The current President and Head of College is Désirée McGraw, appointed in April 2015. McGraw formerly was President of the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation, and a former advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada.
Lester B. Pearson, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Prime Minister of Canada, was the driving force behind the founding of Pearson College UWC. After retiring from public life, Pearson became interested in the United World Colleges movement. At that time, only one United World College existed — Atlantic College in Wales, established in 1962. Pearson visited Atlantic College in 1969 and there, met with students and faculty. He came away convinced that there must be more such colleges around the world and, in particular, one on Canada's west coast. He envisioned that:
“Students will be welcomed without regard to race, religion or politics and we intend to establish scholarships so that the students who attend the College will be from all levels of society and will be genuine representatives of their own peoples. This system … could become a revolutionary force in international education.”
Lester B. Pearson became Honorary Chairman of a committee formed to build what was to be known as the College of the Pacific. He worked tirelessly in the early days of the planning process, but died in December 1972, just as the project was getting underway. Soon after his death, it was decided that the College would be renamed Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific as a living memorial to his legacy. The Hon. John L. Nichol, CC, was chosen as initial Chairman of the Board of Trustees and a major fundraising effort began, with over $4 million raised—83% coming from individuals, corporations and foundations across Canada and around the world, and the remaining 17% from governments around the world. Ground broke on the college's construction on Sep. 25, 1973.
Over the next year, Jack Matthews, the founding director of the College, recruited a faculty of men and women from around the globe, and on Sep. 25, 1974, the inaugural cohort of 100 students arrived. An official opening the following year was attended by Lord Mountbatten, Jean Chretien, and Charles, Prince of Wales. Since then, up to 200 students have attended each year. Pearson College UWC continues to be funded through individuals, alumni, corporations, foundations, select provincial and local governments in Canada and some UWC donors.