Longtime supporters of the university, Jimmy and Sheila Peterson are both trustees of the UCI Foundation. Steve Zylius/UCI

Community and business leader Jimmy Peterson definitely has a soft spot for UCI. In 2017, he checked into UCI Health’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center with stage 4 melanoma. Today he’s cancer-free.

“UCI saved my life,” says the former Microsemi Corp. CEO. Partly in an effort to fuel future medical discoveries and expand the reach of UCI Health, Peterson and his wife, Sheila, recently agreed to chair the university’s $2 billion Brilliant Future fundraising campaign.

As they see it, the best way to make a difference in the world is by supporting higher education, “because that’s where the bright minds are,” says Sheila Peterson, an avid gardener who’s president of Beachside Books, a boutique publishing house.

Adds her husband: “UCI’s academic and research prowess makes it one of the greatest resources on the planet. Its impact extends far beyond Orange County.”

The Petersons, who live in San Juan Capistrano and have seven adult children, are known for their contributions to various local nonprofits. On National Philanthropy Day in 2011, they were honored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Orange County chapter as “Outstanding Philanthropists” for their commitment to Orange County children.

“I am delighted that the Petersons, who embody what it means to be community leaders, are giving so generously of their time and talent as our campaign chairs,” says UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Their leadership and support enhance our ability to improve lives in our region, across our state and around the globe.”

The couple also serve as trustees of the UCI Foundation, and Jimmy Peterson is a member of its executive committee. In addition, Sheila Peterson chairs the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute advisory board. And both of them sit on several leadership councils across UCI.

“The Brilliant Future campaign will bring UCI, its alumni, and Orange County residents and businesses together,” Sheila Peterson says. “There is so much for everyone to get involved with.”