Universities and the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary
By Erica Burman on Monday, July 26th, 2010
As preparations are being made to celebrate the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary in 2011, universities are among those that will be taking a prominent role. Kicking things off this October is the University of Michigan (UM), where, in a sense, it all began. UM will be hosting a multi-day series of events, talks, lectures, receptions and exhibits to mark the moment when then-presidential candidate Kennedy first floated the idea of what would become the Peace Corps. (“How many of you would be willing to go to Ghana?…”)—and the student response that made the Peace Corps a reality. A national symposium on the future of international service, co-sponsored by NPCA, the Brookings Institute and UM is on the schedule; a comprehensive listing of UM’s Peace Corps anniversary events can be found here.
Universities also served as training sites for early groups of Peace Corps trainees before they departed for overseas (and there are some wonderful stories out there about what the early training was like.) Rutgers University, for example, played host to the first group of Peace Corps trainees headed to Colombia, a role they’ll be commemorating. (Here’s a link to a great newsreel clip.)
History aside, many universities simply will be honoring the Peace Corps’ spirit of service and their RPCV alumni.
Once such school is the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), which will hold a series of free events for the public this fall. Lectures, a panel discussion, a film screening, and a book and photo exhibit are some of the many activities UCSB has selected to honor the Peace Corps.
On September 26 the Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life will host Sarah Chayes (Morocco 84-86), Gordon L. Radley (Malawi 68-70, Western Samoa 79), and Thomas Tighe (Thailand 86-88), who will speak on “International Service: Bringing The World Back Home.”
The University has invited Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams (Dominican Republic 67-70) and the National Peace Corps Association’s own president, Kevin Quigley (Thailand 76-79) as speakers for the keynote addresses on Sunday, November 21.
On a separate date, UCSB and the UCSB Women’s Center will host a screening of Virginia Williams’ documentary film, “Frontrunner: The Afghan Woman Who Surprised the World.” The film is told from the perspective of the sole female candidate in Afghanistan’s first democratic election in 2004. The University plans to invite Williams, (Morocco 97-99) an Emmy Award-winning producer and film director, to attend the event.
The celebration will continue throughout campus, with writings from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers on display in the university library along with photos taken by members of the Santa Barbara Peace Corps Volunteers. Last but not least, the University will devote a special evening to “Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps, and Public Service.”
These events and many more will be posted on a comprehensive Peace Corps 50th Anniversary calendar, coming to the NPCA website in late August.