News Releases

School of Mines Statement on the Death of Dean Howard Peterson
Release Date Monday, May 5, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (May 5, 2014) – Howard Peterson, former Dean of Students at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, died Sunday at the age of 85.

Fondly known as “Dean Pete” by students and colleagues alike, Peterson is remembered for his more than five decades of devotion to the School of Mines.  A 1950 alumnus, he served at the university from 1957-1992, first as assistant and associate dean, then as dean of students for the last 23 years of his career.  Even after his retirement, Peterson remained a fixture around campus and visited students often in the Surbeck Center, the student union at Mines.

Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at Osheim & Schmidt Funeral Home. Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, May 8, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 402 Kansas City St., followed by a lunch. Burial will be at Mountain View Cemetery.  

Whether as a scholarship coach, Theta Tau fraternity advisor or in his capacity as dean, Peterson was a beloved mentor to thousands of students over five decades.  In 2004, a residence hall was named for Peterson.  He also served the School of Mines on both the Foundation and Hardrock Club boards of directors and as a volunteer scholarship coach for 10 years after his official retirement.

“Dean Pete loved the School of Mines and devoted his life to its students. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many, many friends,” said Mines President Heather Wilson.

Peterson was born June 28, 1928, in Alpena, where he graduated from high school in 1946.  He earned a degree in geological engineering from the School of Mines in 1950, worked in oil exploration and then went on to teach at Redfield High School.  He earned a master’s degree in education from Northern State Teachers College in 1955.  Peterson began his career at the School of Mines in 1957 and in 1969 earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of South Dakota.

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At the School of Mines, he worked with a dedicated group of alumni to secure funding for a new student center, which would eventually be named the Surbeck Center.  Even after his retirement he helped lead a successful first-ever capital campaign called Vision 2000 through the SDSM&T Foundation.  In 1987, Peterson received the inaugural Making a Difference Award and in 1992 the prestigious Guy March Medal from the Alumni Association.

 Two years ago Peterson was interviewed for a story in The Hardrock magazine observing M Hill’s 100th anniversary.  He recalled his vivid memories of the climb as a student to the top of the hill and the evolving tradition of whitewashing. “That was a big thing,” Peterson said. “We walked all the way. We were told as freshmen to have a gallon bucket and to meet down at what was the old post office at six in the morning.  We walked to M Hill, and ... we crossed the creek, dipped a bucket of water and carried it to mix the concrete for the plaque and to whitewash it.”

The family has asked that memorial gifts be made to either the Howard C. Peterson Scholarship or the Lenatt Peterson Memorial Scholarship at the School of Mines, c/o SDSM&T Foundation, 306 E. Saint Joseph St., Suit 200, Rapid City, S.D., 57701, or


About SDSM&T

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is $62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at