Alumni Memories: Deb Peterson, ’78 BSB

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Deb Peterson saw the changes that swept through the College of Business Administration in the 1970s most clearly when she took a break from school.

Peterson, then Deb Bourassa, arrived at the University in 1975 after two years at a college in southwestern Minnesota. An accounting major, she joined the women’s business sorority, Phi Delta, for camaraderie because there were so few women in her classes. In 1977, Peterson got married and took a six-month break from school. When she returned in January 1978 to finish her last few classes, the institution seemed transformed. “It was remarkable how many women there were at the school,” she recalls. “It struck me how much it had changed.”

Peterson’s memories of going to business school at the U would ring familiar to many 1970s graduates: not having enough money; frigid walks across the Washington Avenue Bridge; trying to rustle up food from the vending machines in the basement of Blegen Hall, the only place to eat on the West Bank; learning FORTRAN, an early computer language (“We wrote our own software!” she recalls); and knocking herself out studying for advanced accounting, taught by Professor R. Glen Berryman.

After graduation, Peterson joined a Big Eight (now Big Four) accounting firm and worked as a CPA before becoming financial manager for a software company. She left the workforce in 1991 to raise her daughters. She is an active supporter of the school, serving on the Carlson School Alumni Board as well as the University of Minnesota’s Alumni Association Board.

Going to the Carlson School transformed her life, says Peterson. “It gave me the opportunity to work for international companies with diverse clients; that opened my eyes to the world.”