Richard Peters, 1939–2018

February 9th, 2018

Richard Peters, Cornell professor emeritus of education and the man a reporter for The Cornellian once called “a modern-day Aristotle,” died on Feb. 7. He taught education at Cornell from 1988–2004.

Richard PetersPrior to Cornell, he taught secondary history and social studies for 23 years, including 21 at Mount Vernon High School. He was the Iowa High School Teacher of the Year in 1986, a Fulbright scholar to Egypt, and a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Cornell awarded Peters with an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1987, and he was Cornell’s Commencement speaker in 1990 and 2001. Peters was a strong proponent of the liberal arts and was quoted in a 1999 Cornell Report cover story on that topic, saying, “A liberal arts education, with its variety and commitment to connection among the facets of learning, gives us equipment to design this life and understand it, and live it, and repair it.”

The family prepared this obituary:

Richard Earl Peters, 79, of Mount Vernon, died Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. An open house will be held in Smith Dining Room of the Thomas Commons from 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24. Arrangements are with Stewart Baxter Funeral & Memorial Services, Mount Vernon.

He is survived by his wife, Linda; daughters, Marcia (Kathryn) Peters of Lake Elmo, Minn., and Laura (Shawn) Lewis of Ames; sister, Helen Erbes of Greenfield; stepsister, Nancy (Dean) McIlravy of Norwalk; and stepbrother, Steven (Nan) Brown of Minneapolis, Minn.

Richard PetersDick was born to Raymond and Doris (Denton) Peters on Jan. 7, 1939, in Greenfield, Iowa. He and Linda Lane met as children in Orient, Iowa, and were married there on June 3, 1962. Dick served his country in the U.S. Army and as an educator at Mount Vernon High School and Cornell College.

Memorial contributions can be directed to the Mount Vernon Schools Foundation.

2 Responses to “Richard Peters, 1939–2018”

  1. Laura Ruggles Hilliard says:

    Over the years I have often remembered Dick. He was one of professors, one of my academic advisers, and my Student Teaching Supervisor. I also credit him with helping me determine what my Senior Thesis topic was. One morning when I was Student Teaching Dick was in the Mount Vernon High School teacher lounge talking about an article he had read about this revolutionary airline. THe more he talked the more the idea of writing about how Southwest Airlines was a catalyst of airline deregulation took hold. Thank you, Dick! You will be missed.

    Laura (Cornell Class of 1990)

  2. Jennifer Shaffer Greenberg says:

    Professor Peters shaped not only my perspective as an educator, but also my perspective on the world. As students we loved his stories: “Kleenex on the Highway”, “Metal slide and roller skates” and “Horse in classroom”. We would spend class time laughing…and would walk away with valuable lessons about community, caring for others and looking for the teachable moment at all times. I have thought of him often over the past decades, and am so grateful to have known him. He was the best part of my Cornell education.

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