Our Legacy

from the start



Jim & Joan Peter marry on December 31.
Jim & Joan Peter marry on December 31.
Jim and Joan endows Specialty Family Foundation and awards first grants.
Jim and Joan endow Specialty Family Foundation and awards first grants.
SFF launches its Catholic Schools Capacity-Building Initiative.
SFF launches its Catholic Schools Capacity-Building Initiative.
October 2009
James B. Peter
James B. Peter passes away on October 30 and the James B. Peter Memorial Scholarship is established in his memory.
November 2012
Joseph Womac
SFF hires Joseph Womac as its second Executive Director.
November 2013
SFF launches its Board Associate Program.
SFF launches its Board Associate Program.
SFF publishes its Catholic School Capacity Building Initiative Report.
SFF publishes its Catholic School Capacity Building Initiative Report.
November 2019
Mary Chambers
Mary Chambers retires from the Board (Term: 11/13 - 11/19).
June 2020
Specialty Family Foundation - Website Home Page
Specialty Family Foundation's Impact Plan is implemented.
December 1955
Jim founds Specialty Laboratories Inc.
Jim founds Specialty Laboratories Inc.
May 2006
SFF hires its first Executive Director, Steve Bumbaugh.
SFF hires its first Executive Director, Steve Bumbaugh.
January 2009
Deborah A Estes
Deborah A Estes, Jim and Joan’s daughter, is elected Board Chair.
October 2009
Joan C. Peter
Joan C. Peter passes away on November 6 and the Joan C. Peter Memorial Scholarship is established in her memory.
January 2013
Dan Estes
Dan Estes, grandson of Joan and Jim Peter, is elected to the Board as the first third-generation family member.
November 2016
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles STEM Network is launched.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles STEM Network is launched.
November 2019
Gina Peter
Gina Peter, granddaughter of Joan and Jim, is elected to the Board of Directors.
November 2019
Fr. Val J. Pater
Fr. Val J. Peter, brother of Jim Peter and founding Board Member, passes away on June 30.


When Dr. James B. and Joan C. Peter launched Specialty Family Foundation in 2006, they weren’t afraid to take bold risks in order to have the greatest impact on communities, families, and individuals struggling to break free of persistent poverty. This spirit of entrepreneurial philanthropy was a common thread throughout their lives.

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska as part of the Greatest Generation, Jim and Joan were shaped at an early age by their Catholic faith. They also understood the power of family in facing life’s most difficult challenges and circumstances.

“He was extraordinarily passionate about family. Family meant everything.”

—Chrissie Peter,
2nd Generation & Board Member


After earning his M.D. degree at St. Louis University and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota, Jim joined the faculty at UCLA where he conducted groundbreaking research. Joan lovingly and expertly managed their home and the never-ending work of raising their seven children.

Even with Jim’s modest salary, they made sacrifices to ensure their sons and daughters received a quality Catholic education. This helped them understand the enormous sacrifices low-income parents make face in order to give their children the opportunities offered by Catholic schools. This knowledge stayed with them, and would later inform their decision to support inner-city Catholic education through philanthropic investment.

“The Catholic faith was the glue that held our family together. It was the bedrock of our family.”

—Joani Noneman,
2nd Generation & Board Member


When their first child was accepted to university, Jim and Joan realized they would need to find the means to send six more children to college as well. Leaving his beloved UCLA research lab behind, Jim opened his own rheumatology practice in Santa Monica. It quickly flourished.

As his patient list grew, Jim had the bold and risky idea to open an onsite lab right in his office — saving his patients the time and trouble of traveling back and forth for lab tests and results. Launched in 1977, Clinical Immunology Laboratories expanded to become Jim’s sole business. Renamed Specialty Laboratories, the business became an internationally recognized company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and was eventually purchased by Quest Diagnostics. Jim’s risky decision paid off.

“Our grandparents always taught us, if you want to make something of yourself, you can. That idea stuck with us.”

—Father Val Peter,
Brother and Former Board Member


After retiring from the business, Jim and Joan knew they wanted to use their wealth to help other struggling families find their own pathways out of poverty. Drawing on the opportunities and values a Catholic education had provided them and their children, the Peters focused their efforts on Catholic schools across LA County’s most impoverished communities. As part of his research and learning, Jim would often show up unannounced at elementary schools for a tour and heart-to-heart with the principal.

Humbled, moved, and inspired by what they saw at these schools, Jim and Joan began awarding small grants to support math, science and technology programs. Seeing the promising impact of these initial investments, the Peters began laying the groundwork for a large-scale, long-term philanthropic endeavor to help struggling schools develop the capacity, knowledge, tools, and talent to keep their doors open to low-income families. And Specialty Family Foundation was born.

“What Specialty Family Foundation was doing was different. They were bringing capacity to these schools, human capital. Schools that traditionally have a principal and teachers and that’s it were being given talent that was outward facing, to tell the world about these places, to champion them.”

—Joe Womac,


With an initial focus on inner-city Catholic education, Jim and Joan also wanted Specialty Family Foundation to invest in other innovative programs and organizations working to solve complex challenges around poverty in LA County.

Joan had long been a passionate advocate for substance use prevention and treatment which plays a central role in perpetuating intergenerational poverty. Inspired by Joan’s passion, Specialty Family Foundation expanded its philanthropic reach to include substance use disorder treatment and housing interventions with an emphasis on supporting the whole family.

“Our mom could find a silver lining in everything. She would always say no one ever went blind looking on the bright side.”

—Karen Peter,
2nd Generation & Board Member


Throughout their 53 years together, Jim and Joan Peter continued to believe that faith, family, and boldness of purpose could provide the solutions to our communities’ most intractable challenges around poverty. Together, they worked
tirelessly and fearlessly to turn this belief into reality, by investing millions of dollars in philanthropic endeavors both before and after the launch of Specialty Family Foundation.

The impact of their investments can be seen in the Catholic schools they have helped revitalize, the mothers and fathers in active recovery, the families who have found safe and stable homes, and the children on the path to a brighter future.

Jim and Joan’s work has inspired their own family as well. Today, the second and third generations of Peters serve on the Board and staff of Specialty Family Foundation. Committed to supporting the Foundation’s original mission, this new generation is now focused on moving forward to meet emerging challenges. As part of this vision, we will continue to invest in partners who share Jim and Joan’s bold approach to big ideas that generate the greatest impact.

“My parents created a lot of wealth. And instead of keeping that wealth, they looked at areas where they could change lives. That is the blessing of having wealth.”

—Jimmy Peter Jr.,
2nd Generation & Board Member

“If Dr. Peter were here today he would be incredibly proud of his children & what they have accomplished.”

—Robert Goldman,
Board Member