Donald Peterson joined the University of Wisconsin faculty as a state extension specialist in 1954. During his 36-year career at the university he went on to hold the dual role of State Program Leader for Agriculture/Agribusiness and Associate Dean and Director of Extension, a position he held until his retirement in 1990.
He is recognized for developing interdisciplinary educational programming to deal with the complex problems and issues confronting Wisconsin's agriculture production. Dr. Peterson developed the organizational framework and coordination enabling and facilitating collaborative participation by state extension specialists and field staff in the planning and delivery of extension programs in agriculture at county, district, and state levels. He exerted a tremendous impact on the unification of basic and applied research programs with cooperative extension that strengthened the relationship between researchers, extension personnel, and their clientele. He helped bring about many technological changes in Wisconsin, the North Central Region, and the nation through his leadership on regional and national agricultural and natural resource advisory committees. He fostered the use and application of distance learning (Educational Telephone Network) and computer technology for program development, in-service training, and program delivery.
As a member and Chairman of the North Central Region's Agricultural Program Leaders Committee, he provided leadership in improving agricultural extension programming across the region, facilitating inter-state program coordination and cooperation. He served as chairman of the steering committee of the Wisconsin Consortium for Animal Agriculture Resource Development, a coalition of 22 statewide farm and animal related organizations and four state agencies promoting and encouraging educational programs as well as legislative and regulatory activities to improve the economic wellbeing of Wisconsin's animal industry.
Dr. Peterson's extensive efforts on behalf of adult and continuing education include an active involvement in religious endeavors. He was a member of the Board of Regents for Bethany Lutheran College and Theological Seminary, served as an advisory member of the Board, and was President of the congregation for Grace Lutheran church (Madison, WI).
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