C. Peter McColough, chairman of the board of Xerox Corp., was named yesterday by President Carter to head a blue-ribbon commission on pension policy.

The commission is charged with developing national retirement goals and reforms of existing programs. It will assess the existing patchwork of 100,000 public and private pension systems in an effort to avoid costly duplication. It will also grapple with the problem of how to fund retirement systems adequately.

The President announced creation of the commission in June of last year at a news conference in which he railed against double dipping, the practice of drawing a pension from one employer (often Uncle Sam) while working for another. According to administration sources, the idea languished for over a year during which Atlanta attorney Charles Kirbo, a personal friend of Carter, was reportedly considering the commission's chairmanship. Then he decided against it this summer, the search was on for a person with a broad outlook but also a knowledge of pensions.

McColough, 56, a native of Nova Scotia, is a lawyer and has a degree in business administration. He joined Xerox in 1954 and became president 12 years later. He served on a presidential advisory council under Lyndon Johnson. At present he is a director of the New York Stock Exchange and a member of The Business Counrox's retirement plans are also finance-Council on Foreign Relations.

Xerox's pension plan gets high marks from government pension officials. In 1977, under McColough's chairmanship, the company adopted a retirement income guarantee plan which assures a defined monthly income to all Xerox employes. It makes up the difference, in any, between a specific figure and the amount provided by the profit sharing plan. Xeroxs retirement plans are also financially sound, according to the annual report.

Nationwide, it's a different story. The unfunded liabilities of federal state and local plans are estimated at $400 billion by the General Accounting Office.

McColough's appointment was praised by Ian Lanoff, administrator of Pension and Welfare Benefit Programs for the Labor Department. "We at Labor have high hopes for his commission. I hope he (McColough) turns out to be the right guy at the right time."

Lanoff outlined what he considers should be commission priorities: the kind of benefits that should be provided to Americans and the best vehicles for doing it. One philosophical question to be discussed, he said, is whether the private pension system should provide a level of benefits for all workers, much like the minimum wage.

He added the commission demonstrate that the White House is "vitally interested" in the retirement area. Its interest is also economic: pension fund assets now surpass $500 billion and the funds now own between 20 and 25 percent of the stock of companies listed on the two major exchanges.

McColough, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Nine other commissioners will be named to the panel. It has a two year mandate and a $2 million budget. Until its final report is made, the President has asked for a halt on new piecemeal liberalizations of federal retirement programs unless essential.