (instead of being resigned to recapitulating the pre-WW II social stratification that alas is returning to our academic landscape as the dream of higher education has become a usury trap to make Dickens blush). On top of your generosity of spirit and no-holds-barred clarity of vision, you were always kind to us when we were lost freshmen kids as opposed to the future leaders of whatever zone you imagined we’d inhabit. (I never did live in that neighborhood of the High Falute after graduation, but I treasure the friends I have because of my time up at Zip 02138, and the time we spent together — and to paraphrase Edith Ann, “that’s the veritas.”)


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