Longtime California State University, Fresno friend and benefactor Alice A. Peters passed away Monday, Jan. 24. She was 97.
Mrs. Peters was the widow of business leader Leon S. Peters, who died in 1983. After Mr. Peters’ death, Mrs. Peters served for many years as board president of the Leon S. Peters Foundation, a charitable organization that has supported the university, local organizations and Armenian causes.
The generosity of the Peters Family and their Foundations is seen throughout the campus. The auditorium of the Leon S. Peters Business Building was named for Alice Peters in 1988. And the Peters name is on Fresno State’s business building, an educational center in the Student Recreation Center and two exhibition galleries in the Henry Madden Library.
Born Alice Apregan, Mrs. Peters is the daughter of Armenian immigrants who came to the United States in 1907 to escape persecution by the Ottoman Turks. Her family was from the Armenian province of Bitlis. Hearing that others from Bitlis had settled in the Central California farming hamlet of Del Rey, her parents ultimately settled there. She attended high school in nearby Selma, but it was at Del Rey Packing that Mrs. Peters met her future husband, Leon, whose family was also from Bitlis. They married in 1943.
Leon Peters and his brother, Pete P. Peters, established Valley Foundry and it became one of the region’s most successful businesses, allowing them to found the foundation in 1959. Since then, the Peters Foundation has become one of the community’s biggest benefactors, giving millions to philanthropic causes, particularly higher education and scholarships, hospitals and arts organizations.
Mrs. Peters helped to start the Fresno Metropolitan Museum, and actively supported the Community Medical Centers and Fresno State.
Their benevolence was explained by Mrs. Peters in an article published in 1996 by the Armenian General Benevolent Union News. “My husband started with nothing,” she said. “He didn’t have an education beyond high school and neither did I. But after working very hard, with never as much as a day off work, he was able to start his own foundation in 1959. Leon and I didn’t have any children of our own, so this is our way of leaving a legacy.”
Fresno State President John D. Welty said, “We are saddened at the loss of Alice Peters. We honor her life of service and generosity. The impact of the foundation she started with her late husband Leon has made a significant impact on Fresno State and on the community.
“Neither she nor Leon was able to attend college, but they ensured that many others would get that opportunity through their generous support of scholarships campuswide. Fresno State has been profoundly changed by the generosity of the Peters family and their foundation,” added Welty.
Mrs. Peters was honored for her philanthropy on May 1, 1997 by Rep. George Radanovich who read a tribute recorded in the proceedings of the House of Representatives.