Lester B. Pearson
The first Canadian to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Lester Bowles “Mike” Pearson was a civil servant, scholar and the 14th prime minister of Canada. His diplomacy and leadership put the nation at the centre of international peacekeeping and co-operation.
In his five years as prime minister, the country introduced universal health care, student loans, the Auto Pact, the Canada Pension Plan and a new Canadian flag. He served at home and abroad, as leader of the country and president of the seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly. Pearson was named a Companion of the Order of Canada and was awarded an Order of the British Empire and an Order of Merit, the highest honour in the Commonwealth, for his service during a historic time in the 20th century.
Born in Newtonbrook, Ont., to a Methodist minister, Pearson studied at Victoria College at the University of Toronto (now Victoria University) and earned bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Oxford. He taught history at the University of Toronto before entering the foreign service with the Department of External Affairs. Making his way to Washington, D.C., Pearson helped establish the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. He became ambassador to the United States in 1945 and led Canada in discussions for the founding of the UN.
In 1948, he was elected MP for Algoma East and became the Minister of External Affairs. As the world entered the Cold War, Pearson signed the North Atlantic Treaty and helped orchestrate the armistice agreement that would end the Korean War. In 1956, his UN resolution to the Suez crisis involving Israel, France, the United Kingdom and Egypt earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. Pearson’s establishment of the United Nations Emergency Force would lead to the modern UN peacekeeping operations of today.
After retiring from politics, he served as a lecturer in history and political science and Chancellor of Carleton University until his death in 1972. Pearson received honorary degrees from institutions across Canada and the United States, including Princeton University, McGill University, Bates College, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Calgary. In 1974, the Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific was founded as one of 13 United World Colleges. He is the namesake for myriad Canadian landmarks, from an airport to Mike’s Place – the graduate student pub at Carleton. The influential leader has made a lasting impact on the country and the world.
The Pearson connection to Carleton continues with his daughter-in-law’s contributions to campus, including the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights at Carleton. In 2006, upon her retirement from the Senate, she donated her extensive collection of materials related to childhood and children’s rights to Carleton. With this donation and with her appointment as adjunct professor in the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies, the Landon Pearson Resource Centre was born.