Preserving the Past, Empowering the Future

Nov. 7, 2023
Sarah Bissell Peters and Rolf Peters standing together outiside

Sarah Bissell Peters and Rolf Peters at the University of Arizona

Rolf Peters and Sarah Bissell Peters grew up in Tucson, in families who modeled the importance of education and community service. Rolf lived in the Sam Hughes neighborhood, and Sarah spent her childhood in West University. They both attended St. Michael’s School and, later, Tucson High School. Even then, they knew not all their fellow students had the same access or support they did. 

“We knew we were fortunate to have parents who supported our studies, that there were a lot of kids at Tucson High who didn’t have that same kind of home life and educational opportunities,” Sarah said. 

Their parents lived out the values of learning and serving. Rolf’s father, Charles M. Peters, began his career in library science at the University of Arizona in 1966. Rolf’s mother, Sue, taught English at Saguaro High School. Sarah’s mother, Nancy Bissell, a Women’s Plaza of Honor honoree, co-founded the Tucson-based Primavera Foundation. 

The couple wanted to offer students the same educational opportunities they had. One fortuitous day on the golf course in 2017, Rolf met Ken Dildine, a former University of Arizona Foundation vice president of planned giving. Rolf asked how he and Sarah could honor his parents and support students through donations. 

Now every year, in honor of his parents’ birthdays, Rolf and Sarah support scholarship endowments in the Department of History, School of Information and the SALT Center. 

“My parents were always very involved and pro-education — it was at the forefront of everything,” Rolf said. “We wanted to make sure we were giving students who wouldn’t have a shot, a chance at access and support.” 

The Charles M. Peters Endowed Scholarship, named in honor of Rolf’s father, is awarded to a full-time history student who demonstrates need. 

Liliana Toledo Guzman

Liliana Toledo Guzman

Liliana Toledo Guzman is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History, specializing in Latin American history and ethnomusicology. A first-generation college student originally from Mexico, she chose the program for its reputation and studies professional Mexican women musicians from the 1920s-1950s. She says funding from the Charles M. Peters Scholarship Endowment allowed her to continue her studies during the pandemic, which was especially challenging as an international student. 

“I had the chance to conduct remote research thanks to this endowment. Having that resource in a time of world crisis was priceless,” Liliana said. “Without this support, I would have searched for [different funding], which was challenging in 2020. Being awarded this scholarship meant continuity in my education without interruptions.” 

Liliana met Rolf in the spring of 2023. “I remember that Rolf’s father’s profession affected him to the point that … he can see [history’s] social value from his personal and professional point of view,” Liliana said. 

Rolf is the CEO and co-founder of Agmotion, a commodity trading and risk management company based in Minneapolis. Sarah spent her career in interior architecture and design. 

Rolf believes a knowledge of history makes one eminently employable in the private sector — no matter what field. 

“When you read history, you learn about human nature. If you learn that, you can figure out how to do a better job marketing technology,” he said. “If you want to major in finance, take a few history classes and you realize you can learn about the past financial crises and the mistakes people repeat.” 

Rolf added, “A liberal arts education teaches you how to think, and that’s a critical skill if you are going to be in almost any aspect of business. That’s why we gave — we wanted to keep history alive.” 


This story was included in the fall 2023 Developments newsletter.