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Family’s Scholarship Support Spans 3 Decades, 2 Generations

News Type Public Address

Dan, left, and Chris Richards visited their congressman in Washington, D.C., in 2019 right before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down; they posed for this photo at the entrance to the West Wing of the White House.

By Joan Slattery Wall

When Chris Richards was a child, her parents saved for college degrees for her and her three siblings. 

“I remember my mom taking me to the teacher’s credit union, and every month she would put $10 in everybody’s college account for years,” she said.  

“For our first two years in school, my parents would use the money in the account to pay for school for us. We were all two years apart,” she explained. “They’d use the money from my mother’s salary to pay for the last two years. They lived off my dad’s salary.” 

The family’s dedication to higher education and desire to help students — her father, Alvin Peterjohn, as well as her mother, Dorothea, both worked their way through college to obtain bachelor’s and master’s degrees — has led them to support college scholarships. 

Years after her father’s death, Richards’ mother and uncle, Harlan Peterjohn, set up the Alvin Karl and Dorothea Ford Peterjohn Scholarship Fund at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs to honor her father. Her uncle donated a major gift to establish the fund along with friends and family members in 1994. 

Learn how to support the Alvin Karl and Dorothea Ford Peterjohn Scholarship Fund by contacting Stephanie Mohr, senior development officer, at or 614-292-8758. 

Explore other ways to give. 

Throughout the years, Richards; her husband, Dan; and other family members have continued to add to the fund, creating one of the college’s largest graduate-level endowment funds. The principal is invested in perpetuity, and the interest is awarded annually to provide merit and need-based scholarships for second-year master’s students in the Glenn College. More than $400,000 in scholarships has been awarded to more than 100 students since the fund’s inception. 

In 1974, when Richards was a sophomore at Bucknell University, her father passed away, and her family needed to live off of her mother’s salary. She was fortunate: Even though her mother could no longer pay her final two years of her bachelor’s degree, someone anonymously donated money toward her tuition, and she received a college loan to return to Bucknell and finish her degree. 

Her father had received his master’s degree in public policy at Wayne State University in the 1940s, long before the initial creation of what became the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. He lamented that Ohio State didn’t have a graduate degree in public policy when he was studying. 

“Public policy had a real positive influence on his career,” Richards said. Alvin started his public administration profession when he lived in Hartford, Connecticut, and continued after a move to Long Island, New York, but he was from Cleveland and wanted to move back to Ohio. So, he obtained a position as a legislative analyst for the Ohio Legislature, and later, in 1972, then-Columbus Mayor Tom Moody appointed him director of finance for the city.  

“When he was working, he would see people he worked with who had master’s degrees and felt they came in better prepared and better able to handle the work and keep a broader perspective,” said Richards, who retired in 2017 as executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of FedEx.  

There’s a tendency of all of us to get down in the weeds with our jobs, and if we don’t step back and keep the broader policy in mind, we can be less effective.

Chris Richards
Glenn College donor

Each year the Glenn College sends the Richardses a packet about students who receive the scholarship. 

“We’ve found ourselves very comfortable with the students who are getting it,” Chris Richards said. “We always like to see who our students are.” 

They also keep up with the work of the Glenn College. 

“We think there is an important job and purpose for the Glenn College. Nobody agrees with everybody on policy positions now, but one thing we strongly support is the willingness of an institution to have open discourse and sit in a room and talk about things in a civil way,” Richards said. “This exposes students to different viewpoints to have knowledge of effective ways to deal with problems. No matter where you land, you’re going to have people you disagree with. You need to be able to have conversations. These students have a chance to learn constructive ways to deal with opposition in effective ways.” 

Because she and her husband, like her parents, both worked their way through graduate school, they hope the scholarship gives students time to make the most of their second year at the Glenn College. 

“We are firm believers in paying for an education,” she said, “because once you get a degree, no one can take that away from you.” 

They want to set an example of how others can assist students and hope that those students will support the college once they start their careers. 

“Even if it’s a small amount at first, when you get further in your career and more successful you can do more,” she said. 


Read the latest edition of Public Address, the Glenn College magazine.