A Legacy of Loyalty

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A lot happens at Gustavus Adolphus College in half a century. Buildings rise and fall, traditions begin and end, faculty and staff come and go, and thousands of students make their home on the Hill. Ranae Peterson has witnessed this rhythm of change through her impressive 55-year connection to Gustavus. Through it all, she has remained a steadfast supporter of the College and its students.

An opportunity to teach French and Spanish in the Modern Languages Department brought Ranae to Gustavus in 1958, but it took meeting her future husband, Robert ‘Bob’ Peterson ’58, a few years later to convince her to put down roots. Like many Gustie couples, their love for each other only strengthened their love for the Gustavus community.

Both had long and storied careers at this institution. Bob started out as an admission counselor and eventually transitioned to the development office. He retired in 1996 as the vice president for development and college relations. Ranae left Gustavus for a brief time to take care of their young sons, but she later returned and found her niche as an assistant to the dean focusing on curricular reform—specifically helping to develop Curriculum II (now known as the Three Crowns Curriculum).

Aside from dedicating their careers to the College, the Petersons have been some of Gustavus’s most loyal donors. Their longstanding philanthropy is something Ranae is humble about. She has always considered it to be natural to give to the institution that has given so much to her family. But the tradition has spanned more than 30 years—meaning she is one of the longest and most consistent living donors in the history of the College.

“Being a part of Gustavus created a good life for us, and we have always liked to do what we can,” Ranae says. Even after Bob’s passing in April 2012, she has continued to support many of the programs that they always cared about: Gustavus Library Associates, Friends of the Arboretum, and the Gustavus Annual Fund.

According to Ranae, the Gustavus Annual Fund is a way for one person to make an impact at the College by leveraging the generosity of many. “By ourselves it’s hard to make a difference, but by giving to something like the Annual Fund we can create change together,” she says.

Prior to Bob’s passing, the couple also realized their dream of leaving a legacy through the Ranae J. and Robert A. Peterson Endowed Scholarship, which supports students who wish to study abroad. For Ranae, it holds special meaning since she spent a full year studying in Dijon, France, as a graduate student. It was a transformational experience for her, and she is enthusiastic about giving that same opportunity to others.

Sometimes, stories of quiet dedication and generosity leave a legacy that outlives even the flashiest gesture. Ranae modestly points out that their gifts have not been as impactful as others. While this may be true, her tradition of giving is representative of the thousands of other Gusties who give what they can to provide the opportunity of a Gustavus education to others. These gifts of $20, $500, and $1,000 have impacted many lives and solidified a rich tradition of preparing students for lives of leadership and service.

This is a story worth celebrating because it’s the story of many. And it’s a tradition that will be sustained into the future thanks to people like Ranae who continue to live by the words of her late husband:

“Let us always be sure that all who love this place, whatever their financial capacity, will always be able to feel at home here, know that Gustavus is theirs, too, and that annual giving of whatever size is an important part of the whole that has built and continues to build this College.”