Willis L. Peterson, received his B.S. (1961) and M.S. (1962) degrees from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago in 1966. Peterson served on the faculty at the University of Minnesota for 34 years, having joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics in 1965. Peterson taught Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics to large sections of undergraduate students annually throughout his career. At the graduate level he taught courses in World Food Problems and Production Economics. The quality of his teaching, recognized by undergraduate and graduate students for many years, was formally recognized by the University with the Horace T. Morse - Minnesota Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education in 1992 and appointment to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 1998.
Peterson’s research focused on issues of economic growth, human capital, and foreign economic development. He conducted seminal studies on the role of agricultural research in American agriculture, and the rates of return to agricultural R&D and economic assistance to the agricultural sector of developing countries. He was recognized by both the American Agricultural Economics Association and the Canadian Agricultural Economics Association for outstanding research contributions.