2014 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Take risks early in your career. You won’t always hit home runs, but you shouldn’t be afraid of failure."
Peter Stott and his twin sister were born in 1944 in Spokane, Washington, and are the oldest of five children. Not long after the twins' births, the family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Peter's father taught at the University of Portland. "My father is educated and very smart," says Peter of his 98-year-old father. "But he didn't earn enough money in those early days to support a large family, and he had to work two and three jobs for a while. In 1954 he got a better paying job with a chemical company, and he never returned to teaching."
Peter's mother was a bookkeeper before she married, but later she stayed home to take care of the family. "There were seven of us in a small home with one bathroom," says Peter. "In the summertime we had a half-bath on the back porch, but it would freeze in the winter and couldn't be used then. Money was always tight for us, but we seemed to have all our necessities taken care of."
At some point during Peter's childhood, his mother became sick. "I can't remember the specifics," he says. "We lived near my grandparents, and my sister and I were sent to live with them when my mother was ill. I'm not sure how long we were there, maybe a year, but it was long enough for me to really get to know my grandmother. She was a wonderful lady. She was a taskmaster, but she was also an encourager. She always told us to hitch our sleigh to the tallest star and go as far as we could in life. She was very inspirational to me."
Peter was curious and liked to be active. He enjoyed his time in the Boy Scouts, and especially loved hiking and camping. At the age of 14, he joined a local climbing club and climbed to the summit of Mt. Hood, 11,245 feet. He went to climbing school and eventually became a guide during his 10 years of climbing the Cascades. "Climbing teaches you the importance of teamwork, Peter says. "When you are roped together with four or five climbers, they are as dependent upon you as you are on them. It's about self- reliance. Just as important, it's about responsibility."
At an early age, Peter discovered that he enjoyed working more than going to school. At age nine, he accompanied his father on a side job to paint the inside of the university's science building. Peter was up on scaffolding three stories high to reach the ceiling. "It was a job no child would be allowed to do today," says Peter, "but I enjoyed it." When he was 10, Peter got a paper route. In the summers he also mowed lawns and picked berries, already involved in several businesses at the same time. In high school, he worked two summers in a meat- packing plant.
In high school Peter played football for two years and ran track all four years. He was anxious to graduate from high school and get on with his life. He worked during the school year as a janitor and also got well-paying summer jobs. He attended Portland State University while also working nights and weekends as a laborer and truck driver. He went to college for parts of six years, between 1962 and 1968. He would work long enough to pay for a term, then drop out to work and then return to school when he could pay for another term. Mostly Peter worked on docks, loading and unloading trucks. That job led to driving a truck on weekends, hauling cucumbers to a processing plant.
Peter's original plan was to become a high school football coach. During his first two years in college, he returned to his high school and served as a student assistant football coach, but that experience taught him that he wanted a more challenging career. Since he enjoyed the outdoors, he then considered forestry as a career choice. Eventually, that major changed again to business and finance. In the meantime, Peter was given an opportunity to buy a long-haul truck from the immigrant farmer he had been working for, and one of his college professors lent him part of the money he needed to buy it. "My plan was to drive that truck during the summer of 1969, and then I would park it and go back and finish school," says Peter. "But I ended up buying two other trucks that summer, so I put off going back to school. Moe, who owned the local truck stop, cleaned out a broom closet to make an office for me and by the fall of 1970, I had six trucks. I sort of tiptoed into my business. By the time I had six trucks, I knew that's what I wanted to pursue."
Peter worked as one of his drivers for about four years, and then went into an office full time to run his business. He made his first $1 million in 1976 when he was 32 years old. In 1989 he hired a president to take over the daily operation of Market Transport, Ltd., which had become one of the largest trucking and logistics providers in Oregon, and Peter stayed on as chairman. When the company was sold in 2006, there were 1,000 trucks and about 2,500 employees.
After he hired a president to run the trucking business, Peter felt he was ready for a new challenge. With a partner he co-founded Crown Pacific, a forest products company that also bought and sold timberlands in Oregon. In 2004 Peter sold the assets of Crown Pacific. He had started a holding company in 1983, and now devotes his full attention to Columbia Investments, which primarily focuses on equity and real estate investment opportunities.
"I like a challenge," says Peter. "I think it is just my personality to continue to work. I guess that was instilled in me at a young age—to be self-reliant and to work hard. My advice to young people is to get a good education and develop a good work ethic. I took a few chances with my career when I was young, and I don't regret it. You don't always hit a home run, but you can afford to take a loss when you are young. I don't think you should be afraid of failure."
For Peter, the American dream is starting with nothing and making something of your life. "I grew up with little, but I was fortunate that opportunities came my way. Some I made myself, others came along at the right time. The key to it all was knowing how to make those opportunities work for me and going after them."
Peter believes those kind of opportunities still exist today although it is probably a more challenging environment for today's young people than it was when he was a young man. "Opportunity does still knock, and I am honored to become part of an organization that helps young people with their education so they can make those opportunities work for them," he says. "I am very passionate about helping our young people get a good start in life. Receiving the Horatio Alger Award and becoming a member of this Association is humbling and a real honor."
The Peter W. Stott Foundation has helped to support dozens of organizations throughout the country. Mr. Stott has served on multiple boards collectively raising millions of dollars for education, medicine, women and children, the arts, and the environment. Mr. Stott has also provided financial support for 14 young adults to attend college as well as endowed university scholarships, directorships, and professorships. "The primary focus of our foundation is education because education is the greatest neutralizer in the world and holds the most promise for helping the next generation," says Mr. Stott.
Mr. Stott is on the board of directors for Con-way Inc. (NYSE: CNW), the nation's third-largest less-than-truckload carrier with a market cap of $2.51 billion and revenue of $5.58 billion; the board of directors of Gerding/Edlen Development Company, one of the nation's leading real estate investment and development firms focused on urban, infill, office, apartment and mixed-use properties; and Omega Morgan, one of the Northwest's leading providers of complex lifting, rigging, and moving solutions. Mr. Stott is a former board of director of Liberty Northwest Insurance Company, a Liberty Mutual Company. He is also on the Foundation Board of Portland State University and recently was appointed to the University's Governing Board.
He serves as a Founders' Circle Member of SOLVE and is a trustee of the Portland Art Museum. He served as founding chairman and trustee of the Crater Lake National Park Trust.
In 1999, Peter Stott received the Oregon Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He is also the recipient of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Hope Award (1997), the Portland State University President's Award (1998), the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Honoree of the Year (1999), the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Hall of Fame (2000), the Portland State University Simon Benson Award (2001), SOLVE Tom McCall Leadership Award (2009), and the AFP Outstanding Philanthropists Award (2009).