Frank H. Peterson
Frank H. Peterson was the founder of Gator Trailers, the only pleasure boat trailer manufacturing company in the southeast United States. He managed the company until 1963, but continued in the Jacksonville business community through a new creation, Diversified Products Manufacturing Company.
Mr. Peterson maintained an active position amongst Jacksonville’s business leaders. He was a noted member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. During his tenure he sat on almost every standing committee. He was a member of the Board of Directors for the Jacksonville Port Authority, served on the Northeast Florida Marine Counsel, and was a guest lecturer at Jacksonville University.
Mr. Peterson’s business activities led him to the realization that the, then, present school system needed to focus on the employability skills required within the community. Like today’s academies, Mr. Peterson gathered support of Jacksonville businesses and introduced the first Marine Mechanics course in northeast Florida, utilizing the Duval County Public School System. His action caught the attention of the Evinrude Outboard Motor Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and they pledged corporate support in the form of dollars, materials, and in-kind services.
This successful venture led Mr. Peterson to pursue the introduction of more industry focused vocational programs within the schools. He was considered to be the vocational education liaison between the School Board and industry. He was recognized by the Governor of Florida and was appointed to the “Governor’s Cabinet of 100,” providing advice on the need for, and direction of, vocational education in the State of Florida. The Jacksonville Chamber of commerce declared Mr. Peterson “Mr. Vocational Education.”
The Westside Skills Center was established in 1979 and was formerly renamed in Mr. Peterson’s honor in 1997. He would love to see today’s Frank H. Peterson with its seven National Model Academies: Automotive, Communications, Cosmetology, Early Childhood Education, Culinary, Agri-Science, Biotechnology & Vet Assisting, and Aviation, and its youngest academy Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing. These programs coupled with a strong academic program make Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology the epitome of Mr. Peterson’s passionate work.