In Memoriam: Peter G. Peterson

CFR’s Chairman Emeritus Peter G. Peterson passed away on March 20 at age 91.

March 20, 2018

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Peter G. Peterson

Pete’s impact on and contributions to CFR were profound. Throughout his forty-seven years of membership, he helped shape and transform the Council, serving on our Board of Directors for thirty-four years. During his twenty-two-year tenure as Chairman of the Board—the longest in the Council’s history—Pete spearheaded a vigorous period of growth and renewal at CFR. His visionary leadership protected the Council’s core values—nonpartisanship, independence, and excellence—while also overseeing an expansion into a truly national organization. Under his tenure, from 1985 to 2007, the CFR Term Member program—devoted to nurturing the next generation of foreign policy leaders—grew from 222 to nearly five hundred members, the number of women and minority members more than doubled, the Council’s analysis and ideas reached a broader audience than ever before, and the Council’s economic position was greatly strengthened. In recognition of his many intellectual, financial, and leadership contributions, the Council’s largest meeting spaces in New York and Washington, DC, which have hosted countless world leaders, were named in his honor, as was the chair for the editor of our flagship publication, Foreign Affairs.

Pete’s exemplary public service included positions in the Nixon administration as assistant to the president for international economic affairs, secretary of commerce, and chairman of several commissions concerning U.S. productivity and U.S.-Soviet economic relations. In the private sector, Pete’s business acumen was legendary. He cofounded the Blackstone Group, which became a global leader in alternative investments. He was also chairman of Lehman Brothers for over a decade and chairman and CEO of Bell & Howell. Pete served as a director of numerous corporations and was the author of seven books, including the national bestseller Running on Empty.

A passionate advocate for fiscal responsibility, Pete dedicated his philanthropy to keeping the American dream alive for future generations and protecting the United States from what he believed was unsustainable national debt. As a businessman, philanthropist, author, and public servant, Pete left a lasting legacy for our organization, the city of New York, and the United States. He will be sorely missed. CFR offers its heartfelt sympathy to his wife, Joan Ganz Cooney, his five children, John, James, David, Michael, and Holly, as well as the rest of his family and friends.

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