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Gerard Peterson

Gerard M. Peterson was born on September 10, 1932, in Hartford, Connecticut; he was the second of five children born to Edythe and Rufus Peterson. Peterson attended Hartford public schools, and graduated from Bulkeley High School. From there, Peterson received a B.A. degree in economics from the University of Connecticut.

With Aetna Life and Casualty, Peterson’s first position was administrator of Aetna’s Corporate Insurance Division as an assistant secretary at the corporate level, directing sales for field office group insurance representatives. Active in Aetna’s commitment to corporate involvement, Peterson was a loaned executive to non-profit organizations. From 1965 to1966, Peterson then was manager of Plans for Progress, one of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. Between 1969 and 1970, Peterson was again on loan as the executive vice-president of the National Alliance of Business, which was created to find jobs for the unemployed. In July 1970, Peterson left Aetna to become assistant dean in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University in California, where he served for three years.

Peterson returned to Aetna in 1973 to become the marketing director of Aetna Public health Management’s Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). From 1975 to 1983, Peterson, as Aetna’s Marketing Manager, directed sales representatives and managed national advertising and marketing services. Peterson completed his distinguished twenty-three year career with Aetna Life and Casualty in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1983.

After leaving Aetna, Peterson served as executive director and CEO of the Hartford Civic Center; this multi-purpose facility had a convention venue and one of the largest arenas in New England. During his tenure at the Hartford Civic Center, 18.5 million customers visited the Center while contributing a surplus exceeding $11,000,000 to the City of Hartford. The Hartford Civic Center received the 1986 Arena of the Year Award from Performance Magazine while Peterson himself was recognized as Facility Manager of the Year for major convention centers.

Peterson’s contributions to national, regional and local organizations included being director of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce, a council member in the town of Bloomfield, Connecticut, and serving on committees of the United States Golf Association (USGA).

Accession Number

A2005.142

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/21/2005

Last Name

Peterson

Maker Category
Schools

Bulkeley High School

University of Connecticut

Naylor School

Burr School

First Name

Gerard

Birth City, State, Country

Hartford

HM ID

PET05

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Connecticut

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

I Know A Few People Who Are Living As Well As We Are, But Nobody Is Living Better.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/10/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Martha's Vineyard

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken (Roasted), Gravy

Short Description

Corporate executive and insurance executive Gerard Peterson (1932 - ) worked in various executive roles for Aetna Life and Casualty over a distinguished twenty-three year career. In addition to his work with Aetna, Peterson also served as executive director and COO of the Hartford Civic Center.

Employment

Hartford Civic Center; XL Center

Aetna, Inc.

Plans for Progress

U.S. Government's taksforce on Youth Motivation

Stanford University

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gerard Peterson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gerard Peterson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gerard Peterson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gerard Peterson describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gerard Peterson describes his maternal grandparents' occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gerard Peterson describes his maternal grandparents' move to Connecticut

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gerard Peterson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gerard Peterson describes New England's demographics during World War II

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gerard Peterson describes his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gerard Peterson describes his paternal grandmother's occupation and personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gerard Peterson describes his childhood neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gerard Peterson recalls his family's holiday celebrations

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gerard Peterson describes his parents and siblings, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gerard Peterson describes his parents and siblings, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gerard Peterson describes his sister's nursing career

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gerard Peterson describes his father's move to Martha's Vineyard

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gerard Peterson recalls playing sports and working odd jobs with his brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gerard Peterson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gerard Peterson describes attending Hartford's Dr. James H. Naylor Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gerard Peterson recalls Alfred E. Burr Junior High School in Hartford, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gerard Peterson describes his dreams and aspirations in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gerard Peterson recalls Hartford's Morgan Gardner Bulkeley High School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gerard Peterson recalls the difficulties of attending a predominately white school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gerard Peterson describes his decision to attend the University of Connecticut in Storrs

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gerard Peterson describes caddying at Wethersfield Country Club

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gerard Peterson describes his time in the U.S. Army during the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gerard Peterson remembers playing golf in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Gerard Peterson describes returning the University of Connecticut in Storrs

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gerard Peterson describes his activities at the University of Connecticut in Storrs

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gerard Peterson describes his wife and sons

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gerard Peterson recalls working as a computer programmer at Aetna Life and Casualty Company

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gerard Peterson recalls his position at the Plans for Progress program

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gerard Peterson recalls working in Washington, D.C. during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gerard Peterson describes his motivational work for the Plans for Progress program

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gerard Peterson recalls becoming assistant dean at Stanford Graduate School of Business

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gerard Peterson recalls his work as assistant dean at Stanford Graduate School of Business

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gerard Peterson recalls notable people at Stanford Graduate School of Business

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gerard Peterson describes Stanford Golf Course

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gerard Peterson describes how Stanford Graduate School of Business influenced his career

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gerard Peterson describes his return to Aetna Life and Casualty Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gerard Peterson recalls becoming executive director at the Hartford Civic Center

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gerard Peterson describes his role at the Hartford Civic Center

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gerard Peterson recalls working as a project manager for Johnson Controls

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gerard Peterson recalls the racial discrimination he faced playing golf

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Gerard Peterson describes the impact of golf on his career

