Mary Louise Petersen


"A woman as president of the Iowa State Board of Regents was a somewhat startling innovation. The fact that as the first woman so named displayed qualities of leadership that earned her plaudits not only in Iowa but nationally, dispelled many sexist myths."
—John Baldridge, 1983

Mary Louise Petersen's volunteer service has extended from her local community of Harlan, Iowa to national policy bodies; her focus has always been higher education. Petersen served on the State Board of Regents for 12 years, eight of those as president. She also served on the Iowa Coordinating Council for Post-High School Education and became a member of the Professional Ethics and Conduct Committee of the Iowa Bar Association in 1982. Nationally, she has served on such prestigious bodies as that of the Carnegie Corporation and the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, and she continues to work with the American Council on Education. In Harlan, Petersen has been an activist in Girl Scouts and in the United Methodist Church. Her outstanding efforts merited her earning the 1981 State of Iowa Distinguished Service Award. Petersen was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1984.

UPDATE: Petersen has finished her work with the American Council on Education, the Iowa Peace Institute Board of Directors, the Educational Testing Service Board of Directors, the National Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Board of Directors, and the Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Corporation Board of Directors. She serves on the boards of directors of the University of Iowa Foundation Board of Directors and the Myrtue Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees. She has also been active with Shelby County Health Services.