A memorial service for Dr. Peterson will be held at the Congregational Church in River Falls on Wednesday, March 30, at 10:30 a.m. A reception beginning at noon will be held at the Fellowship Hall in the church after the service and burial. All are welcome. Memorial gifts may be made to the UW-RF Foundation/Edward N. Peterson Scholarship Fund.
Edward N. Peterson was born on August 27, 1925, in St. Joseph, Missouri, the son of Roscoe D. and Rachel B. White. He was the top male graduate in the class of 1943, St. Joseph Central High School, and attended the Junior College before being drafted into the U.S. Army on March 28, 1944. He served in the Anti-tank Platoon, 1st Battalion, 274 Infantry Regiment, of the 70th Division, being sent to Europe on December 1, 1944. On Christmas Eve he was at the Front, on the Rhine River, part of the 7th and later the 3rd Armies. By the summer of 1945 he was stationed in Hersfeld, part of the border troops to the Soviet Zone. By February 1946, by virtue of his having taught himself German, he was assigned to the 321st Military Intelligence Unit, and remained with that unit until May 1947. While in Hersfeld, Germany, he met and married Ursula Schmidt, who had served in the German Labor Force and the German Air Force, as part of an anti-aircraft unit. She walked most of the way home in June 1945, and they met soon thereafter. Their first son John was born there in 1947.
When Ed returned to the States, after brief service in the Transport
Command of the Army, stationed in Brooklyn, he returned to St. Joseph, and finished by June 1948 the AA Degree. He then transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he majored in European history, with an emphasis on German History, receiving his Ph.D. degree in 1953. After one year of teaching in Richmond, Kentucky, where the second son, Michael, was born, Ed joined the Wisconsin State College at River Falls, which became the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Starting in the Social Science Department in 1954, he taught until March 18, 2005, beginning with courses in the History of Western Civilization, Asian Civilization and Contemporary American Civilization, sociology, economics and political science. His advanced classes concerned 20th Century World History. In 1963, he became Chair of the Social Science Department. When that was divided into five departments, he remained chair of the History Department until 1991. With George Garlid, Terry King, and Clyde Smith, he created a strong and diversified department. Herb Cederberg, Noble Stockton, John Buschen, and Steve Feinstein were hired soon after. For over 50 years he enjoyed teaching a course called Great Ideas, a capstone course for seniors. His most enjoyable course was a Graduate class on World War I, World War II and the Cold War, where the students would prepare research for the seminar's probing and discussion. What impressed his students the most was his enthusiastic rapid lectures, accompanied by his outlining the lecture and filling many blackboards with notes. Students termed him the most cheerful of lecturers. He enjoyed reading papers and grading exams and looked forward to it each evening.
Ed was a vigorous and articulate promoter and defender of the liberal arts. He appeared in various university plays with other stellar faculty actors like Vera Moss, Blanche Davis, and Josie Paterek, and he directed a "Faculty Frolic." He was president and secretary of the Upper Midwest History Conference; Secretary & Treasurer of the Pierce County Historical Association; Chairman of the Faculty Senate; and member of many faculty committees. He received research grants from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung in 1963-64, 1966, and 1985; the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1969-70, and the Social Science Research Council in 1970-71. These enabled three major research periods in Germany, so that his sons, raised bilingual, could attend German schools.
Ed was a prolific scholar, doing research in Germany every year and writing a number of books. He published his doctoral dissertation on Hjalmar Schacht, "For and Against Hitler" (1954); as well as "The Limits of Hitler's Power" (1969); "Retreat to Victory: the U.S. Occupation of Germany" (1978); "The Many Faces of Defeat: the German People's Experience in 1945: An Analytical History of World War II" (1995); "Russian Command, German Resistance" (1998); "The Secret Police and the Revolution: The Fall of the German Democratic Republic" (2001); and "The Limits of Secret Police Power: The Magdeburger Stasi, 1953-1989" (2004). In addition there were many scholarly papers and book reviews. He was most active professionally in the German Studies Association.
Ed supported wife Ursula's writings and publications on the History of River Falls and Pierce County, as well as her Family History Research. Son John became business manager of a union in Madison, Wisconsin. Son Michael is a geographer/cartographer, teaching and publishing at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Son John and wife Elaine Martinson have two daughters, Cecelia "Cece" and Angela; son Michael and wife Kathy Graf have two daughters, Sarah and Amelia. Great grandchildren are Sophie and Austin.
The two great loves of Ed's life were Ursula and teaching, and he remained devoted to both for his entire life. He said on several occasions that he hoped to die while lecturing in South Hall, which he and Ursula had worked so hard to preserve. Ed maintained friendship and correspondence with many History graduates going back to his first years as a teacher in the 1950s and continuing to the present. He gave the commencement address to the UW-RF graduates in December 2004, having won the University Distinguished Professor Award in 2004. This is the highest recognition for outstanding teaching which the university bestows. He was a superb colleague, the truest kind of friend to many, a dedicated scholar, a devoted husband and father, a man who enjoyed life. Admitted to the Hudson hospital on Wednesday March 23 with pneumonia, he died on March 25, 2005, in United Hospitals in St. Paul of heart failure.
A memorial service for Dr. Peterson will be held at the Congregational Church in River Falls on Wednesday, March 30, at 10:30 a.m. A reception beginning at noon will be held at the Fellowship Hall in the church after the service and burial. All are welcome.
Memorial gifts may be made to the UW-RF Foundation/Edward N. Peterson