In Memoriam: John Peterson

Professor of Computer Science John Peterson, 61, passed away Sunday, March 5 following a climbing accident. Peterson began teaching computer science at Western in 2005.

Peterson was not simply a professor to his many computer science students. He was their mentor, dedicated to helping them succeed in all his classes. It was common for him to stay long after his office hours to assist them with their assignments. Outside of the classroom, Peterson was a friend and even a tour guide to his students, as they were always willing to tag along with their professor on his many adventures.

Greg Haynes, assistant professor of music and longtime friend of Peterson’s, said that he was an incredibly authentic person with a “larger than life personality.” His infectious charisma made it easy for people to put their trust in him, even when out of their comfort zones.

Peterson was an avid climber and often took his friends, family, and students along on his adventures. Prior to meeting Peterson, Haynes was unfamiliar with rock climbing and didn’t think it was something he would do. Soon enough however, he found himself scaling the flatirons in Boulder alongside Peterson. “He could always make an experience happen for you,” Haynes said.  “Everyone has this story about John. Where they never would have tried this thing but John brought them into it and created an experience.”

These shared experiences were not limited to his love of the outdoors. Peterson was also deeply passionate about classical music and played the trombone in the Western Symphony Band. He never hesitated to travel long distances to experience a live symphony performance, usually with a group of people in tow.

His love of music and computer science led him to co-create the music technology minor alongside Haynes. The music technology minor was added to the Western catalog in 2015. With the inclusion of other math and music professors, the pair built a successful program that has continued to gain student’s interest, according to Haynes. “He was able to accomplish such incredible things by bringing the right people together to do them and with an attitude that all things were achievable in some respect,” Haynes said.

Peterson is survived by his wife Marti and sons Eric and Jay.  

Dr. John Peterson, professor of Computer & Information Science, teaches programming at Western’s summer Computer Camp.