Robert A. Peterson was born a raised in “Swede Town” in Moscow, Idaho, a neighborhood that also sported family names such as Nelson, Gustafson, Erickson, Anderson, Oberg and others of unmistakably Scandinavian origin. All of Bob’s great grandparents were born in Sweden as well as one grandfather. His local church growing up was of the Augustana Lutheran Synod.
After completing high school, Bob got his BA in mathematics at the University of Idaho and his MBA at Portland State.Although born well inland, Bob became a member of the Navy ROTC and a commissioned officer in the US Navy. Bob once confessed that he actually at one time wanted a career as the captain of a nuclear submarine and he attended the US Navy Nuclear Power School and served as an Electronic Warfare Officer on the USS Joseph Strauss.
But, instead of circling the world’s oceans under water, Bob turned his agile mind to more peaceful pursuits in finance. First at United States National Bank of Oregon, at Portland State, and later as Vice President for Administration and Finance at what is now the Oregon Health & Sciences University. He then became Vice President for Administrative Services and Treasurer at the University of Arizona from 1978 to 1985.
Bob went on to hold – for seventeen years – several major positions at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital in Philadelphia, including Vice President for Development and Senior VP for Administration & Finance. He also served both as a Trustee and as Chairman of the Board and President of Walnut Assurance Co, a subsidiary of Thomas Jefferson University. While in Philadelphia, Bob became a Fellow of the College of Physicians, a rare distinction for a non-medical person, and served on a number of civic organizations in Philadelphia.
He has served on the Board of Directors of Girl Scout Councils both in Tucson and in Philadelphia.
Bob has served on the National Board of Directors of “Operation Smile International”. This venture was founded by William and Kathleen Magee who were recipients of the Spirit of Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award from the American Swedish Historical Museum in 1998. With his wife Vicki, Bob served on Operation Smile medical missions in Nairobi, Kenya, for several years. Bob was the Logistics Coordinator.
Bob has been, and is, a member of a number of Swedish American organizations: Among them, the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, the Swedish Colonial Society in Philadelphia, and the American Scandinavian Foundation in New York. Bob has been a member of the Board of Governors and has held several different offices in the American Swedish Historical Foundation and Museum in Philadelphia, including serving as Treasurer and as Chairman of the Board of Governors 1987 to 1990.
Bob served as chairman of the Alfred Nobel Symposium Committee. The symposium was co-sponsored by the Museum and Thomas Jefferson University in 1992. He served as co-chair of the Museum’s “Royal Artists of Sweden”, with a visit by King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia in 1994.
Bob’s involvement with the Swedish Council of America goes back to the 1980s. He has served as:
Member of the Board of Directors for two major periods.
Vice President of the Board.
Treasurer and Chairman of the Finance Committee.
Chairman of the Grants Committee.
Chairman of the Futures Committee.
Chairman of the Philadelphia Host Committee for the Council meeting in 1993.
Chairman of the 2013 Arizona Host Committee.
Member of the Royal Round Table.
Member of the board of the Swedish Council of America Foundation.
Bob’s many contributions to Swedish American cultural activities and to relations with Sweden have been recognized by his receiving the Gold Medal of the Order of the Polar Star in 1988, and by his becoming an Officer First Class of the Order of the Polar Star in 2004.