John and Gertrude Petersen Make Gift For New Pitt Olympic Sports Complex

Issue Date: 
October 26, 2009
John M. and Gertrude E. PetersenJohn M. and Gertrude E. Petersen

The University of Pittsburgh has received a generous and substantial gift from alumnus John Petersen and his wife, Gertrude, for the construction of the Panthers’ new Olympic Sports Complex.

The facility, to be named the Petersen Sports Complex, is being built on 12 acres at the peak of Pitt’s upper campus and will provide state-of-the-art homes for the Panthers’ baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams. The Petersen Sports Complex will not only give Pitt student-athletes nationally competitive facilities, but it also will rejuvenate a previously untapped area of land that neighbors the University of Pittsburgh campus.

“The University of Pittsburgh is a world-class institution led by a great chancellor in Mark Nordenberg and his outstanding leadership team that has brought Pitt to the pinnacle of excellence in so many different areas,” John Petersen said. “It is a great pleasure for Gertrude and me to again contribute to the University’s success and future.”

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said, “The extraordinary support that Pitt has received from John and Gertrude Petersen has played a critical role in elevating our University on many important fronts. The Petersen Events Center provided the foundation for the rise to national prominence of our men’s and women’s basketball teams, gave us a spectacular on-campus site for commencement and other important programs, created a new center of student life, and serves as a bridge between the upper and lower portions of our campus.

“The Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering positioned our scientists to earn national recognition for the quality of their research in that increasingly important area,” Nordenberg continued. “Now, their support for our new Petersen Sports Complex will help us turn a longtime dream into a sparkling reality of world-class practice facilities and competition sites for our baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams. Pitt is blessed to have enjoyed the support of such wonderful and wonderfully generous people.”

“The significance of this gift from John and Gertrude Petersen is equaled only by the significance of the project which now bears their names,” Athletics Director Steve Pederson said. “For years we have had a dream to construct a sports complex that would give our baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams the kind of facilities that will allow them to compete for Big East championships on a regular basis. The gift from the Petersens has helped make this dream a reality. Their generosity in previous commitments has impacted our programs in ways few could have imagined, and now they are doing it again. It would be hard to imagine a more worthwhile commitment to fine young men and women. It is our honor to have the Petersen name on this fabulous new Petersen Sports Complex. I join all Panther fans in expressing our appreciation to John and Gertrude for again creating opportunities for our big dreams.”

The Petersens’ generosity helped make a reality the Petersen Events Center, which has dramatically enhanced student life on campus since its completion in 2002. Widely hailed as one of the finest college basketball arenas in the country, the Petersen Events Center has also greatly impacted Pitt students by providing them with outstanding recreation and fitness facilities and a fitting home for the University’s annual commencement.

Additionally, a significant gift from the Petersens in 2006 created an endowment supporting research in nanoscale science and technology at Pitt’s Institute of NanoScience and Engineering, now named the Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering.

The Petersen Sports Complex highlights include:

• A baseball stadium with hitting and pitching practice areas, team dugouts, and a press box. Synthetic grass will allow the Panthers to play and practice throughout the year, while lighting will allow for evening games;

• A softball stadium with a skinned infield, an artificial grass outfield, as well as hitting and pitching practice areas. The stadium will have lighting, team dugouts, and a press box; and

• A soccer stadium that will be a practice and competition venue, complete with a synthetic grass field, lighting, and a press box.

Completion of the facility is expected to be in the spring of 2011.

A 1951 graduate of Pitt with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Petersen is the retired president and chief executive officer of the Erie Insurance Group, located in Erie, Pa. While an undergraduate at Pitt, he lived on campus and lettered as a member of the swimming and diving team. The Petersens have long maintained a strong relationship with the University, supporting scholarships and other activities in the College of Business Administration and the Pitt Department of Athletics.

Petersen served 33 years with Erie Insurance Group, one of the country’s largest property/casualty insurance groups, before his retirement in 1995. He joined the company as an accountant in 1962 and became Erie Insurance’s first investment officer. His investment skills helped the company’s property/casualty assets grow from $20 million in 1962 to more than $4.6 billion at his retirement. Before joining Erie Insurance Group, Petersen served as an accountant with the General Electric Company for 11 years in Fairfield, Conn.