UNK scholarship supports first-generation college students, honors Peterson family’s legacy

UNK scholarship supports first-generation college students, honors Peterson family’s legacy

Kearney native Pete Peterson has established a new scholarship for students who, like him, are the first in their family to ever attend college.

PHOTO: George and Venetia Peterson (center) made Kearney their new home in the early 1900s and raised sons Peter (left) and John. Peter Peterson has created a scholarship at UNK for students who are first in their family to attend college.

George and Venetia Peterson immigrated to Kearney in the early 1900s with nothing but a third-grade education and the desire to work hard so their children would have a better life – and the opportunity for education.

Their son, Kearney native Peter G. Peterson, has honored his family’s tenacity and Nebraska roots by establishing a new scholarship for students at the University of Nebraska Kearney who, like him, are the first in their family to ever attend college.

“I was lucky enough to live the American dream, and my story began in Kearney,” Peterson said. “This scholarship will help make it possible for more first-generation students to realize their own American dream by accessing the world-class education offered by the University of Nebraska at Kearney.”

The Peter G. Peterson Scholarship Fund was created as a permanently endowed scholarship with a $50,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation. Annual net income from the fund will be awarded by the UNK office of financial aid as scholarships to first-generation students from Nebraska who are studying any major and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.

“Throughout its history, UNK has been a welcoming school where many first-generation college students completed an education that was both affordable and of the highest quality,” said Charles Bicak, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at UNK. “This remains true today, and because of Pete’s generosity, many more generations of students who otherwise would not be able to afford college will have an opportunity to realize their dreams at UNK.”

Having grown up in Kearney, Pete Peterson graduated from Kearney High School in 1942 and then graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University in 1947 before earning an MBA at the University of Chicago.

Peterson’s distinguished career includes contributions and accomplishments in public service, business and philanthropy. He has served in government roles including as U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the early 1970s and as chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2000 – 2004. His highly successful business career includes serving as chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers and founding The Blackstone Group in 1985.

In 2008, Peterson founded the Peter G. Peterson Foundation as a non-partisan organization dedicated to addressing America’s long-term fiscal challenges. In addition to his current work with the foundation, he is chairman emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, founding chairman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., and founding president of the Concord Coalition.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney conferred on Peterson an honorary doctorate degree in 2006.

Peterson has five children and nine grandchildren. He lives in New York City with his wife, Joan Ganz Cooney, a director and co-founder of the Children’s Television Workshop.

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