Peter Wilhelm Ottocar Hegener died on April 27 in West Hartford, Conn. after a brief and valiant battle with esophageal cancer. His wife of 19 years, Rachel Bommer Kuhe, was by his side. He was 84.

He was born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1938. His life was defined by his childhood wartime experience. Because of his mother’s bravery in sheltering an American pilot who had parachuted onto their farmland at the end of the war, Peter and his family were given safe passage to the United States in December 1950.

Peter attended Brooklyn schools and graduated as class president from Erasmus Hall High School. Among his many accolades at that time was his proudly-earned Eagle Scout badge. He went on to graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

After holding several engineering positions, Peter was offered a job as head of career services at Princeton University. There he hatched the idea of creating a compiled reference book on graduate schools. In 1964 he left the university to co-found and serve as chief executive officer of the new publication, Peterson’s Guides, Inc.

Peterson’s would eventually take him to every educational institution in the U.S. and beyond. While visiting China in 1978 with a delegation of U.S. publishers, he was informed that Peterson’s Guides were the single most popular reference books in the Chinese university library system. Over the next 30 years, the company expanded to a catalogue that included reference books and data services covering all facets of education.

In addition to its historical products, the company had created and was preparing to launch a product that would have allowed high school graduates to submit college applications online several years before the Common App.

Peter will be remembered for his boundless energy and positive outlook. His engaging laugh and contagious smile would light up a room and he always took an interest in learning more about the people surrounding him. His love of skiing, photographic safaris in Africa, gardening in Princeton where his 25,000 daffodils were admired each spring, fishing at his family home in the Beaverkill Valley, and vacationing with his young family in Edgartown always gave him joy.

During the last 20 years, Peter relished his time at the West Chop home of Rachel’s family, where they spent much of their time together. He embraced West Chop, as his friends and neighbors embraced him. He could be found on the water in his favorite Whaler, Winnetou, working in the gardens overlooking Vineyard Sound, walking on the beaches and paths with his devoted dog Fritzie and enjoying the view of the sunset from their porch.

Considered to be a consummate gentleman by all who met him, he was proud to be a German who became a respected U.S. citizen. He was forever grateful for the educational advantages and entrepreneurial opportunities afforded him as an immigrant to this country.

In addition to his wife Rachel, Peter is survived by his former wife Karen Casey Lambert, the mother of his children. He is survived by his children Holly Hegener and her husband Jon Cummings, and Peter Hegener and his wife Allison, and by Rachel’s children Jonathan Kuhe and his wife Carolyn, Tucker Kuhe and his wife Caitlin, and Abbey Kuhe.

He is also survived by his and Rachel’s beloved grandchildren Sam, Max, Josie and James Cummings, Lily and Peter Hegener, Katie, Grace and James Kuhe, Evelyn and Betsy Kuhe, and Bear and Bommer Gilpin.

A memorial service will be held in Princeton at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Polly Hill Arboretum.