An invitation to serve as a vocalist for the 1966 Miss South Dakota Pageant led to a 50-year commitment to the Miss South Dakota and Miss America Organizations as a scriptwriter, designer, producer, director, and nationally renowned pageant judge. Ray Peterson displayed his talents in music and art early in life singing for church, school and community events, designing prize-winning parade floats, decorating store-front display windows and producing plays in the basement of his parents’ general store. Thus began a lifetime dedication to both the Performing and the Visual Arts.
In January, 1971, while serving as a U.S. Army Transportation Specialist in Vietnam, Ray was awarded The Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Achievement. He began his 40-year tenure at South Dakota State University in the fall of 1971 garnering both state and national recognition while guiding and changing young people’s lives for the better as a teacher in speech communication and theatre; as a scenic artist and technical director for over 200 stage productions; as an advisor to the Alpha Psi Omega Dramatics Fraternity; as the producer of South Dakota Proud; as a director of musical theatre; as Administrator of the State University Theatre program; and as a highly respected judicator in both Oral Interpretation and One-Act Plays for the South Dakota High School Activities Association.