Leslie Peterson grew up on a farm outside Viking, Alberta, and recognized the value of education at an early age. At fourteen, he moved away from the family farm to go to school, and paid for a small housekeeping room by doing part-time janitorial work.
Mr. Peterson served in the Canadian Artillery during the Second World War, and graduated from law school at UBC in 1949 alongside many other veterans.
In 1950 he founded the law firm Peterson and Anderson, and in 1956 he was elected to the Provincial Legislature. Over the course of his political career he served as Minister of Education (1956-68), Labour (1960-71), and Attorney General (1968-72).
Mr. Peterson returned to the private practice of law at Boughton & Co. in 1972, focusing on administrative and transportation law. He continued to be active in the community, supporting various organizations including the BC Historical Association, the Canadian Child Health Association, the Shriners, and the Vancouver Aquarium.
Education, and in particular the development of UBC, remained a priority for Mr. Peterson throughout his life. He was appointed to UBC's Board of Governors in 1978, serving as Chair between 1979 and 1983, and subsequently serving as Chancellor of the University from 1987-93. During this time he oversaw the graduation of more than 36,000 students, and helped to create opportunities for those with varying financial means.
Mr. Peterson was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 1990, conferred an Honorary Doctor of Laws by UBC in 1993, and appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2000. He passed away in April, 2015.