Retired chief executive of Bank of America and a true Haas legend, Rudolph A. Peterson, BS 25, passed away on December 2, 2003, at his home in Piedmont, California. He was 98.
Peterson was a sterling example of the kind of person attracted to the business school and UC Berkeley in the 20s and 30s. As a child he emigrated to the US from Sweden and grew up on a farm in northern California. After graduating from the business school he made his mark on the financial world through his pioneering role in banking and shaped international development policy through the United Nations Development Program.
Over the years, he lent support to the school’s corporate social responsibility efforts long before such programs became the norm. "The spark he provided made possible the rejuvenation of teaching corporate social responsibility at the Haas School," says David Vogel, the George Quist Professor of Business Ethics.
Peterson joined the banking industry when consumer financing was a pioneering idea. During his career he worked at Commercial Credit Corporation, the Transamerica Corp., and the Bank of Hawaii.
Peterson was named CEO and president of BankAmerica Corporation in 1963, when it had $14 billion in assets and only about 20 foreign branches. When he retired at the end of 1969, its assets had nearly doubled and it had added about 80 branches overseas.
Peterson was UC Berkeley’s 1967 Alumnus of the Year and received the Chancellor’s Award in 1991. His 1997 gift endowed the school’s Peterson Program in Business Ethics and provided seed money for the Center for Responsible Business, which the school created two years ago.
"Given his values and his role at the Bank of America," says Vogel," he believed it was important for students to understand the social and ethical responsibilities of being a good corporate citizen."
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