2021 Citizenship Awards: The Peterson Cos., Peterson Family Foundation and Inova Health Foundation

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL -When legendary Greater Washington developer Milt Peterson, founder of the Peterson Cos., passed away in May at age 85, he wasn’t remembered only for his transformational real estate deals.

Through the years — as a company founder and as a family patriarch through the Peterson Family Foundation — he had a hand in investing more than $100 million to support charities, education and health in the region.

“It really starts with Inova,” says Lauren Peterson, daughter of Milt and head of the Peterson Family Foundation, of the beginning of the family’s focused charitable giving.

When Milt’s wife, Carolyn Peterson, was diagnosed with cancer in the late ‘80s, she began serving on the board of Inova’s Life With Cancer initiative after her recovery. From there, the relationship snowballed.

“From early on, my dad ended up being a sounding board for Inova as they were building the Fairfax campus,” Lauren says. “Part of his philanthropy philosophy was that you need to help institutions that help a region grow. You need an outstanding health system.”

So the Petersons found a way to help support that health system. Over a three-decade relationship, they’ve provided millions in funding to Inova, including a total of $18 million through an annual Lobster Extravaganza fundraiser for the Life With Cancer program that was held right on the lawn of Milt and Carolyn’s home.

“My dad loved doing it every year,” Lauren says. “He’d terrorize everyone for months getting the job done. I’d have to be there on the day of the event, and he’d be out there telling the trucks what to do.”

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