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$1.2 million estate gift from longtime Lawrence residents will benefit KU

Thu, 02/14/2013

LAWRENCE — A $1.2 million gift of farmland and cash from the estate of John M. and Frances R.B. Peterson will benefit University of Kansas students and faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Music and the Department of Dance.

A KU alumnus, John Peterson died in September 2009. He earned a bachelor’s in business in 1942 and a master’s in political science in 1947, both from KU. From September 1942 to December 1945, he served in World War II in the U.S. and in North Africa. After earning his master’s degree, John worked for the U.S. Treasury Department and the Department of Defense. Frances died in March 2012. During her career, she worked for the U.S. Treasury Department.

“Both John and Frances were committed to public service throughout their careers, working on behalf of our nation. This generous donation continues their service and will ideally inspire the students it benefits to go out and contribute to our world just as the Petersons did,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

After retiring in 1974, the Petersons moved to rural Lawrence, where they were avid gardeners and beekeepers as well as being active in the community. John was a volunteer archivist and curator at the Watkins Community Museum of History, and he was a member of the Kansas State Historical Society. A writer, he was a frequent contributor to the Kansas History quarterly. He authored a book about one of KU’s early architects: "John G. Haskell, Pioneer Kansas Architect"; he co-authored a scholarly survey of archaeological sites in the Clinton Lake area for the Corps of Engineers. Frances participated in a number of organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, Lawrence Chamber Orchestra, League of Women Voters and Watkins Community Museum of History. In 2007, the couple moved to Texas to live near family.

They recently were posthumously honored with the Douglas County Conservation District’s 2012 soil conservation award for the establishment of a grassland buffer.

“John was a KU graduate, and he always felt a closeness to KU,” said Lawrence attorney John Solbach, executor of the Petersons’ estate. “John and Frances were both very accomplished people, and they were very involved in the community.”

Solbach said the couple also bequeathed $1.2 million to the Nature Conservancy.

The gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s $1.2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.

The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.




One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times