Focused on Impact

Thomas (Tom) L. and Timothy (Tim) R. Pearson are business entrepreneurs, investors, and philanthropists with a long-standing interest in resolving global disputes and violent conflicts. Growing up in Iowa, the twin brothers were strongly influenced by their parents—a Methodist minister and a college professor—who were deeply engaged with the civil rights movement, nuclear disarmament, and other central issues of their day. As they began to look beyond their successful business careers—Tom as a corporate general counsel and Tim as a best-selling author and sought-after business and marketing advisor—they began to discuss their family’s legacy with brothers Philip and David. Before long, their vision came into focus: the Pearson family would leave a lasting mark by supporting research aimed at reducing violent conflict and by applying research conclusions to inform related public policy.

“No single issue is more important today than the study of the intersection of war, failed states, terrorism, and economic cataclysms—and more importantly, the response that the design of policies directed toward forming a more peaceful world will have,” Tom Pearson says.

As accomplished business leaders, Tom and Tim Pearson have learned the critical significance of rigorous, fact-based analysis serving as the foundation to inform effective decision-making.

The University of Chicago announced a landmark $100 million gift from The Thomas L. Pearson and The Pearson Family Members Foundation to create The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts and The Pearson Global Forum at Harris Public Policy. Equal to the second largest gift in the history of the University of Chicago, the gift places the University and Harris Public Policy at the forefront of global conflict resolution. The Pearson Institute fills a critical gap in identifying new strategies rooted in innovative and data-driven research approaches and acts as a driving force in transforming how we understand and approach global conflicts.

The Pearson Institute awarded its first five Pearson Fellowships and awarded a grant to fund the PhD work of its first Pearson Scholar.

The University appointed Christopher Blattman as the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies and Oeindrila Dube as the Philip K. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies. 

The University appointed acclaimed political economy scholar and University Professor James Robinson as the Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies and institute director of The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts.

The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts officially commenced its mission to research and understand violent conflict, annually convene the international policy and academic communities, and educate the next generation of scholars and practitioners.

During the 2016–17 academic year, The Pearson Institute hosted numerous conferences and events that convened researchers and practitioners from across the full spectrum of conflict study, including diplomatic and government leaders, legislators, members of the military, and other key constituents.

The Pearson Institute began educating the next generation of global conflict scholars and practitioners. The Pearson Institute faculty along with three affiliated faculty members developed six courses in global conflict for the 2016–17 academic year.

The Pearson Institute held the inaugural Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Lecture, featuring Sergio Jaramillo, Colombian High Commissioner for Peace and chief strategist for the Colombian government throughout the successful peace process with the FARC.

During the 2017–18 academic year, The Pearson Institute expanded its efforts to convene researchers and practitioners from across the full spectrum of conflict study, by hosting numerous events and conferences featuring academics, policymakers, and practitioners.

The Pearson Institute faculty and faculty affiliates taught ten courses in global conflict for the 2017–18 academic year and the Institute welcomed another class of Pearson Fellows and Scholars.

Two new specialized courses of study, the certificate in international development and the certificate in global conflict studies, were established in conjunction with Harris Public Policy, available to any graduate student at the University of Chicago.

The Pearson Institute held the second annual Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Lecture, featuring Jonathan Powell, Director and Founder of Inter Mediate and Chief British Negotiator in the Northern Ireland peace talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement.

The Pearson Institute convened the inaugural Pearson Global Forum. Held on the University of Chicago campus, the inaugural Pearson Global Forum convened leading academics, policymakers, and practitioners to discuss critical issues of global conflict.

The University appointed Nobel Laureate Roger Myerson The David L. Pearson Distinguished Service Professor of Global Conflict Studies, Harris Public Policy, the Griffin Department of Economics, and the College.

The Pearson Institute moved into its permanent space in the Keller Center, the new home of the Harris School of Public Policy. The Keller Center provides an intellectual hub for leading scholarship and distinct education, a platform for The Pearson Institute and Harris Public Policy to advance rigorous, evidence-based approaches to confront pressing challenges at home and around the world. 

The Pearson Institute held the third annual Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Lecture, featuring Dr. Husam Zomlot, Head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK (Ambassador) and Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Palestinian President.

During the 2018–19 academic year, The Pearson Institute convened researchers and practitioners through numerous events, workshops, seminars and conferences.

The Institute offered ten courses through Harris Public Policy in the 2018-19 academic year and welcomed another class of Pearson Fellows and Scholars. Graduate students from across the University of Chicago earned certificates in Global Conflict Studies and International Development. Faculty and doctoral students from across the University were awarded competitive grants for their research on global conflicts. 

Throughout the year, The Pearson Institute led Harris Public Policy students in International Conflict Seminars to Northern Ireland, Jordan, and Israel and the West Bank.

The Pearson Institute is guided by its founding vision to pursue enlightening data-driven research and policy impact. Donors Tom and Tim Pearson reflect on the urgency of conflict study, the progress they’ve seen, and the important work ahead.