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Peterson Family Foundation donates $10 million to GMU

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George Mason University has received a $10 million gift from the Peterson Family Foundation to be used for scholarships in the arts and to complete the construction of a health-sciences building.

The gift was announced Monday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the health-sciences building that will be named in honor of the Peterson family.

The 160,000-square-foot building will be the new home for the College of Health and Human Services, which is currently spread across seven locations. The facility will include a health clinic that will be open to the public, a kitchen where students can practice nutrition science and labs for nursing, health-care data and rehabilitation studies. It is expected to open in 2017.

“The Peterson family’s gift is truly transformational. It creates tremendous academic opportunities for our students and faculty and will enrich our community through the work we will do in health care and the arts,” George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera said in a statement.  “I am so grateful for their vision, their friendship, and the example they continue to set. The Petersons’ endorsement shows that investing in Mason is one of the most effective ways to help our community thrive.”

The Petersons have been longtime donors to Mason. In the past, they have given $2.5 million for academic programs, the arts and athletics.

The latest gift includes $8 million for the College of Health and Human Services that will complement more than $65 million in funding approved by the state of Virginia for the health-sciences building.

The other $2 million will go to the College of Visual and Performing Arts to set up scholarships: $1 million to create the Peterson Family Scholarship Endowment in the Vocal Arts and $1 million to establish the Peterson Excellence Fund. The college plans to honor the family’s generosity with a named space in their facilities.

“Our family believes strongly in giving back to the communities we serve, and we view this gift as another strategic investment in Mason and in our region,” said Jon Peterson, principal at Peterson Companies and a current member of Mason’s Board of Visitors.

The health-sciences facility is part of the university’s ongoing plan to make Mason the premiere research university in the Washington, D.C., region, Cabrera said. Two months ago, Mason opened the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research, which draws upon talent from across the university, and renamed the campus in Prince William County to the Science and Technology Campus to better reflect the focus of the work being done there.

As the backbone of Mason’s health sciences, the College of Health and Human Services notably educates nurses, but also economists, global and public health specialists, social workers, and those involved in health-care policy, rehabilitation, and nutrition sciences, among other key areas.

Milt Peterson, the founder of Peterson Companies, is well known in the region for several high-profile real estate ventures, including Fairfax Corner, the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring, and National Harbor.

His wife, Carolyn Peterson, an avid arts patron, has served on several committees and boards at the university, including the Mason Foundation Board of Trustees. Their son is Jon Peterson.

George Mason is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., it enrolls nearly 34,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states.

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