Ralph R. Peterson died in his home on Sept. 1, 2009 from a battle with cancer. Ralph was surrounded by his family and with the prayers and thoughts from those he touched around the world. He was 64 years old.
Ralph was best known as the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CH2M HILL, a Denver-based Fortune 500 firm with more than 25,000 employees around the world. He joined the company as an intern and then as a surveyor in 1965 as the 148th employee hired and never worked anywhere else. He was well-known to have an exceptional grasp of science and technology and as an extraordinarily approachable leader with a personal connection to his fellow employees. His door was always open and for years Ralph and his dog, Charlie, welcomed the firm's staff to engage in conversations with him about the direction of the firm and broader issues facing the industry and society.
During his long tenure with the firm, CH2M HILL grew from a regional engineering firm to a global leader in its industry, delivering such notable projects as the cleanup of the former Rocky Flats nuclear facility and the on-going expansion of the Panama Canal. As CEO, Ralph oversaw a dramatic growth in the company increasing from $500 million in annual revenue to nearly $7 billion at his retirement. Outside CH2M HILL's project success, one of his proudest accomplishments was an innovative ownership structure enabling its employees to buy and sell stock on an internal market that maintained its employee ownership and allowed a huge base of employees to participate in the firm's success. The firm he helped create is widely respected by the industry and has been recognized numerous times by Fortune magazine as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" and was the first in the engineering and construction industry to receive the prestigious Catalyst Award recognizing the CH2M HILL's dedication to advancement of women in the workplace.
Ralph was born on Oct. 12, 1944 in Hayti, Mo., to deceased parents James T. and Helen I. Peterson. In 1964, he married the former Betty Shoemaker and they had two children. Throughout the years, the family lived around the country developing and completing CH2M HILL's projects, settling in Colorado since 1988.
He received an associate of science degree in engineering from Boise State University, a bachelor of science in civil engineering from Oregon State University and a master of science in environmental engineering from Stanford University. He also graduated from the advanced management program in the School of Business at Harvard University. He was given an honorary doctor of engineering from Colorado School of Mines and Boise State University. Oregon State honored Ralph this year with its Distinguished Service Award.
Ralph had a long history and passion for involvement in the community. In 1995, he co-chaired the White House initiative, "Technology for a Sustainable Future." He served as a private sector delegate at international forums such as the World Water Forum, China's National Sustainable Development Conference and on the executive committee for the US Council on Competitiveness. Until his death, he was a member of the Engineering and Construction Governors of the World Economic Forum, the World Business council for Sustainable Development, the National Academy of Construction, the Business Environment Leadership Council of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change and the US Secretary of Energy's National Petroleum Council. He served on advisory boards at the Colorado School of Mines, Yale University, Regis University and the University of Denver.
As an active member of the business community, he was a founding board member of the World Trade Center in Denver and a board member at StanCorp Financial Group, Xcel Energy, the Construction Industry Roundtable and the Stapleton Development Corporation.
Ralph received numerous honors, distinctions and awards throughout his career. Among notable recognitions, he was awarded the American Society of Civil Engineers President's Medal and its John I. Parcel-Leif J. Sverdrup Civil Engineering Management Award, the Keystone Center Leadership in Industry Award, the American Jewish Society National Human Relations Award and named a fellow to the United Kingdom's Institution of Civil Engineers. He was named Colorado Business Person of the Year by both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Business Journal and inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. Beyond his own achievements, he pioneered CH2M HILL's own Building A Better World Award to recognize the global executives for their transformational leadership and environmental stewardship.
Ralph was survived by his wife of 45 years, Betty Peterson; children, Jamie Jones and Jeffery Peterson; five grandchildren, Andrew and Nicholas Jones, Jacob, Emma and Reese Peterson; three brothers, Lionel, Frank and Michael Peterson; five sisters, Anita Earsom, Martha Hinck, Janet Sloan, Kay Graham, Marjorie Danley; plus nieces and nephews.
A vigil will be held at 7:00 p.m., Friday, Sept. 4, 2009, at St. Mark Catholic Church, 9905 Foothills Canyon Boulevard, Highlands Ranch, Colo. A Funeral Mass will be held at 9 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 5, at St. Mark , with a brunch following Mass. Please share memories and condolences at www.horancares.com.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers please make contributions to The Joshua School. Located at 2303 East Dartmouth Avenue, Denver, Colorado, The Joshua School is a private, non-profit school and resource center for individuals, ages 2 1/2 to 18 years of age, with autism, Asperger's syndrome, or other special needs, and their families. Sharing a passion for serving youth with autism, Ralph and his wife Betty have personally committed a great deal of their own time and resources to the school during its seven-year history.