C.P.

by Bob Bach

It was well past midnight. With a towel around my waist and a toothbrush sticking out the corner of my mouth, I stepped quietly out of my room, and made a beeline for the second floor bathroom at Burgh Hall. I nearly made it when I heard a voice behind me. "So Chief, where ya’ been?" I froze dead in my tracks. It was C.P. standing there in his bathrobe his hands were deep in the pockets. My jaw locked up and I was unable to mutter a sound. He knew I had been at the Keystone, a dive on Lawrence Avenue where some of us thought we were really big stuff by sneaking down there, sipping Old Style, and shooting pool with the neighborhood crowd. C.P. knew what was going on and he was going to put a stop to it. "Not a good idea what you’re doing Chief, and I wouldn’t do it anymore." That’s all he said as he turned and headed for the door that led to the stairs down to his apartment. I was sick, and dreaded the thought of having to face him the next day. But when I did, it was as if nothing had ever happened, and we never spoke about the incident again. And, I never went back to the Keystone. That was C.P.’s style; it never took much from him to get a wayward student back on the right path.

Carroll J. Peterson

In 1946, C.P. and his wife, Verla, were living in the vicinity of North Park. At the time he was serving as a botany instructor at Northwestern University, but he knew of North Park as his brother had attended there prior to being called into military service. Although he was a long-time member of the Albany Park United Methodist Church, C.P. did have some Covenant roots. His father was the nephew of E. August Skogsbergh who figured prominently in the birth of North Park in Minneapolis in 1891.

One winter afternoon, C.P. dropped by the school to see if there was any possibility of teaching a late afternoon or evening class since he figured he needed to pick up some extra money somewhere. He met first with Albin Erickson who headed up the evening programs and was then referred to President Algoth Ohlson. After speaking with these men, C.P. was offered $1.00 a day to teach a late afternoon botany class that met five days a week.

C.P. made an impact right from the start and it wasn’t long before North Park realized they needed him full time. Augustana College, his alma mater, offered him a job, too, but C.P., without an agent to negotiate for a Methodist who had proposals from both Covenant and Lutheran colleges, opted for North Park’s $3,500 offer. So, when the fall term rolled around, C.P. joined the NP faculty, and the rest is history. For the next 36 years he would serve as a Professor in the Biology Department, Residence Counselor, Dean of Students, and friend to colleagues and students.

His work as a residence counselor for men began in 1950 in what was then known as "The Bastille," located at the corner of Foster and Spaulding. "The Bastille," officially the Lundholm Building at the time, is now Ohlson House, a residence for women. When Burgh Hall opened in 1956, C.P. and his family moved into a two bedroom apartment on the first floor where they would spend the next seven years. "Interesting raising three children in a men’s dorm," chuckles C.P. "Everyone should have a shot at that experience." When C.P. and Verla moved in, their son, Barry, was 12, their daughter, Doreen, was nine, and their son, Vaughn, was a year. Burgh Hall turned out to be a pretty good nest for the Peterson children. Barry is now an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Northern Michigan University, Doreen is married to a Ph.D. in paper chemistry, and Vaughn works for a brokerage firm in downtown Chicago.

C.P. grew up in Chicago and attended the public schools. He met his wife, Verla, in his late teens at his home church, Albany Park United Methodist, where her father was the minister. He started out as a business administration major at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, but in a biology lab he discovered his love for science and decided to pursue it as a career.

After graduating from Augie in 1939, he enrolled in the graduate school at Northwestern University. There he received a Master’s degree in botany in 1940. He was then called into the service. Toward the end of World War II, he was appointed Chief of the Inventory Control Branch of the Office of the Surgeon General with the rank of Captain. He and Verla married in 1943 while he was fulfilling his military duties. Following his service hitch, he joined the faculty at Northwestern until the buck-a-day from North Park lured him down to Foster and Kedzie.

"North Park was a wonderful career for me," says C.P. "I am blessed to have so many friends all over the country, and to have worked with such terrific colleagues. I don’t really know how the nickname, C.P., started. It just seemed to be there; several of the faculty were known by their initials." C.P. worked with five presidents, one acting President, and numerous faculty friends.He also served as President of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, Representative of the State of Illinois to the Governing Board of the American College Testing Service, and Vice Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education of the Northern Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church. No wonder he could collar me in the wee hours of the morning—he was always on the move.

Even with all these responsibilites, he would rise early on Sunday morning, head down to the huge open flea market on Maxwell Street, and return in time to get his family to Sunday School and church. "For a few dollars, I got me a great antique clock for Verla down there many years ago. I recently had it repaired for $190.00. Still trying to figure that one out," he said.

C.P. loved to teach Biology and Botany. "But I really enjoyed the labs, " he remarked. "I was able to get to know the students on a personal level, and that I truly enjoyed." Dr. Tim Johnson (JC ’56) (S ’63) was one of his students. Tim has gone from C.P.’s lab to medical school, the pulpit, the Harvard faculty, and national prominence on ABC television. Here’s how Tim puts it. "C.P. was the perfect role model for me, both in and out of the classroom. Behind the lectern and in the lab he kindled my love of science in general and my fascination with the workings of the human body in particular. And, as the head of the men’s dorm, he combined a wonderful sense of humor with unquestioned integrity—a combination I found so compelling and one that I have tried to live out in my own interaction with others. I cannot think of anyone who has influenced me more in terms of the kind of person I want to be."

On February 2, 2000, C.P. had lunch with some of the men of the Class of 1960. This class, the first to graduate from the four-year North Park, will celebrate its 40th reunion this fall at NP’s homecoming. Mel Soderstrom, Glenn "Pudge" Anderson, Norm MacGregor, and John Bergstrom were in the group that gathered with C.P. at the dining hall on campus. John said later, "Being with C.P. reminded me of the time when I was going through a low point as a student. I was a biology major and so I had C.P. as a teacher several times during those years. One day things weren’t going very well for me and I was very discouraged. I vividly recall C.P. putting his arm around my shoulder as we walked away from Wilson Hall saying, ‘You’ll be all right. I know you will be successful.’ He sensed a need. Verbalizing his faith and confidence in me at that moment meant more than he can ever comprehend. I have tried to pattern my biology teaching after him and hope in some small way I, too, made a difference in a student’s life."

On March 19, 2000, C.P. celebrated his 83rd brithday. He and Verla, his wife of 57 years, reside in Deerfield, Illinois. C.P. remains active with the American Philatelic Society, continuing his life-long hobby of stamp collecting. He is past president of the Evanston-New Trier Philatelic Society. Since his retirement, he has taught many Elderhostels at Covenant Harbor and Pilgrim Pines. Shakespeare was right on when he wrote, "Some men never grow old; always active in thought, always enjoy the best of what is, always learning new things, and are the first to find the best of what will be."

And by the way, his address is: Carroll J. Peterson, 1262 Inverary Lane, Deerfield, Illinois 60015. Drop him a note or send him an old stamp; he’d love to hear from you.

"Blessed is he that feareth the Lord; that walks in His ways for it shall be well with thee." (Psalm 128)

Bob Bach, from Angels Camp, California, is Pietisten’s roving reporter

See all articles by Bob Bach