On the trail of Professor PetersonPublished 9:51am Friday, May 13, 2011
Column: Between the Corn Rows
On April 22 I wrote a column about the late Theodore Bernard Peterson Jr., a university professor and author who was born in Albert Lea and graduated from the local high school. And in this column I emphasized there were several mysteries regarding this obviously outstanding person.
Now, thanks to E. Charles Ash, Susan Peterson Olson of Albert Lea and some further research, we’ve solved the mysteries implied in the April 22 column.
One detail I wondered about is when Ted Peterson graduated from Albert Lea High School. As I previously indicated, the high school yearbooks back in the 1930s were called memory books and were very sparse for information.
After another check, I found out he graduated in 1935. His photo was on one page and his memory was on another page. It said, ”He’s a genius on the snare. A wit that’s always there. Oh yes, we forgot his poetry.”
A snare is a type of drum so we can assume he played in the high school band directed by L.J. “Cap” Emmons.
Another question I had regarding this college professor was based on his 1956 book, “Magazines of the 20th Century,” being in an area library. An email message from E. Charles Ash said a copy of his book was in the Riverland Community College library over in Austin.
However, the most complete source for more details about this outstanding Albert Lea High School graduate came form his local niece, Susan Peterson Olson. What follows is based on her information.
After graduating from Albert Lea High School, Ted attended the University of Minnesota and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism during 1941. He likely had a magazine or newspaper job for a few months. However, this was interrupted by World War II. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in Great Britain during the war years. (The U.S. Air Force became a separate part of the nation’s armed forces in 1947.)
He married Helen M. Clegg on Sept. 13, 1946, They later had two sons and two daughters.
Ted likely used his G.I. Bill benefit to pay his tuition at Kansas State University, Manhattan, where he earned a master’s degree in English during 1948. While at this college he was in charge of the KSU News Bureau, associate editor of Kansas Magazine, and editorial assistant to Milton Eisenhower, president of KSU and brother of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In the fall of 1948 Ted became a member of the faculty of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. I might add here that those two cities in central Illinois are like one metropolitan area with the university somewhat in the middle. Anyway, he earned his Ph.D. in communications and became a full professor during 1955.
As I indicated in my previous column, the Tribune news article on Sept. 22, 1957, was based in part on Ted becoming the university’s first dean of the College of Journalism.
He retired from this position in 1979 and went back to teaching until final retirement from the University of Illinois in 1987.
As indicated earlier, Ted wrote the award winning book, “Magazines of the 20th Century,” which was published in 1956. He also wrote or co-authored several more books about various aspects of journalism, plus numerous articles, during his teaching career.
He received the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Distinguished Research About Journalism, the Kappa Tau Alpha Research Award and the University of Minnesota Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award. And in 1987 he was given the University of Illinois Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, which he regarded as his most cherished honor.
Theodore Bernard Peterson Jr. died Aug. 27, 1997, in Urbana.
Special thanks go to E. Charles Ash and especially to Ted’s niece, Susan Peterson Olson of Albert Lea for the added information that made this column possible.
Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.