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In memoriam: Emeritus Professor John 'Jack' Peterson


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February 13, 2024

John "Jack" Peterson, professor emeritus of architecture, died Dec. 31, 2023, at the age of 94.

Peterson was a leading architect, devoted educator and talented artist. He joined the ASU faculty in 1963 and taught for 35 years. His legacy lives on in the Master of Architecture program, which he helped to establish in 1985.

Photo of Jack "John" Peterson
John "Jack" Peterson

While at ASU, Peterson worked to establish a first-of-its-kind student and faculty exchange program with the University of Stuttgart in Germany, and also recruited new students and faculty globally. This global vision and his innovative approaches to personalized transformational education, combining purpose and an entrepreneurial mindset, continue within the architecture program today.

Excellence did not stop at the boundaries of the university. Peterson's series of award-winning architectural practices, based in Arizona, were all-inclusive, involving both residential and commercial design, and including many high-tech industrial facilities, both in-state and throughout the U.S. He received many accolades and was honored with awards by the American Institute of Architects. His designs for Sperry Space Systems (known today as Honeywell) were cited for a joint commendation for environmental excellence. His passion for serving others included an appointment to the Board of Regents at California Lutheran University.

After a lifetime of exemplary service as an educator and practitioner, Peterson continued the pursuit of creativity through his paintings and sketches. His vocabulary drew upon three sources to express his ideas: verbal, skillful use of fine lines and brilliant colors, and his unique professional ability to think and create spatially. Utilizing these various techniques in his toolbox, he illustrated memorable places and spaces in his travels. The heads of The Design School’s architecture program, Claudio Vekstein and Elena Rocchi, are coordinating with Peterson’s family to organize a retrospective of his work to celebrate his legacy. The exhibition will open at ASU in fall 2024.

Peterson was married to Diane Osby Peterson for 73 years and had three children: Jana, Mark and Karsten. He was a resident of Paradise Valley for 59 years. He graduated with a Master of Architecture with special honors from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, a degree in architecture from the University of Minnesota, and a Bachelor of Arts in art and philosophy from St. Olaf College.

In honor of Peterson, his family has partnered with the Arizona Architecture Foundation and ASU to establish the Jack Peterson Travel Scholarship. This travel scholarship is intended to help a student visit selected sacred places, spiritual spaces and historic houses of worship, experiencing their impactful presence and, ultimately, understanding and sharing how people, communities, spirituality and architecture intertwine and enrich our lives. The first Jack Peterson Travel Prize will be awarded in 2025.

A celebration of life will be held Feb. 24 at 11 a.m. at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Phoenix.

President's Professor Max Underwood contributed to this article.

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