January 27, 1939 — August 14, 2022
NETA and the electrical testing industry have lost another giant – Alan “Al” Peterson — whose influence across the industry and the love and respect he enjoyed from employees and friends point to a man with rare talents.
Al received his formal education in electrical engineering at Northeastern University in Boston and completed various advanced studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was first employed by Brockton Edison Company (now National Grid) through Northeastern University’s Cooperative Program working in the meter, line, and engineering departments. Al was inducted into the U.S. Army and served his entire term of service as an instructor at the U.S. Army Ordinance Guided Missile School at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. He held Journeyman and Master Electrician certificates in several states.
Established by Alan and Shirley Peterson in 1963, Utility Service Corporation (USC) has specialized in electrical power system testing and maintenance for over 50 years, working in utility, industrial, and commercial power applications, troubleshooting, and repair. As a team, Al and Shirley created legacies and established a high caliber of excellence in the industry.
“Al Peterson was a family friend as well as a mentor to a young man from Boston,” remembers Scott Blizard, Vice President and COO of American Electrical Testing Co. and fellow NETA Board member, who served with Al on several NETA committees. “I met Al in my 20s and enjoyed many evenings with Al and his lovely wife Shirley over the next 30-plus years. Al possessed an amazing amount of knowledge and a memory to match, and he shared it with all who would listen. NETA is a much better organization today thanks to Al’s involvement.”
Utility Service Corporation became a NETA Accredited Company in 1983, and Al served on the NETA Board of Directors from 1984 until his death, holding the offices of President, First Vice President, and Second Vice President. He served on several NETA committees, was currently the Technical Committee Chair and a member of the Standards Review Council, and was instrumental in the writing and acceptance of ANSI/NETA ATS and ANSI/NETA MTS as national standards.
“I first met Al Peterson sometime around 35 to 40 years ago,” remembers NETA Treasurer John White, past-President of Sigma Six. “It was likely at a NETA conference, and that was the start of a very positive impression of Al. He was truly a gentleman and a scholar. Over the years of being on the Board with him, I learned that he was very knowledgeable in the area of electrical engineering.”
“It was my honor to serve as Al’s liaison to the Standards Review Council for many years,” notes Kristen Schmidt, former NETA Technical Services Director, now a Training Specialist at RESA Power. “He made the work rewarding in a way that carried me through tough times and celebrated all the successes we had together as a team with all our other NETA friends and family.”
SERVING THE INDUSTRY
As his company and reputation grew, Al found himself participating in multiple organizations dedicated to developing industry standards that would make the work safer for those who carried it out.
In addition to serving on the National Board of Directors of AIECA, now Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), where he held the offices of National Vice President and National Treasurer, Al was also a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and served three three-year terms as a member of the ANSI Board of Standards Review (BSR). Prior to his appointment to the BSR, he served on ANSI’s Electrical and Electronic Standards Board.
The late Charles K. Blizard, Sr, a good friend and colleague for over 40 years, recognized Al’s achievements in a NETA World article celebrating the 2008 NETA Outstanding Achievement Award. “Al and I are a lot alike,” he said. “We worked together well on NETA’s Standards Review Council because we provided a balance to the electrical theorists on the committee with our perspective from the practical aspects of testing. Al was really the one who was persistent with getting NETA involved with ANSI. He was the prime mover and promulgated our cause through his tact.”
White adds, “Al was NETA’s guru in the area of dealing with other professional associations like NFPA and IEEE. It was important to NETA to be able to interface with these other standard writing organizations, and Al developed both the contacts and the knowledge to guide NETA in the correct direction when dealing with them.”
“NETA has a long history of leadership and volunteer contributors who have made the Association what it is today, and at the top of that list is Al Peterson,” says Ron Widup, NETA Board member and Vice Chairman and Senior Advisor, Technical Services for Shermco Industries. ”As Chair of the Standards Review Council, Al was instrumental in the development, navigation, and ultimately the publishing of NETA’s first ANSI standard, the 2000 Electrical Test Technician (ETT) standard. This started our journey into standards writing and forever changed NETA into a serious contributor to our industry. I was President of the Association at the time ETT was first published and was fortunate to announce the standard and recognize Al for his work. He was proud of it, and we were proud of him.”
“Al is a man who will not be forgotten,” White says. His work at NETA will live on, and his legacy among our ANSI standards will be present forever.”
As a member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE), Al also participated on various IEEE technical committee working groups, specifically ANSI/IEEE C-37 Power Switchgear, ANSI/IEEE C-57 Transformers, and ANSI/IEEE C-62 Surge Protection.
“The standards and guidelines Al worked so hard on were developed by some of the most brilliant minds in the industry, and Al was one of those brilliant minds,” notes Angela Russell, who enjoyed a 17-year career with USC’s Technical Services and Project Management Team and was Al’s liaison to NETA. “Great minds do great things, and he was definitely a great mind doing great things. Anyone who has ever used or will use a NETA standard will benefit from his contribution to the power industry. Not many people can take credit for leaving behind something vital for future generations.”
