April 14, 2017

SES Doctoral Student Honored as Exemplary American

Photo of Joel Peterson aboard the USS Oldendorf
SES PhD student Joel Peterson received a Daughters of the American Revolution award in recognition of service and patriotism. Peterson, who served as a Navy officer, is shown here (at right) aboard the USS Oldendorf off the coast of the then-USSR in 1990. (Photo courtesy of Joel Peterson)

School of Educational Studies doctoral student Joel Peterson was honored by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) for his outstanding contributions to the nation.

Peterson, a former La Cañada Unified School District board member and military veteran, received the Americanism Medal, the highest honor the national DAR organization bestows on a naturalized United States citizen.

“I’m surprised and humbled to be awarded this prestigious recognition and am grateful to the DAR for highlighting the patriotism, service, and leadership by Americans of all walks of life and origins,” Peterson said.

Peterson grew up as an impoverished child in South Korea who was adopted at age six by a Swedish-American family in Minnesota and rose to become a top global executive at AT&T. His 2015 novel, Dreams of My Mothers—based on his childhood experiences—has won several national awards, including a Foreword Reviews’ Indies Book of the Year Award for religious and adult fiction and a Readers’ Favorite Book Award (Gold Award) for cultural fiction.

DAR officials cited Peterson’s military service and leadership achievements in their award selection. He served seven years of active duty as a Navy officer, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander, and was awarded a Joint Service Commendation Medal, a Navy Commendation Medal, and an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, among other distinctions. Peterson served on the boards of several organizations, including the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation, and Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business graduate management department.

“Mr. Peterson has shown outstanding qualities of leadership, trustworthiness, service, and patriotism and has displayed outstanding ability in community affairs,” DAR California State Regent Beverly Moncrieff said. “He demonstrates the finest example of an exemplary American.”

Peterson received the DAR award during the state DAR’s 109th conference held in late March in San Ramon.

DAR’s Americanism Medal is one of two prestigious awards presented by the organization. The DAR Medal of Honor is awarded to native-born American citizens. The Americanism medal is awarded to an adult who has been a naturalized citizen for at least five years, shown outstanding qualities, and actively assisted other immigrants to become American citizens or displayed outstanding ability in community affairs, preferably with emphasis on the foreign-born community.

Peterson, a managing partner at a mergers and acquisitions advisory firm, served two four-year terms as a La Cañada Unified School District board member.

More recently, he founded and is the CEO of Education Support Services, a company that uses partnerships with companies to bring affordable education services to a wide population group through employee benefits programs.

“Education is not only an American right, but a basic human right,” Peterson said. “Improving education access and achievement for all is a goal that CGU has allowed me to pursue through my PhD research.”

Peterson earned a BA in Economics from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Virginia Tech, and he is researching education reform and private-sector partnerships for his PhD program at CGU.