Family, friends, and about 1,000 guests witnessed the presentation of the Gates Volunteer Service Award to Donald E. Petersen at the Third Annual Recognition Gala recently. Regent Daniel J. Evans presented the award, named for the William Gates family and given annually to recognize outstanding volunteers who have advanced the UW through dedication and personal involvement.
Petersen launched his career with a UW degree in mechanical engineering in 1946 and retired in 1990 as chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company. His student days at the UW, Petersen said in accepting the award, “really did get me very well started — though I didn’t know it at the time — toward a life I’ve truly enjoyed. I’m just flabbergasted that I’m being honored tonight.”
Petersen began volunteering at the UW in 1979. Later, as National Chair of the Annual Giving Campaign, he created the President’s Fund for Excellence, a University-wide source of discretionary support, and oversaw the quadrupling of private support to the UW. In 1987, he co-chaired the Campaign for Washington with John Nordstrom and Gerald Grinstein.
Petersen became a founding director and first chair of the UW Foundation when it was established in 1988. He continues supporting the UW Foundation as an active volunteer involved with Campaign UW: Creating Futures, as co-chair of the College of Arts & Sciences campaign efforts, and as a generous donor whose giving has supported faculty, students, various University programs, and the UW campus.
After the 1992 conclusion of the Campaign for Washington, “Petersen could have ‘retired’ from his voluntary service to the UW,” David Hodge, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “Instead, he assumed a leadership role in post-campaign planning so that private support would not diminish.”
Petersen’s continuing service reflects his deep commitment to education. “He is a great believer in lifelong learning,” said his niece, Laura Peterson, vice president for international relations at The Boeing Company.
“[He believes that] education is an opportunity to … shape lives, and he likes that he can help make a difference.”
To learn more about the Gates Volunteer Service Award and past recipients, visit http://www.uwfoundation.org