Al and Peggy Richardson have been leaders in giving back to the community for decades. Al, a U.S. Navy veteran of WWII, moved from Philadelphia to Erie in 1975 to be Patent Counsel of GE Transportation until retiring in 1990. Peggy moved from Philadelphia to Edinboro in 1964. She taught in the Millcreek Township School District for more than 25 years, retiring in 1993. Al and Peggy met in 1984 and married in 1989.
When Al retired, he stated that he planned to devote himself to volunteer work for a number of social change causes. Together, the Richardsons have blazed a trail of community service for three decades, contributing to multiple generations of families in our community. During that time, they have given generously of their time and talent in addition to financially supporting numerous organizations and efforts to make Erie a better place.
Al and Peggy are city dwellers and advocates of the public schools in Erie. For many years, Al served as a Volunteer in Probation. Fifteen years ago he and Peggy designed the parameters of a scholarship program for qualified African American students graduating from Erie’s Public Schools. Through the Erie Community Foundation, they created and continue to fund the Frederick Douglass Scholarships. More than 130 high school seniors have been awarded scholarships in excess of $400,000 to help with their college tuition costs.
Further support of Erie’s Public Schools includes the couple’s support of the GoFish public art project in 2001. Al and Peggy sponsored a fish and delegated its decoration to a diverse group of Strong Vincent High School students. The resulting “Catfish Tales” earned the “Team Effort Award” and is on display in the lobby of the Strong Vincent HS auditorium.
From the inception of cable television in Erie, Al has been an advocate for, and participant in, Public Access TV (Time-Warner cable Channel 2). In the mid 1990s, he co-wrote the bylaws, served as an incorporator and lobbied for the City of Erie Cable Television Access Corporation, aka Community Access Television. CAT provides an affordable forum for underserved citizens to “speak” and be heard.
Al was one of the co-founders of the Erie Regional Peace & Justice Center, Citizens Against Racism in Erie (CARE), the Erie Peace Initiative, and Citizens Interfaith Council for Democracy. In 2011, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie honored Al and Peggy with their “Prophet of Peace” award.
Al is also a long-time Political Chair on the Executive Committee of Lake Erie Group of the Sierra Club. He has notoriety in some circles as a writer of op-eds and over 70 letters-to-the-editor published in the Erie Times-News.
Peggy has a distinguished history of “hands-on” as well as substantial financial contributions to the Erie Philharmonic. She collaborated with Eiji Oue to develop the orchestra’s Education Program and a stint of chairing the Jr. Phil Orchestra’s Steering Committee. In 2009, the Phil honored her “for 30 years of outstanding service, generosity and leadership.” Peggy once won the baton and conducted the orchestra; and she is now a Director Emeritus of the organization’s Board of Governors.
Peggy has chaired Edinboro University’s Friends of Music and has served on, and chaired, the Asbury Woods Partnership Board of Directors. She was appointed to the original Erie County Regional Assets Committee and served many years on the Erie Community Foundation’s Schuster Fund endowment advisory committee. In 2007, she was honored by the Mercy Center for Women as one of its “Women Making History.”
The Richardsons are“pillars” of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie. For many years Peggy was its Music Director. Al was a delegate of his church to Congregational Action to Lift Lives (now Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network). He took the lead role in one of CALL's most successful actions: adding all students age 18 or older graduating from the City of Erie High Schools to the Erie County jury pool.
They have financially supported diverse arts, culture, environment and social service causes near to their hearts with significant gifts to many local nonprofits, including United Way of Erie County, Asbury Woods Nature Center, the Warner Theater Preservation Trust, the Inner City Neighborhood Art House, WQLN, Stairways Behavioral Health, Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Erie Art Museum, EUP’s Friends of Music and Porreco College, SafeNet, the Second Harvest Food Bank and Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park (LEAF).
In honor of their longstanding commitment to advancing the common good in our region, United Way of Erie County presents the 2015 Tocqueville Award to Al and Peggy Richardson.