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View of a couple on a seaside bluff.

Critical Mind, Hopeful Heart

Unending support for Environmental Studies from Jim Peterson ’80

The late Arvid James “Jim” Peterson ’80 received his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from UC Santa Barbara. His lifelong support of campus as an alumnus grew with the Environmental Studies Program. In honor of the program’s 50th anniversary in 2020, Jim established the A. James Peterson Fund for Advancing Environmental Leadership to help train the next generation of environmental leaders. Jim subsequently named the fund as a beneficiary in his estate plans.

Established in 1970, the Environmental Studies Program is one of the oldest and largest programs in the nation. Its 7,500 alumni hold leadership positions in government, industry, law, civic organizations, and dozens of other fields. Students develop the technical aspects of environmental science and policy alongside the motivational, practical, and leadership capabilities that enable them to be agents of change.

Jim was among the program’s first decade of students. He graduated with bachelor’s degrees in environmental studies and business economics and later obtained a master’s in environmental science and engineering from California State University, Sacramento. For 30 years, he specialized in environmental health and safety for the engineering industry and the State of California.

Jim’s respect for the earth was his most cherished belief, and he always found meaning and fun in life. His generous bequest will continue to protect the Earth and the things he loved. The A. James Peterson Fund for Advancing Environmental Leadership will support three areas within environmental studies: field and laboratory equipment, lecturers, and internships.

Jim Peterson.
Jim Peterson

“This generous gift from Jim Peterson’s estate will significantly expand the Environmental Studies Program’s capacity to offer experiential learning and teaching opportunities for our students,” said David Pellow, Dehlsen Professor of Environmental Studies and department chair. “Mr. Peterson was a big believer in the need to ensure that students have access to hands-on scientific instruction, learning, and training, so his support for the purchase of field research and laboratory equipment will provide high impact resources for our students.”

Laboratory and field experiences help students learn to address the challenges inherent in directly observing and manipulating the material world, including troubleshooting equipment used to make observations, understanding measurement error, and interpreting and aggregating the resulting data. Equally important, they help enhance student interest and motivation. In the program’s lab and field experiences, students learn to test water, monitor soil moisture, use a Geiger counter, and recycle an aluminum can into the compound alum.

“We are thrilled that Mr. Peterson’s gift will also be directed at supporting student internships as well as a lecture series, which will facilitate and deepen our professionalization efforts and initiatives, enabling students to gain skills that will open doors for their futures that would not be available otherwise. This is exactly the kind of support that will serve our students well and help them thrive in the years ahead,” said Pellow.

By creating an irrevocable commitment in his estate plans, Jim was able to add to his fund so that it would be permanently endowed. The subsequent growth in support will be magnified, with all three areas receiving significant funding on an annual basis. This ensures Jim’s legacy of environmental leadership well into the future.

Thanks to his vision, students will pursue environmental advocacy with “a critical mind and a hopeful heart,” the mission of the Environmental Studies Program.