Diné College offers condolences to the family of Peterson Zah
28 Feb 2023
TSAILE, AZ — Peterson Zah, the first Navajo Nation President and Chairman, and a champion for education passed away Tuesday. Zah advocated for education as a means to rebuild the Navajo Nation and was a fierce advocate for young people to get involved and make a difference.
“We have lost a real champion for education – all of education from early childhood through college,” said vice chairman of the Diné College board of regents Greg Bigman. “When I wanted to start a Foundation, he was one of the first people I reached out to. Almost immediately after that, Pete had lined up meetings with foundations and senior executives at Arizona State University to help us navigate this path.” Today, the Diné College Foundation is in its second year of existence. It’s all because of Zah said Bigman.
Such was the nature of Zah, he was committed to helping others first, especially if it benefited the Navajo Nation. Arizona State Senator Theresa Hatathlie added, “He always advocated to improve our school system and increase the number of students going to college. He understood the value of education and how it could transform lives.”
As a leader of the Navajo Nation, Zah spent a lifetime making college more accessible to all Navajos. “Today, we hear a lot about college access and equity, President Zah was talking about these issues decades before they became commonplace,” said Charles M. Roessel, president of Diné College. “He created more scholarship opportunities for students, held area universities accountable for the success of Native students and continually encouraged Navajo students to give back to their communities.”
Zah graduated from Phoenix Indian School and later attended earned his teaching degree from Arizona State University. Originally from Low Mountain, Arizona, he moved to Window Rock where he got his start in politics as a school board member.