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Lester B. Pearson, Nobel Peace Laureate and former Prime Minister of Canada, was the driving force behind the founding of Pearson College. After retiring from public life, Mr. Pearson became interested in the United World Colleges (now UWC) movement. At the time there was only one—the College of the Atlantic in Wales, established in 1962.
Mr. Pearson visited the College of the Atlantic in 1969 and met with students and faculty. He came away convinced that there must be more such colleges around the world and, in particular, one on Canada's west coast. He envisioned that:
“Students will be welcomed without regard to race, religion or politics and we intend to establish scholarships so that the students who attend the College will be from all levels of society and will be genuine representatives of their own peoples. This system … could become a revolutionary force in international education.”
Lester B. Pearson became Honourary Chairman of a committee formed to build what was to be known as the College of the Pacific. He worked tirelessly to get things started, but died in December 1972, just as the project was getting underway.
Soon after his death it was decided that the College would be renamed Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific as a living memorial to this visionary. The Hon. John L. Nichol, CC, was chosen as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and a major fundraising effort began, with over $4 million raised—83% from individuals, corporations and foundations from across Canada and around the world, and the remaining 17% from governments. On Sep. 25, 1973, construction began.
Over the next year, Jack Matthews, Founding Director of the College, recruited a faculty of men and women from around the globe, and on Sep. 25, 1974, the first 100 students arrived. Since then up to 200 students have attended each year. Pearson College continues to be funded through individuals, alumni, corporations, foundations, select provincial and local governments in Canada and some UWC donors.
Today, more than 3,500 students have graduated from Pearson College. They work in a variety of professions in every corner of the world. No matter what they do, Pearson Scholars are dedicated to making change happen in diverse and powerful ways. They share a determination to make a difference and work in their communities as a positive force for peace.