Willamette College of Law Receives Record Donation

Ken and Claudia PetersonThe Peterson Family Foundation, established by Ken and Claudia Peterson, has donated a $2 million endowed gift to the Willamette University College of Law to establish The Willamette Center for Law and Government. It is the largest single gift from an alumnus in the 119-year history of the law school.

"I have expressed to Ken and Claudia our deepest gratitude for believing in our vision for a center of excellence and for investing in its future," said College of Law Dean Symeon Symeonides. "They personify the Willamette motto `not unto ourselves alone are we born.' I am also full of admiration for Ken's meteoric success as a Willamette alumnus, a success that is based solely on hard, honest work and perseverance. His investment in his alma mater reinforces his role as a model for future generations of Willamette students."

Peterson, raised in Hermiston, Oregon, and now a resident of Camas, WA., graduated from the College of Law in 1980. His wife was born and raised in Salem. Ken is CEO of Columbia Ventures Corporation, a private entrepreneurial investment company located in Vancouver, WA., with domestic and international operations primarily in the aluminum and telecommunication industries.

Peterson said, "Given Willamette's proximity to the state capitol and the historic relationship with state government, I thought something with an emphasis on that relationship was particularly relevant. I believe the Center will provide an additional avenue for students to learn about our unique American system of limited government and what makes it so precious in the struggle to maintain liberty in a world that has so often been hostile to freedom."

Symeonides said the center will administer a specialization program in law and government to train students to work effectively in and with government at the national, state, and local levels and provide an impartial forum for the study, discussion and improvement of public policy and the role of government.

The dean added, "The center will also sponsor scholarly research and publications, conferences, distinguished visitors, and a national essay competition on the 10th Amendment which stresses that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." The 10th Amendment is of particular interest to Ken Peterson.

"My honors thesis for my bachelor's degree was about liberty and its importance, so you can see it is a topic I have been interested in for a long time," Peterson said. "I have both participated in and observed government and how the law interacts. I have come to an even greater appreciation for the special genius of the American Constitution and the system of government it set up. I have become more and more concerned about whether and to what extent this system remains as vigilant on behalf of liberty as it once was. The bottom line is that I want to do what I can to help make sure our special American system of government remains vibrant and is one of those things that will be passed along to my children and their children for generations to come."

The Center for Law and Government is one of three new centers of excellence at Willamette. As funding permits, it will be complemented by the Center for Law and Business and the Center for International and Comparative Legal Studies. These three new programs will be modeled after the existing program in Dispute Resolution, which is ranked among the top five such programs in the country.

"Ken Peterson is an astute and successful entrepreneur," said Willamette University President Lee Pelton. "The reputation of our College of Law is clearly enhanced when a man with Ken's level of business acumen commits to this level of investment in Willamette. We are all touched by his and by Claudia's generosity."