Philanthropic Visionary

Pedersen's support was transformative.


George Pedersen

George Pedersen, who with his wife, Marilyn, provided transformative support to launch the Pedersen Brain Science Institute (PBSi) at Johns Hopkins, died May 22 at age 87. The founder of multibillion-dollar cybersecurity company ManTech, Pedersen and his wife became among the largest benefactors in Johns Hopkins Medicine history.

“It was their desire to make an impact in translating brain science research to patients,” says Jeffrey Rothstein, director of PBSi. “One part of that was drug translation, and the other part was about studying normative things in our world, the space we live in and
how they impact brain health.”

Founded in 2007, PBSi’s missions are to solve fundamental questions about brain development, function and disease; translate this knowledge into effective therapies to support brain health and healing; and treat neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and ALS, for which multiple drug candidates are now in development, Rothstein notes.

Since its founding, PBSi has launched five biotech companies and become a leader in the developing field of neuroaesthetics through the launch of the International Arts + Mind Lab: The Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics, led by lab founder and executive director Susan Magsamen. She recalls Pedersen as being “very, very funny” and says: “George had a wry sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye. He was an honorable man and was in service to others his entire life.”

Another PBSi program, the Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery Program, works with researchers across the university to develop therapeutics for a wide range of disorders. These two collaborative programs have resulted in large amounts of follow-on government and nonprofit funding.

Pedersen’s philanthropy extended beyond the institute. He established a fund to help ManTech employees experiencing unexpected financial hardships as well as a program to provide jobs for neurodiverse young adults, and he supported disabled combat veterans and their families.

Pedersen grew up in Prince’s Bay in Staten Island, New York. He spent six years in the Army Reserves while attending college, where he studied finance and government contracting at Rutgers and Fordham universities.

Outside of running ManTech, which he co-founded in 1968, Pedersen was a volunteer firefighter in his town of Morris Plains, New Jersey. ManTech relocated to Northern Virginia in 1976, and over the years, the company acquired more than 70 other companies and grew to 10,000 employees.