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Robert A. Peterson's formative years were in the depression of the 1930s. During those years he was a paperboy, where all of the functions of a distribution company were employed, worked for a house builder, and as a stevedore for a trucking company. These jobs gave him a perspective for the balance of his life.
Formal education resulted in a BS and a BBA from the University of Minnesota. It was later augmented by the Credit and Financial Management course in two-week summer segments at Dartmouth and Stanford over a three-year period.
The first thirteen years of his work in business were for International Harvester Company and a division of Sperry Rand, two of the largest US companies at that time. Thereafter, the Toro Company, a company that had yet to achieve $20 million in sales hired him. His first position was as a general credit manager thereafter as treasurer; vice president and treasurer; vice president, treasurer, and international finance. In 1980 he became the chief financial officer, the office he held until his retirement. He retired in 1992. His last full year of employment was fiscal year 1991, a period during which the company achieved sales of $711 million.