The digital publication of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC)

In Memoriam: James L. Peterson

James L. Peterson
James L. Peterson
Photo courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

We are sorry to learn of the passing of former ASTC president Dr. James L. Peterson on October 29, 2021 after living with pancreatic cancer for over three years.

Jim also served as president and CEO of the Science Museum of Minnesota from 1984 to 2003 and led a significant period of the growth for the museum, including overseeing the planning, fundraising, and construction of the new riverfront facility in Saint Paul, which opened in 1999. His tenure also saw record-breaking attendance and membership for the museum, a significant role in producing science education films and traveling science exhibitions, statewide outreach to Minnesota schools, and the development of an extensive and diverse museum-based continuing education program.

Jim served on the ASTC Board of Directors for many years, as president of ASTC from 1993 to 1995, and as chair of the Equity and Diversity Committee, among other ASTC roles. In 2002, he was honored with the ASTC Fellow Award for Outstanding Contribution “for the leadership and guidance that he generously provides, the capacity for turning vision into reality that he modestly demonstrates, and the commitment to equity and diversity that he faithfully champions.” He also helped organize the first Science Centre World Congress in 1996, served on the Accreditation Commission of the American Alliance of Museums, and was a member of National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Education and Human Resources.

Before coming to the Science Museum of Minnesota, Jim served in several roles at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, including Vice President of Research, Vice President of the Division of Systematics and Evolutionary Biology, and Vice President of Development.

He was also president of his alma mater, Gustavus Adolphus College, from 2003 to 2008 and interim president at Northland College. Early in his career, Jim served as a staff ecologist for the National Commission on Water Quality, as a research associate at the University of Wisconsin, and as a high school science teacher in Illinois and Minnesota. Jim earned his PhD in entomology from the University of Nebraska.

A funeral service for Jim will be held on Thursday, November 11, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, followed by a celebration of life and inurnment at Gustavus Adolphus College on November 12.

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