Merrill D. Peterson (Armenia 1997-99) Professor of History (Emeritus) at the University of Virginia and the editor of the prestigious Library of America edition of the writings of Thomas Jefferson, and who wrote several books on Jefferson, including the acclaimed 1970s biography Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation died on September 23, 2009. He was 88. In his lifetime he wrote 37 books, including one based on his Peace Corps tour, Starving Armenians: America and the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1930 and After.”
Peterson joined the Peace Corps at the age of 76. In addition to his contributions to the University through teaching and chairing the history department, Peterson also served as the College’s dean of faculty for four years. In an article in the University’s Cavalier Daily, History Prof. Charles McCurdy said Peterson was an “intellectual historian,” but also praised his humility.”[He was] the greatest historian on the Virginia faculty in the 1970s and 1980s,” McCurdy said. “But he didn’t act like it.” Peterson’s book The Jefferson Image in the American Mind won him the Bancroft Prize, a prize awarded to authors of distinguished works of American history, in 1961.