University of Pittsburgh
June 21, 1999


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, June 22 -- The University of Pittsburgh will receive $10 million, the largest individual gift in its history, from alumnus John Petersen and his wife Gertrude for its new convocation and events center.

The building, which will be constructed on a portion of the current site of Pitt Stadium, will be named the John M. and Gertrude E. Petersen Events Center. Its construction will dramatically enhance the quality of student life, providing the campus with a location for graduation ceremonies, modern recreation and fitness facilities, and a state-of-the-art home for the men's and women's basketball teams.

"This extremely generous gift from John and Gertrude Petersen is historic, both in terms of its size and in terms of its impact," Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said. "It is the largest gift ever made by individuals to the University of Pittsburgh, and it will help transform our Oakland campus, benefiting Pitt students for generations to come."

"It is literally impossible to adequately express thanks for such extraordinary generosity, but we are extremely grateful," Nordenberg added. "The University of Pittsburgh is on the move and the Petersens have given our efforts a huge boost by making such a sizeable and well-targeted investment in our future."

"It has been such a pleasure getting to know John and Gertrude Petersen, two people who want what is best for the University of Pittsburgh," said Athletic Director Steve Pederson. "Their gift echoes the call of a new day for the Panthers as we build this athletic department for the future. On behalf of our student-athletes, coaches and staff, I thank them for their generosity."

A 1951 graduate of Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in business administration, Petersen is the retired president and chief executive officer of the Erie Insurance Group, located in Erie, Pa. While an undergraduate at Pittsburgh, he lived on campus and lettered as a member of the swimming and diving team. The Petersens have maintained a strong relationship with the University, supporting scholarships and other activities in the College of Business Administration and the Department of Athletics.

Petersen served 33 years with Erie Insurance Group, one of the country's largest property/casualty insurance groups, before his retirement in 1995. He joined the company as an accountant in 1962 and became Erie Insurance's first investment officer. His investment skills helped the company's property/casualty assets grow from $20 million in 1962 to more than $4.6 billion at his retirement. Petersen continues to serve on the board of directors of Erie Indemnity Company and serves Erie Insurance Group as an investment consultant.

Before joining Erie Insurance Group, he served as an accountant with the General Electric Company for 11 years in Fairfield, Conn.

Petersen has also been highly active in community affairs, supporting the efforts of the United Way, the public library, public television and the arts in Erie. He was named the Boy Scouts of America's 1995 Distinguished Citizen by the French Creek Council and was a recipient of the Paul Harris designation from Erie Rotary.

The John M. and Gertrude E. Petersen Events Center will house a 12,500-seat basketball arena, a private basketball practice complex, a unique restaurant row, and retail store and full-service ticket operations center. Designed by Apostolou Associates of Pittsburgh and Rosser International of Atlanta, Ga., the venue promises to be among the finest in the country. Among its many amenities will be four luxury courtside suites, 12 luxury club level suites, a luxury courtside special event suite and the finest club lounge in college basketball. It additionally will have 48 courtside seats and 2,000 private club seats.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2000.