Professor John Peterson, 61, suffered a fatal climbing accident on March 5th, after a long weekend of adventuring with his family and friends.
John led a life rich in both adventure and learning, which he shared (sometimes rather forcefully) with friends, family, students, and chance acquaintances alike. During his youth in the Denver area, he did a lot of hiking around the rocky mountains and enjoying nature with his similarly outdoorsy parents and three younger brothers. In his high school and college years, John's passion expanded to include several more outdoor sports, ranging from rock climbing to cross-country skiing to whitewater kayaking, as well as computer programming, classical music, and his soon-to-be wife Marti Peterson. John earned a PHD in Computer Science from the University of Utah, and taught computer science in Tucson, AZ, before settling down in a research position at Yale University with his wife and two sons, Jay and Eric.
In his several years on the east coast John put countless hours into the research of computer languages, becoming one of the designers and implementers of Haskell, a functional computer language which befuddles and entrances students in equal measure to this day. John also became a well known figure in the comparatively small Connecticut climbing and kayaking communities, dedicating much of his free time to the Ragged Mountain Foundation and Access Fund, and spreading his love of adventure to a new generation of outdoor adventurers.
John took a delight in teaching, both in the classroom and outdoors, which eventually led him to his position as Professor of Computer Science at Western State Colorado University. John's students will remember him as an infectiously enthusiastic lecturer, willing to dedicate his evenings to help them tackle his fiendishly difficult assignments, and prone to inviting anyone with the slightest hint of interest in the outdoors to join him on his weekend adventures (occasionally against their better judgement). John's love of classical music drew him to the Western Symphony Band, where he played trombone with the same vigour and enthusiasm he applied to all other aspects of his life.
John is survived by his wife Marti, sons Eric and Jay, and "that stupid dog" Bear. He will be remembered for his love of the outdoors, thirst for knowledge, and passion for inspiring those two traits in others.
Please send in a “John story” tribute to CRobinson@western.edu
Donations can be made to the access fund, in memory of John Peterson of Gunnison, CO.
Donations to a scholarship fund at the Western State Colorado University Foundation would also be deeply appreciated. Checks may be made out to “Western State Foundation” with “John Peterson Memorial” on the memo line, or make a gift online on the secure site via credit card, paypal or echeck at western.edu/give and put “John Peterson Memorial” in the comments box.
John's wife, Marti adds ... Climbing is lots of fun, but it also carries an element of risk. John knew that. Even those with many YEARS of climbing experience can make mistakes.
Please be vigilant, and extra careful. I imagine John was thinking, "Oh, shit! I can't believe I screwed up on something so basic!" Although I don't think it would have helped in John's specific situation, I would really urge you to use an auto-block on your rapel. https://www.climbing.com/skills/5-steps-for-safer-rappelling/