Monday Moments with President Bergman: November 1, 2021Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman shares her thoughts with College students, faculty, and staff each week.
Posted on November 1st, 2021 by

President Rebecca M. Bergman

Jim Peterson ’64, former Gustavus president and friend to many Gusties, passed away peacefully in the presence of his family last Friday. Jim served as the College’s 15th president from 2003-2008. In 2007, when my son, Matt, was a senior at Gustavus, Jim recruited me to serve on the Gustavus Board of Trustees. I remember him telling me the story of leaving his leadership position at the Science Museum and accepting the presidency at Gustavus. I was struck by Jim’s reflections that coming back to serve his alma mater was a calling. I recall his quiet confidence in a bright future for the College, his unwavering faith, and his deep-seated commitment to our mission and core values. This conversation was the beginning of a relationship with Jim that I will always treasure. Through the years, Jim supported and encouraged me, offered well-timed words of wisdom, and always demonstrated his caring spirit about the people who make up the Gustavus community.

>Many people followed Jim’s struggle with pancreatic cancer on his CaringBridge site since his diagnosis in May 2018. From the beginning of this unexpected challenge in his life, he talked about continuing to live life to the fullest in and around the uncertainties of chemo treatments, tests, and doctor visits. He said, in one of his posts, that his approach was to “Eat right. Walk. Rest. Find time to play. Stay positive. Live in hope.” He called his tumor, “Stupid Cancer,” and viewed his treatments a way to establish and hold onto a “temporary truce” with this unwelcome guest in his body. He was committed to moving forward and “Waging Hope” always counting his blessings and “doing what brings joy, seeking satisfaction in what matters, loving those who surround us.” In his own words, we see a man of faith who loved life and loved his family. He will live on in the hearts of all who knew him.

This morning, I asked several people who worked with Jim at Gustavus to reflect on Jim’s character and legacy:

“Jim Peterson represented everything that is good about Gustavus–he was selfless, had a kind heart, and put the needs of students first.” – Ken Westphal, former Gustavus Vice President for Finance
“Those individuals who were fortunate to have known and worked with Jim knew a genuinely kind, gentle, courteous human being. I admired his sense of loyalty, his humbleness, his integrity, and his strong faith and how that faith affected his belief in always doing the right thing. Jim was so respectful in his many relationships and is a true guiding light for us all.” – Jolene Christensen, Executive Assistant to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees
“I appreciated the way Jim was values driven. I think one of the strongest contributions he made to Gustavus during his presidency was facilitating a values conversation with the Gustavus community that enhanced our understanding and commitment to our core values.” – Grady St. Dennis ’92, Chaplain and Director of Church Relations
“As president, Jim embodied the Gustie spirit. He was what we want our students to become. He led with integrity, vision, and a generous spirit, all rooted in faith.” – Jim Gale ’83, former member and chair of the Gustavus Board of Trustees

Later this afternoon, I will send a note with the official announcement about Jim’s passing. In the meantime, I ask that you take some time to reflect on Jim Peterson’s legacy and the impact he had on generations of students, faculty, and staff at Gustavus.

With gratitude and hope,

President Bergman


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