UJ president named Citizen of the Year

The chamber announced its 2021 award winners at its annual awards banquet Thursday, Jan. 20, at Harold Newman Arena.

Polly Peterson file photo
University of Jamestown President Polly Peterson received the Citizen of the Year award Thursday, Jan. 20, from the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce
Michael Savaloja / The Jamestown Sun file photo

JAMESTOWN – The University of Jamestown president was surprised, grateful and humbled to learn she was named the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce 2021 Citizen of the Year because of all the talented and committed people in the community.

“When I learned of this award I was just completely speechless,” Polly Peterson said. “ … I feel like I don’t belong in that pool of people.”

Peterson, who has been president at UJ since 2018, saw the list of past award recipients, and said there are many people who really made a difference for Jamestown and at the university. She said many of the past award recipients were on the UJ Board of Trustees, supported the university in some of its capital campaigns or volunteered there.

“I think the University of Jamestown is at a different place because of them and I think the community is in a different place because of them,” she said. “To be mentioned in the same sentence with any of those people is just humbling beyond what words can express.”

The chamber announced its 2021 award winners at its annual awards banquet Thursday, Jan. 20, at Harold Newman Arena. The Above and Beyond winner was Jamestown Tourism Executive Director Searle Swedlund, Nick Bruns of Nodak Insurance Co. was named the Young Professional of the Year, and the Anne Carlsen Center was named the Business of the Year.


Peterson has worked at UJ since 1992. Other honors she has received include Outstanding Woman of the Year in 2018 by Zonta International in Jamestown and Prairie Business Magazine’s Top 25 Women in Business in 2015. She is also involved with St. John’s Academy, American Heart Association and the Anne Carlsen Center Board of Trustees.

Dave Smette, one of the people who nominated Peterson, said she is deserving of the award.

“She is doing an excellent job of leading the university,” he said.

Smette said he is impressed with the buildings that have been built or renovated, including UJ Place, Charlotte and Gordon Hansen Stadium and Harold Newman Arena.

“They are just beautiful athletic facilities,” he said.

Casey Stoudt, owner and president of R.M. Stoudt, wrote in his letter of nomination that Peterson has had an “exceptional effect on the long-term future of our community.” Jamestown High School and UJ students have the opportunity to compete on the football field and the track at Charlotte and Gordon Hansen Stadium, he wrote.

“Consolidating and funding this project could not have happened without Polly’s commitment to serve the whole community of Jamestown,” he wrote.

Stoudt wrote that Peterson has been integral in UJ opening a branch in Phoenix, Arizona, while keeping management and ownership in Jamestown. He also wrote that her fundraising efforts for the university and high school were successful because of her personal involvement.


Rob Lech, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, wrote that Peterson “exhibits the growth-mindset that is necessary to be an outstanding leader.”

“Dr. Peterson is not willing to simply ‘do enough,’ rather focuses on ‘what can/should be’ and embodies the passion, grace, diplomacy to turn concept into a reality,” he wrote.

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