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Alumnus and wife celebrate diversity in the College of Business with new scholarship

Wednesday, February 21 2018 11:00am

Eric Peterson, BBA ’74, and his wife, Sandy, have established a new scholarship to celebrate and encourage diversity in Ohio University’s College of Business, extending their career-long devotion to service

By: Andrea Wurm, BSJ '18

“My grandfather always taught me [that] to be a leader, you have to know how to be a good servant,” Eric Peterson said.

The couple recently created the Eric and Sandy Peterson Excellence Scholarship to assist underrepresented College of Business students who excel academically and could benefit from additional funding.

Peterson studied business management and marketing at OHIO, which served as a platform for him to lead and assist others in his career. He went on to be the vice president of diversity dealer relations for General Motors, opening the door to success for others in the automobile industry.

“We need to bring more diversity to business. We should grow it right here at Ohio University,” Peterson said. “We all stand on each other’s shoulders. We have a responsibility to influence something when we should.”

College of Business Dean Hugh Sherman said the scholarship will help the College and University become a leader in diversity and inclusion.

“Giving students opportunities is the foundation of their success. We see diversity as an integral part of what the College of Business represents,” Sherman said. “This scholarship will further our efforts in creating an environment that represents diversity of all students and diversity of thought.”

Eric Peterson speaks to College of Business students about the importance of service. Photo by: Maddie Hordinski

For the Petersons, the scholarship, which will be first awarded in the fall, is about more than just funding.

“Coming from a small town, I value relationships. Our scholarship is an opportunity for mentorship with the future recipient,” Peterson said. “We want to help from a financial standpoint, to a personal and professional one as well.”

Now retired, Peterson takes time to speak to students about the importance of serving others through leadership and management positions.

In a recent visit to OHIO, he held an executive engagement session with the KeyBank Scholars. In its inaugural year, the KeyBank Scholars program includes a diversity and inclusion scholarship that awards 15 students $8,000 distributed over four years.

This kind of mentorship and providing opportunity is nothing new to Peterson. During his 40-year career at General Motors, he was dedicated to the professional growth of his employees, specifically those in minority groups.

Peterson worked diligently to bring more women and minority dealers into a male-dominated General Motors and was at the forefront of a program that allowed women to discuss the problems they faced in the automobile business.

“We have to develop the right environment, so women and minorities can succeed. We aren’t seeing that in business as much as we should,” he said.

Today, Peterson continues his quest to live a life of service. He is the chairman of the board of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and is a member of NAACP foundation board.

“I want students to make a career decision that aligns with their values,” he said. “The resources you have are not exclusive to you. They are to be shared with the people around you who need you.”

(Photo by Maddie Hordinski.)