His race well run, Lovett C. “Pete” Peters passed away on Nov. 11, at the age of 97. He was the kind of man — wise, generous, good-humored and accomplished — whose passing makes one despair of ever meeting his like again. But he was also the kind of man who invested his time and treasure to benefit people he would never meet, including generations yet to come.
Any parent or child who has chosen a K-12 school apart from the government’s assigned “district” school has Pete Peters partially to thank. After a successful career as a financier in energy and other businesses, he “retired” at age 75 to begin a new career in ideas.
He founded the Mackinac Center’s sister think tank in Boston, the Pioneer Institute. He and his wife, “Ruthie,” also gave generously through their family foundation to school choice initiatives around the country, including in Michigan.
Pete was the kind of man who:
- In his late 80s would provide major charitable venture capital to an Internet-based education enterprise when most people his age didn’t use the Internet;
- Smiled with satisfaction as Ruthie wore a baseball cap with her fine suit and announced that “ladies need not remove their hats indoors”;
- In his 90s would mark up your business plan in his own hand to show you how to improve your chances of success — and then expect you to follow up;
- Would, with his son Dan, quietly back a $350,000 public guarantee to a Redford, Mich., public school if the Mackinac Center could not find $350,000 of savings in that school’s budget;
- Would appoint himself and Ruthie chaperones of your courtship if you were the Mackinac Center’s senior vice president who set a course to marry a Boston lady; and
- Would support a teacher’s legal challenge to a union’s unjust use of compulsory dues, and then unassumingly watch from the back of the room as the case was successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Few of Pete’s accomplishments in business, charity or public policy bear his name. I am glad I could tell you of some of them now. I’m reminded of a quote from Presbyterian pastor George Grant:
“Some men’s greatness may be seen in how largely they loom over the movements they launched. But greater men are they whose movements loom large over them — even to the point of obscuring them from view.”
God bless Pete Peters.