Peter Fernald ’50 arrived at Wesleyan in 1946 from Illinois as a recipient of financial aid. He was awarded a Thorndike Regional Scholarship to promote geographic diversity.
More than once in subsequent years he told Wesleyan staff that the scholarship was the difference between his going to college or not.
Seven decades later, he capped off many years of consistent giving by leaving Wesleyan an estate valued at more than $21 million—all for support of financial aid.
Through outright lifetime gifts to his endowed scholarship fund, his charitable gift annuities, and his bequest, he established a financial aid endowment of approximately $25 million at Wesleyan—enough to fund a significant number of need-based scholarships in perpetuity.
“We are committed to making sure that outstanding students receive the scholarship support they need to attend Wesleyan,” said President Michael S. Roth ’78. “And we are so grateful for Peter’s extraordinary contribution to this mission.”
Fernald’s Wesleyan education set the stage for a degree from Harvard Business School and a career with the Times-Mirror Corporation in Los Angeles, much of it as vice president for Planning and Development. He oversaw the rapid growth of the corporation into a $3 billion empire of newspapers across the country and other media businesses, including television and radio stations. He witnessed the phenomenal transformation of its flagship Los Angeles Times from a regional newspaper to a national powerhouse whose reporters frequently brought home Pulitzer Prizes. Fernald retired in 1984.
Fernald was also devoted to the arts and was a collector. Works by Robert Motherwell, Henry Moore, Victor Vasarely, Rufino Tamayo, Alexander Calder, and Sam Francis hung in his home, as well as pieces by the late Wesleyan artist Bernard Zawisa ’49, well known for his expressive abstract and thematic figures.
“Peter’s gift is so very generous,” said Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for university relations. “To have a gift of this magnitude that will greatly benefit Wesleyan students every year is truly inspiring.”