Dr. Gilbert Peterson, former Academic Dean at Cairn University (PCB) and Lancaster Bible College chancellor, passed away Thursday evening at the age of 78 as a result of complications of open heart surgery performed in January.
Peterson was appointed to chair PCB’s Christian Education department in 1960 and, after serving for two years as Associate Dean, was named Academic Dean in 1970. He was known for his commitment to curriculum that was both biblical and relevant to the needs of the turbulent world of the 1960s and 70s.
In a classic 1961 article in Religious Research Digest, Peterson revealed his views on the centrality of biblically sound and culturally relevant instruction: “There is no substitute for a thorough knowledge of the Word of God and the truth of God that it reveals. Courses in direct Bible study and doctrine provide one with the necessary foundation. In addition to this, a three-hour course in Apologetics is needed where the needs of men, the Christian answer to these needs, and the reasons for the uniqueness and truth of Christianity are presented.”
In an interview on Friday, Cairn chancellor and former president Dr. Sherrill Babb said, “Dr. Gil Peterson and I have been close colleagues and friends for about 40 years, and our careers have paralleled each other. Both of our wives suffered for many years from multiple sclerosis, so we had a special affinity for each other. We prayed for each other; we encouraged each other in difficult times.
“Dr. Peterson has left a great legacy for our institution. He was there in the early days of gaining accreditation, advancing academic programs, building a strong faculty. During his 14 years here, he really helped to advance PCB. He will be missed, especially by many of our older alumni.”
After his time at Cairn, Peterson accepted a position as professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) in 1974, later serving as 4th president of Lancaster Bible College from 1979-1999. His service at LBC was characterized by exceptional leadership and management ability.
Dr. Peterson is remembered by his wife Dolores; his sons Craig, Jeff, Phillip, and Steve and their families; and many colleagues, students, and friends.
Information on memorials and tributes to Peterson will be shared as it becomes available.