New Endowed Professorship in the Life Sciences and Bioengineering Established at WPI

Gift from Donald K. Peterson '71 Provides Scientific Leadership at WPI’s Center for Life Sciences and Bioengineering at Gateway Park
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July 16, 2008

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WORCESTER, Mass. - July 16, 2008 -- Donald K. Peterson, an alumnus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and chair of the University's Board of Trustees, and his wife Maureen Peterson have established the Peterson Family Professorship in the Life Sciences and Bioengineering at the university. Their gift recognizes WPI's leadership in bioengineering and the life sciences, and supports WPI's founding principle that science and technology should contribute to the betterment of society.

This new professorship, established through the Peterson Family Foundation, helps advance this ideal by providing vital leadership to the scholars and researchers at WPI's Center for Life Sciences and Bioengineering at Gateway Park in Worcester, Mass. These scientists are superbly positioned to contribute new knowledge and solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. WPI's Peterson Family Professor will be critical to the development and integration of this vibrant community of scientists and engineers, while also fostering the relationships with industry that will bring important research to the marketplace. The Peterson Family Professor will help lead researchers at Gateway Park as they develop innovations that will improve the quality of life for countless individuals. As an educator, a researcher working in the state-of-the-art facilities at Gateway Park, and a scientific leader, the Peterson Family Professor promises to have an impact far beyond the WPI campus.

"This act of extreme generosity demonstrates Don and Maureen Peterson's deep commitment both to advancing the impact of technology on medicine and health, and to supporting the unique and powerful style of teaching and learning at WPI," said WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey.

The establishment of the Peterson Family Professorship comes shortly after Gov. Deval Patrick signed a $1 billion Massachusetts life sciences bill into law. The landmark legislation is a 10-year measure that includes $500 million in capital funding, $250 million for research grants and $250 million in tax incentives for certified life sciences projects in Massachusetts. President Berkey was a guest at the ceremonial signing of the life sciences bill on June 16, 2008.

"WPI deserves much credit for the economic development unfolding in Massachusetts in the life sciences and bioengineering industries and for its ongoing commitment to the purposeful use of science and technology to solve pressing problems," said Peterson. "WPI faculty and graduate students are pursuing research at the university's Center for Life Sciences and Bioengineering that will lead to life-changing advances in health care. We are proud to support WPI and its faculty and students as they pursue these critical endeavors."

An industry leader and chairman of the WPI Board of Trustees, Peterson graduated from the university in 1971. After three years at State Mutual Life Assurance Company in Worcester, he went on to a career in telecommunications, beginning at Nortel Networks where he advanced through several key financial, sales and general management positions in the United States and Canada. Peterson served as CFO of Northern Telecom Ltd., the predecessor to Nortel Networks. Later, he served as CFO of AT&T's Communications Services Group, and then CFO of Lucent Technologies, Inc. Peterson most recently served as chairman and CEO of Avaya Inc., a global leader in business communications applications, systems and services, a company he launched after it separated from Lucent. Under his leadership, Avaya achieved financial stability, invested in key growth areas, developed new products, and redefined its global brand. In 2001, he was recognized as "CEO of the Year" by Frost & Sullivan, a strategic marketing consulting and training firm.

A Worcester native, Peterson earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering at WPI and an M.B.A. from the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He is a member of the Board of Overseers of the Amos Tuck School of Business, a trustee of Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), co-chair of the Committee for Economic Development (CED), and a board member of the Sanford C. Bernstein Fund. Peterson and his wife Maureen, a registered nurse, live in New Jersey. They have two grown children.