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Our History and Founders

A positive impact on the lives of thousands of young people—particularly those facing daunting challenges, is the legacy of Peter Tower and his wife, Elizabeth. The couple formed the Foundation in 1990, helping realize their vision to better the lives of young people, after having successful careers and raising their family in Western New York.

Peter, a Niagara Falls native, served in the United States Army Air Forces in 1943 as an air traffic controller in Texas and England before returning to Western New York to a “temporary” job clerking for his family’s customs brokerage house, C.J. Tower & Sons. A partner by 1950, he guided the company through three and a half successful decades in business. He was widely considered an innovator, as he was the first in his industry to fully automate operations. By the time Peter sold the company to McGraw-Hill in 1986, it had grown to 90 times its original size. The company was later sold to Federal Express, which continues to use systems developed under his leadership today.

Peter met Elizabeth when they were both students at Cornell University, and they eventually married and had two children. Elizabeth’s passion was painting, and she had a long and successful career as an artist. She experimented with a variety of media and styles and is best known for the organic abstraction of her landscapes. The current logo for the Foundation is based on Elizabeth’s work.

Peter and Liz understood that with prosperity comes responsibility and established The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation in 1990. Peter and Elizabeth’s two daughters, Mollie and Cynthia, and their husbands, John and Robert, serve on the Foundation Board helping to guide it as their parents had envisioned. The foundation is committed to its vision of communities that embrace and value young people living with an intellectual disability, learning disability, mental health issue and/or substance use disorder, eliminate the associated stigmas, and increase awareness of young people living with one of these issues.

The Foundation awards grants totaling upwards of $5 million annually. In addition to financial support, Foundation staff help organizations build their capacity. The Foundation helps create connections between collaborators and resources, and partners with other funders, leveraging collective assets to maximize impact.


While Peter Tower was very accomplished, his wife Elizabeth was very successful in her own right as an artist, working primarily in oil and acrylic paints. The artwork displayed throughout this website is her work, which was rarely available commercially but was exhibited frequently in the 1960s and 1970s and honored with numerous awards.