Graduate starts scholarship at Livingstone

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 19, 2011

By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone College News Service
A community leader, college professor and former Fulbright Scholar whose parents taught her the importance of giving back to others has established a scholarship at Livingstone College that could have a far-reaching impact for students.
Dr. Frances C. Peterson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Livingstone College in 1961, has established the Frances C. Peterson Scholarship Awards, which will provide assistance to students with excellent academic records who have a demonstrated financial need and show leadership potential.
Four new Peterson Scholars, young men and women, will be selected annually over a five-year period through 2016. Sophomores, juniors and seniors having a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average are eligible for the prestigious scholarships.
The money will cover tuition, room and board, institutional fees, books, supplies, personal computers and opportunities for cultural leadership development.
Peterson, who is from Council, N.C., and one of 11 children, stressed the money provided by the scholarships is not the most significant component of the awards.
“I want the students to know they’ll always have somebody they can call on,” she said. “It’s not just about the money, but it’s also about my willingness to stand beside them as they proceed throughout their careers.”
On May 7 the inaugural Peterson Scholars got a chance to meet and personally thank their benefactor at an afternoon tea held for them in the President’s Conference Room in The Hood Building.
The Peterson Scholars are: Quintin Redfern of Cheektowaga, N.Y., a business administration major with a perfect 4.0 GPA; Mamodu Taylor of Clinton, Md., a history major with a 3.8 GPA; Omar Ford-Bey of Chester, Pa., an accounting major who also has a 3.8 GPA; and Dorian Edwards of Kinston, a business administration major with a 3.6 GPA.
“The tea was a very warm and happy occasion,” said Peterson, who has received countless honors, awards and appointments throughout her career and traveled the world extensively.
Peterson firmly believes in the adage “To whom much is given much is required.” It was instilled in her and her 10 siblings at an early age by their parents, Pearlie and Mary Brown Peterson.
“My mother was a teacher and my father was a businessman, an entrepreneur,” Peterson said. “We got the education piece from my mother, and we got the business piece and the service piece and the giving back from my father. We were always taught that you had to share what you had, and that’s what I’m doing.”
The Peterson children apparently took heed to their parents’ sage advice. The clan consists of eight boys and three girls, all of whom are successful. For example, the youngest boy worked for the United Nations for many years as an ambassador to the Kenyan government. The oldest girl was awarded a Long Leaf Pine by former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley.
Peterson’s own extensive career has taken her around the globe, including to England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, East Africa, West Africa and South Africa. She won a Fulbright Scholarship for geo-cultural studies in Hong Kong and China; has participated in two summer National Institutes at the University of Hawaii and the East West Center on Asian Studies; and has spent time in the Republic of Turkey through an initiative with the Turkish Cultural Center of New York.
Peterson earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963 and a doctorate in social welfare policy, planning and administration from The City University of New York in 1978.
In the 1970s, she helped establish social work education at the undergraduate level at York College of the City University of New York. Today the Council on Social Work Education rates York College’s social work program as “one of the largest accredited and most ethnically diverse programs in the nation.”
During her 36-year tenure at York College, she has served as director of the social work program and chaired the department of social sciences.
Despite her accomplishments — Peterson has rubbed elbows with New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, other politicians, dignitaries and entertainers — she is very humble, warm and approachable.
“She’s a very nice lady,” said Peterson Scholar Ford-Bey. “She gave us a folder containing information about herself, and I was very impressed. She’s on this board, that board and is very well connected, yet she’s very down to earth and she’s really willing to help us. She actually told us we could call her. I’m a Peterson Scholar now, but this is something that’s going to be a lifelong scholarship in terms of its impact.”
Dr. Herman J. Felton Jr., vice president of institutional advancement, said Peterson has “devoted a significant amount of time during her illustrious career on addressing the plight of African-American males.”
Likewise, he said she has donated funds to help support the Holistic College at Livingstone, the brainchild of President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. The holistic learning approach teaches students what they need to know inside and outside the classroom to be successful. For example, they’re taught about fiscal responsibility, civic engagement and health and wellness, among other topics.
Jenkins praised Peterson during commencement exercises, when she and other members of the class of 1961 — the Golden Graduates — were awarded certificates.
“It’s really hard to adequately describe what Dr. Peterson means to Livingstone College and the impact her charitable contributions are having and will continue to have here,” Jenkins said in an interview.
“For years Dr. Peterson has graciously supported our efforts, but now with the Peterson Scholars award she will have an immeasurable impact on the lives of many of our students. I often say love is not verbal. Dr. Peterson demonstrates that every time she makes a commitment to Livingstone College. The four young men who are the inaugural Peterson Scholars have been blessed to connect with a great humanitarian who truly loves her alma mater, and Livingstone College is certainly blessed to have her as part of our family.”
Peterson said helping young men and women to graduate and assume their rightful place in today’s global society is a calling from God.
“I was very impressed to see the range of interests and life goals expressed by the young people I met at the tea, as well as their enthusiasm about their academic pursuits and extracurricular activities,” Peterson said. “My meeting with this group of Peterson Scholars was indeed very encouraging. It served to reinforce my sense of the value I have placed over the years on my commitment to mentoring and helping the younger generation to achieve their potential and realize their goals.”