Remembering the Life and Legacy of Dr. Melvin M. “Mel” Peterson: A Cherished Friend to UE, Evansville Community


EVANSVILLE, IND. (04/04/2024) Dr. Melvin M. “Mel” Peterson H’91, H’14, a remarkable individual who left a lasting mark on the University of Evansville (UE) community, has passed away at age 101. Dr. Peterson was a dear friend and benefactor, whose generosity and service extended to UE’s cherished Harlaxton campus in Grantham, England. Through his unwavering commitment, he transformed lives, uplifted spirits, and empowered everyone at UE.

Dr. Peterson’s journey with UE began during a transformative visit to Harlaxton in 1975. This experience deeply impacted him, leading to his continuous return to Harlaxton Manor over the years. During these visits, he formed connections with the UE community and made a pledge to ensure the welfare of the institution for generations to come.

Dr. Peterson’s profound commitment led to transformative philanthropy that has shaped UE in extraordinary ways. His generous gifts, including one endowed chair, an art gallery, interactive learning areas, renovations, and support for the arts, have greatly advanced UE’s mission. Dr. Peterson went beyond financial contributions, actively embodying service, and care for UE. He served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 1999 and held influential roles as President on various boards. In 1991, he received the Samuel Orr Honorary Alumnus Award, and in 2014, he was granted an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

With a deep involvement in the community, Dr. Peterson served as an honorary board member for the EVSC Foundation, as well as holding positions on the board of Habitat Evansville and the Evansville Museum. With a passion for education and the arts, Mel dedicated two decades as a docent at the Evansville Museum. Additionally, Mel was honored to be a part of the Honorary Cabinet of the Koch Family Children’s Museum. In recognition of his contributions to the arts, Mel was awarded the Mayor’s Art Award in 2012.

“In the wake of Dr. Melvin M. Peterson’s passing, we gather with heavy hearts to honor a titan of generosity and compassion. His profound commitment to the University of Evansville, exemplified by his transformative philanthropy and unwavering dedication, leaves an enduring legacy that transcends generations,” said UE President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz. “Dr. Peterson’s imprint on UE and Harlaxton Manor is not merely financial; it’s woven into the very fabric of our community, inspiring all who follow in his footsteps. As we bid farewell to a dear friend and benefactor, we cherish his memory and pledge to uphold the spirit of service and excellence that defined his remarkable life.”

Before his notable contributions to UE, Dr. Peterson served in the U.S. Navy for four years and pursued higher education, earning degrees in Business Administration, English Literature, and History. He concluded his professional career as a Financial Advisor for Chevron Oil Corporation before retiring.

Funeral arrangements are currently pending and will be provided later.