During a 38-year career with 3M, the company that developed Scotch Tape and the Post-it Note, Dwight Peterson learned the importance of innovation and creative thinking.
Peterson, a 1955 Lawrence University graduate, is a firm believer that a liberal arts education can be a hotbed of innovation because of the way liberally educated students think about ideas and problems from the perspectives of multiple disciplines and look at old problems in new ways.
To fuel innovative thinking at Lawrence, Peterson and his wife, Marjorie, have established an endowed professorship in innovation with a $1.5 million gift.
Adam Galambos, associate professor of economics, has been named the first holder of the Dwight and Marjorie Peterson Professorship in Innovation.
Appointments to endowed professorships are made in recognition of academic and artistic distinction through teaching excellence and/or scholarly achievement. Galambos was one of three faculty leaders who launched Lawrence’s program in innovation and entrepreneurship in 2008.
Dwight Peterson, a former member of the Lawrence Board of Trustees (2005-2013), spent his entire professional career at 3M, where he says innovation is ingrained in the company’s culture.
“The long term history of 3M is based on continuous development of new products,” said Peterson, citing Wet-Or-Dry sandpaper, masking tape, Scotch Tape, magnetic recording tape and reflective sign sheeting as examples of the many products the company has created. “I learned about Lawrence’s program in innovation and entrepreneurship a few years ago and found it stimulating.
“We’ve been thinking about being able to help the school in a major way and decided that innovation really fit my interest most closely,” Peterson added. “The idea of looking at things from new and different perspectives, of doing collaborative interdisciplinary work, of having a culture where there is the possibility to fail — and it is acceptable — and then start over and rework it, that all fits very well with a Lawrence education.”
David Burrows, provost and dean of the faculty, said the college was “very excited and grateful” for the Peterson’s gift establishing the professorship in innovation.
“The ability to create what is new is one of the primary goals of a liberal education,” said Burrows. “As the world changes more and more rapidly, this ability looms larger in its importance. Professor Galambos has established a brilliant record as a person who engages in the creation of new ideas and new approaches. He is an ideal person to hold this professorship.”
“The idea of looking at things from new and different perspectives, of doing collaborative interdisciplinary work, of having a culture where there is the possibility to fail — and it is acceptable — and then start over and rework it, that all fits very well with a Lawrence education.”
— Dwight Peterson ’55
While thrilled to be named the professorships inaugural holder, Galambos said its establishment is the result of the collaborative efforts of many.
“Dwight and Marjorie’s generosity is wonderful recognition of the work we have done over the past few years, starting with Marty Finkler in economics, who introduced the idea of entrepreneurship to the Lawrence community more than 10 years ago, and John Brandenberger in physics, who first proposed that we teach innovation,” said Galambos, who joined the Lawrence faculty in 2006.
“In addition to Marty and John, the variety of courses and co-curricular programming we now have in I&E is a result of the enthusiasm and commitment of a number of other colleagues as well, including Gary Vaughan in I&E, Dena Skran in government, Tim Troy in theatre arts, Brian Pertl in the conservatory, and art department members Rob Neilson, Ben Rinehart, John Shimon and Julie Lindemann. The Petersons’ gift is a great affirmation of all of their efforts and encouragement to continue to bring I&E to Lawrence students in new ways.”
A number of student-created and directed ventures have grown out of the I&E program — the Rabbit Gallery, a pop-up art gallery in downtown Appleton, Greyfell Theatre, a company devoted to producing student-written plays, the Paper Fox, a printmaking workshop with a community programming component and the Lawrence Baroque Ensemble, a student performance group that focuses on community outreach activities — and other projects continue to be created by students who have taken I&E courses.
This spring, students Joe Bazydlo and Eddie Elizondo were among 20 finalists from among more than 250 teams from around the country to deliver a presentation in Princeton University’s Entrepreneurship Club’s annual national competition. They pitched a smart phone app — Trailblazer — to be used by hikers and other trail users to unlock preloaded information about specific locations in U.S. national parks was was developed in Lawrence’s “In Pursuit of Innovation” course.
About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.