In Memoriam: Gene Peterson ('76)


Gene PetersonGene Peterson (LU Physics, ’76) died on November 20, 2015 at his home in Richmond, Virginia just a few months after contracting a particularly aggressive and uncommon form of bone cancer.  Gene had relocated to Richmond from Seattle just two years earlier to become the chief safety and quality officer at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System and associate dean for patient safety and quality care at the VCU School of Medicine.
Gene and I, along with Sue Cook and a few others, were close friends (and sometimes competitors!) in the Department of Physics at Lawrence.  Gene and I were lucky to spend a term at the London Center (then the Lexham Gardens Hotel) under the tutelage of Bruce Brackenridge, who took us on wonderful tours of Newtonian England.   We were amongst the initial members of the Loyal Society of S.I.N. (Sir Isaac Newton, of course; “Up with gravity, down with levity!”).  There was no shortage of levity, however, as we explored the three cities (London, Cambridge, Grantham) each having three sites of historical significance in Newton’s life (one of which, at the time, was occupied by a Turkish bath which we were obliged to try out).  While in London Gene did an analysis of the British five-pound note, which showed an illustration from Newton’s Principia.  Unfortunately, the British Mint had copied the illustration from an incorrect edition.  Gene and Bruce notified the authorities, and I believe that later printings of the banknotes had the correct figure.
After Lawrence Gene attended the University of Leeds in the UK on a Marshall Scholarship.  I think he charmed the selection committee with his stories of raising bees on the family farm in Delafield!  He completed a PhD in physical chemistry from Leeds (1980) and an MD from the University of Chicago (1982).  Gene’s medical career led from anesthesiology gradually into health administration, focusing on care quality metrics and safety.
Gene is one of the LU Physics Department’s major success stories, and it is sad that we have lost him so early.  Gene contributed generously to the Physics program in appreciation for the excellent basis it provided for his further education and career, but also in recognition of the wonderful faculty and staff who, for both of us, became life-long friends.  Those wishing to contribute to LU Physics in Gene’s memory are asked to contact Erin Chudacoff (
for details on the process.

Bob Hanisch, ‘76
February 2016

Graduates of the Lawrence Physics Program

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