by Meaghan Dodson ’17
Fr. John S. Peterson, O.P. ’57, a beloved member of the Providence College community, passed away on January 11, 2017, at the age of 81. He is remembered for his dedication to the College, his thoughtful and kind manners, and his generous heart.
Fr. Peterson grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and he attended PC from 1953-1955. He was ordained a priest in 1962, and he dedicated over 50 years of his life to serving PC.
During his time, he held positions as a theology professor, assistant bursar/assistant treasurer, College treasurer, and assistant dean of admissions. He also spent time serving as the director of both the work-study program and the pre-ecclesiastical program, as well as the moderator of the Figure Skating Club. He also founded and was the first director of the Office of Student Financial Aid.
Most recently, he spent the past ten years serving as the National chaplain of PC’s National Alumni Association, where he ensured that the Friar family remained an integral part of graduates’ lives even after their four years on campus.
In all of his positions, Fr. Peterson strived to see each student as an individual who has a unique and wonderful story to share with the College.
Fr. Mark Nowel, O.P., dean of undergraduate and graduate studies, has nothing but fond memories of Fr. Peterson. “Fr. Peterson was devoted to the Church, the Dominican life, and Providence College,” he stated. “His compassionate heart was especially sensitive to those who were grieving the loss of loved ones, which was demonstrated most clearly in the consolation he gave the families of the students lost in the Aquinas Hall fire in 1977.”
Dr. Richard Grace ’62, professor emeritus of the history department and PC’s official historian, agreed, stating, “Fr. Peterson was one of the human treasures of the College, for his devotion to PC, for his warm friendship to students, alumni, and colleagues, and for his quiet, humble, and generous spiritual ministry. He had a gentle sense of humor, which ran through his talent as a story-teller. So he was a great repository for stories which illuminate the history of the College.”
Fr. Peterson was the brother of Rev. Thomas R. Peterson, O.P., the College’s ninth president. During his 14 years as president, Rev. Thomas Peterson oversaw the welcoming of women to the College campus, and he provided PC with leadership and comfort in the wake of the Aquinas Hall fire of 1977.
Fr. Peterson’s wake was held on Tuesday, January 17 in the Priory Chapel, and the funeral mass was held the following day in St. Dominic’s Chapel. He was laid to rest in the Dominican Friars’ Cemetary on campus.
To honor Fr. Peterson’s memory, donations to the Fr. John S. Peterson, O.P., Scholarship Fund are being accepted by the Office of Financial Aid. The scholarship was founded in 2005, and it provides financial assistance to incoming students.