George Mason University

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George Mason University Breaks Ground on Long-Planned Health Sciences Building

June 16, 2015

Milt and Carolyn Peterson and their family join the Mason community celebrating a $10 million gift from the Peterson Family Foundation that will enable a ground-breaking for an academic building that will house the College of Health and Human Services at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University

Milt and Carolyn Peterson and their family join the Mason community celebrating a $10 million gift from the Peterson Family Foundation that will support the building of an academic building that will house the College of Health and Human Services on the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn

By Michele McDonald

George Mason University broke ground Monday on a state-of-the-art health sciences building, thanks to a $10 million gift from the Peterson Family Foundation.

“People call this a gift—we see this as an investment,” said Jon Peterson, principal at Peterson Companies and a current member of George Mason’s Board of Visitors.

The Petersons’ gift includes $8 million for the College of Health and Human Services that will complement more than $65 million in funding approved by the Commonwealth of Virginia for the health sciences building.

The 160,000-square-foot building begins construction next month, is expected to open in 2017 and will be named in honor of the Peterson family, led by Milt and Carolyn Peterson. It will be the new home for the College of Health and Human Services, which is currently spread across seven locations.

Jon Peterson speaks at the groundbreaking of the new building for the College of Health and Human Services. The Peterson Family Foundation gave $8 million for the project, and $2 million to the College of the Visual and Performing Arts. . Photo by Craig Bisacre.

Jon Peterson speaks at the groundbreaking of the new building for the College of Health and Human Services. The Peterson Family Foundation gave $8 million for the project, and $2 million to the College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Photo by Craig Bisacre.

“Our goal is to help George Mason University reach its potential, just like George Mason is helping Northern Virginia reach its potential,” Jon Peterson said.

As the backbone of Mason’s health sciences, the College of Health and Human Services educates nurses, as well as economists, global and public health specialists, social workers, and those involved in health care policy, rehabilitation, and nutrition sciences, among other key areas.

“We need new solutions, not just new cures, but new solutions to how health care is delivered,” said Ángel Cabrera, George Mason president.

The new health sciences building will have a working health clinic “offering health services to people who need health services in our community,” Cabrera said. It also will include a kitchen where students will practice nutrition science, and labs for nursing, health care data and rehabilitation studies.

The groundbreaking comes less than two months after Mason opened the new Institute of Advanced Biomedical Research on the Science and Technology Campus in Prince William County. The new health sciences building is part of Mason’s commitment to becoming a “very high” research university, Cabrera said.

Board of Visitors members, Mason past presidents, top administration and local elected officials were on hand to celebrate one of the final funding steps in this long-planned health sciences building.

“We had champions in both houses,” said Jimmy Hazel, chairman of the George Mason University Foundation Board of Trustees.

Virginia House of Delegates member Scott Lingamfelter quoted Gen. George C. Marshall’s famous line—There is no limit to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit—when pointing out the long career of Chuck Colgan and all the good he has done for Northern Virginia. Colgan, who served for about four decades in the Virginia House of Delegates, helped keep the health sciences building in the state budget.

Milt and Carolyn Peterson and their family join the Mason community celebrating a $10 million gift from the Peterson Family Foundation that will enable a ground-breaking for an academic building that will house the College of Health and Human Services at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Milt and Carolyn Peterson and their family are supporting the building of a new health sciences building on Mason’s Fairfax Campus with a $10 million gift from the Peterson Family Foundation. Photo by Alexis Glenn

The Peterson gift also includes $2 million for the College of Visual and Performing Arts to set up scholarships: $1 million to create the Peterson Family Scholarship Endowment in the Vocal Arts, and $1 million to establish the Peterson Excellence Fund. The college plans to honor the family’s generosity with a named space in their facilities.

It was the prior donations to the arts, led by long-time arts patron Carolyn Peterson, that prompted the family to further its investment, Jon Peterson said. In the past, the Petersons have given $2.5 million for academic programs, the arts and athletics.

Milt Peterson, the founder of Peterson Companies, has spearheaded several high-profile real estate ventures across the region including Fairfax Corner, the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring, and National Harbor. Carolyn Peterson has served on several committees and boards at the university, including the Mason Foundation Board of Trustees.