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Gerard Peterson describes his affiliations with golf organizations

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Gerard Peterson describes the state of golf in Hartford, Connecticut in the early 1900s

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Gerard Peterson describes his golf affiliations

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Gerard Peterson recalls meeting Earl Woods and Tiger Woods

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Gerard Peterson describes teaching golf at the senior center on Martha's Vineyard

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Gerard Peterson shares his advice for young golfers

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Gerard Peterson describes his involvement in nonprofit organizations

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Gerard Peterson recalls coaching midget football, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Gerard Peterson recalls coaching midget football, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Gerard Peterson reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Gerard Peterson speculates about his future plans

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Gerard Peterson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Gerard Peterson describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Gerard Peterson narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

3$6

DATitle
Gerard Peterson recalls working as a computer programmer at Aetna Life and Casualty Company
Gerard Peterson recalls becoming executive director at the Hartford Civic Center
Transcript
Let's move back to Aetna Life and Casualty [Aetna Life and Casualty Company; Aetna, Inc., Hartford, Connecticut] because you were there from June 1957 until February 1965. So say a little bit about the details of your--the progression of your development at Aetna during those first roughly, oh eight years?$$Yeah, I started as a computer programmer back in the days when there wasn't anybody that I knew who knew what I did for a living. So when they said, "Well what do you do there?" And I'd say, "Well I'm a computer programmer," and they'd say, "Well what is that?" And then there were some people who'd say, "What do you mean you're sweeping up over there? What are you, tell us the truth what you do there?" I said, "Well I write instructions for this computer, and the computer does what the instructions say." Oh wow, this guy is--and that's what they called us the eggheads at the Aetna. There were only about ten of us in the department and as a matter of fact when I joined the department it was called the data processing development department they weren't sure if it was going to be permanent. Because they weren't sure, they were going to keep the computer. In the country in those days, there was probably a hundred and fifty computer programmers in the whole United States of America. I went to school for three days at the IBM [International Business Machines Corporation] school across this street from the Aetna and came back as a programmer. And really learned on the job but loved it, enjoyed it very much worked a lot of overtime and learned enough so that I became the supervisor of the programmers and then became a systems analysts. And then became the human resources director if you will of the computer area and that meant that I was responsible for hiring and training the new programmers. Because I told my boss we had such an inadequate training program, he said, "Well write one," and I wrote one and sent the memo to him. He said, "Hey this is pretty good, now you are in charge of training." I said, "Well does that mean I've been promoted?" He said, "No you're just in charge of training (laughter)." But it was a great experience because it sent me off to the personnel department now called human resources and I did some projects with them. And computerized some of their records and met some people in the process. About that time I also thought that I needed to learn more about presenting myself, so I joined the Toastmasters Club [Toastmasters International] at Aetna. And loved that and that was something that allowed you to prepare speeches and be evaluated by your fellow Toastmasters. And you improved as you went on, I was a Toastmasters for many years, you know, six or seven or eight years. I remember it, and became the president of the, maybe the vice president I'm not sure, but I was one of the officers of the club.$What came next at Aetna Life and Casualty [Aetna Life and Casualty Company; Aetna, Inc., Hartford, Connecticut], what was your next step up?$$Well I stayed in that area until there was a mild depression that happened (laughter) in our economy and the Aetna decided to get out of managed-care business at that point. Even though if you look at them today they're one of the largest managed-care companies in the country. It was done the second time by mergers and acquisitions. They went out and found organizations that were Aetna-oriented in their way of doing business. And that's the way--the reason they're so large in the managed-care world today. But we, we actually went out of business, and I went back into the group insurance division and went to marketing group insurance again. And then one day received a call from the city manager of City of Hartford [Connecticut] asked me to come and spend a little time with him. And he asked me if I was interested in being the executive director of the convention center and arena that we had at Hartford called the Aetna--the Hartford Civic Center [XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut]. And I said no, but thank you very much I'm flattered that you would ask me. And he said, "I would really like you to do this and you ought to think about it and when you go back to the Aetna why don't you talk to John Filer [John H. Filer] 'cause I've been talking to him also." And I went back to the Aetna, and I thought about it and because of my Stanford [Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford, California] thinking, I started thinking outside the box. And saying well what would that be, what would I do when I do that? Then when I thought about, oh I probably could do a better job in marketing than we're doing now. I went to the back--some back issues of the Hartford newspaper [Hartford Courant] and looked at the record, at least, the way it was portrayed in the media, and they weren't doing very well. And they didn't have very, very good reputation. They were at best neutral, but in some senses negative. And I thought this my chance to make this a better organization and I also thought, you know, working in show business that might be fun. So I did--I went back to the city manager and said I'd be willing to do this, and John Filer agreed that it would be a good place for me to be. The Aetna had a very large financial interest in the shops that were around, and offices, that were around the Hartford Civic Center it was, you know, a several million dollar investment (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) When was the Civic Center built and finished?$$It was built in 1975 I believe and then it--the roof fell in, in 1976 and I think in 1978 or something like that. As I remember it they went back in the business the roof went back on. And five years later, 1983 I went to work as the executive director and at that point it needed a lot of marketing kind of assistance. And the organization was pretty sad.