Al represented NETA as a member of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) High Voltage Task Force, which was formed in 2008 for the purpose of adding provisions covering high- and medium-voltage installations to the National Electrical Code (NEC) for 2011. This task force was extended to address changes and additions to the NEC for 2014 and 2017.
Eric Beckman, PE, NETA President and Director at National Field Services, says, “Al was such a highly respected person in the industry. I didn’t get the opportunity to know Al as well as some of the other NETA Board, but I could tell how much respect and knowledge he had in the industry just by the way people talked about him. Al did so much for NETA and the electrical testing world. There’s no doubt that NETA has gained so much recognition and respect because of the work Al put in over the course of his career.”
USC General Manager Jacob Schrimsher remembers, “Al was more than just a businessman. He had in-depth knowledge of every facet of business and life, and he loved to share it with his people. No matter where we went — and we traveled all over — people would stop us to talk to him. He had a very broad reach, and it was obvious everyone loved and respected him.”
“We lost a good one when we lost Al Peterson,” says Widup, “but fortunately his work and legacy will continue to make NETA a great technical trade association and difference-maker for our industry. He will be greatly missed, but his mentorship, charisma, and laugh will never be forgotten by those who knew him.
A GENTLEMAN AND A SCHOLAR
“Al was always engaging, never short on stories on just about everything, and he was a phenomenal encyclopedia of information,” remembers Ron Widup. “It always amazed me how Al knew so much about so much… and his presentation skills were like no other. Especially when there was an element of humor in his stories — and often there was — his deep belly laugh and verbose delivery would turn heads from all around the room!”
Al was known for his extensive knowledge of military history. “He could quote military personalities from all the various wars in which the U.S. has been involved and discuss a certain U.S. general’s strategy down to minute detail,” White says. “I recall a group dinner when my sister (a Canadian) had joined us for dinner and we were having a military discussion with Al about the War of 1812. I had spent hours studying that particular war as my sister and I used to debate it often. But when he joined the conversation, it was as if I knew very little about that war compared to Al.”
Schrimsher worked his way through every position over his 12 years with USC. “I learned a lot about business and how to succeed from Al, but perhaps the most important lessons were about being a good person,” he says. “Al genuinely cared for each employee as a person, and he was concerned about the well-being of every family.”
Beckman remembers the stories. “Al always had a way of making the conversation interesting,” he says. “I always loved hearing his war stories of testing projects and the interesting outcomes of various projects.”
“Al’s presence was bigger than life,” says Russell. “He was one of those people who would have the entire room’s attention while he told one of his epic stories. He was automatically your best friend — like you had known him forever. You could talk to him about anything and connect about everything in an instant.
Schmidt remembers, “Al was someone you just couldn’t get enough of. His toothy smile, booming voice, and unmistakable laughter filled every room he occupied and made everyone want to be in on the joke. Al’s generosity of spirit always made you feel like you were capable of anything because, by gum, he believed in you. And if a man as accomplished and well-traveled as Al Peterson knew it to be true, then it must be so.”
“Al and I shared a love of fine wines,” White says. “It was always a challenge and a pleasure to choose a wine to share with Al at dinner. And if the dinner wasn’t to include wine, then Al always had a Heineken beer. That was his cocktail-hour choice of drink.
ALAN “AL” PETERSON
A GREAT MAN, A GENTLEMAN, AND A SCHOLAR
Alan “Al” Dennis Peterson of Huntsville, Alabama, and Eastham, Massachusetts, passed away at 83 years of age on Sunday, August 14, 2022. The first of seven children born to John and Margaret (Sweeney) Peterson of Stoughton, Massachusetts, he grew up in Stoughton, attended Northeastern University, and completed advanced studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was first employed by Brockton Edison Company — now National Grid — where he met his wife, Shirley.
Al was inducted into the U. S. Army and served his entire term of service as an instructor at the U. S. Army Ordinance Guided Missile School at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. In 1963, he and Shirley established Peterson Electric Company of Huntsville, and in 1976, they founded Utility Service Corporation.
Alan was a 4th Degree Knight of the Knights of Columbus and a member of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Huntsville, Alabama, Civitan International, the Elks of Huntsville, Moose International, Civil War Roundtable, and the American Legion. He also served on the National Affairs Subcommittee of the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Al loved splitting his time between his home in Huntsville and his beach house in Eastham, Massachusetts. He was always ready to raise a toast and tell an enthralling story. He was an avid reader, a lover of good wine, and loved history.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Shirley (Wright); son John (Pamela); son David; daughter Jacqueline (Sean) Dougherty; grandchildren Kyle, Alycia, and Kaelie Peterson; great-grandchildren Saida and Althea Peterson; siblings Juliana McGovern; Virginia (Donald) Delaney; William (Max Most) Peterson; Steve (Linda) Peterson; Ellen Curran; Joan (Phil) Clark; and many beloved nieces and nephews.