In Remembrance and Celebration of an Amazing Leader and Friend: Dr. Peter Benson (1946-2011)

The National Youth Leadership Council mourns the loss of an extraordinary man, Peter Benson, and extends our deepest sympathies to his family and the entire Search Institute family. Peter and the team at Search Institute were friends, allies, and national partners of NYLC for many years, and our hearts go out to all those who knew Peter. His ideas and the passion with which he pursued them paved the way for the concept of positive youth development to take hold broadly in society. So many youth programs and educational models, including NYLC’s, are grounded in Peter’s work and the developmental assets that youth need to become engaged, connected and contributing adults.

He earned and deserved recognition and respect from countless individuals across the world and was instrumental in inspiring many to dedicate their lives and professions to this work. But, for those who were privileged to have spent time with him and gotten to know him, he was also just Peter. Always quick with a smile and laugh, interested in what you were doing and working on, offering help, and, true to form, he always shared good thinking on how we could do more together. He managed to challenge and motivate listeners in every conversation, often through his dogged enthusiasm for positive roles of young people and whatever new concept or idea he was exploring at the time – they were endless and always several steps ahead of everyone else’s thinking.

For all of the research and evaluation that Peter and the Search Institute have brought to youth development, the true impact that Peter’s work is immeasurable. The lives that he positively impacted over his 65 years on this Earth, and will continue to impact well into the future are simply too numerous to quantify. So is the loss we feel at the passing of Peter – a foundational and aspirational leader, and a friend. 

A memorial to celebrate Peter’s life will be held on Monday, October 10 in Minneapolis. To learn more, please visit