First Colombia Volunteers Reunite at Rutgers University
By Kevin Quigley on Friday, November 12th, 2010
On Thursday evening, November 4, Rutgers University—as part of a two-day celebration honoring Columbia One—the first group to enter Peace Corps training—organized an evening symposium on the future of the Peace Corps. More than 250 community members attended, including 37 members of Colombia One.
Phil Furmanski, the University’s Executive Vice President and father of an Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) from Togo, was our enthusiastic host.
Ron Schwarz, representing his fellow Colombia-Oners, shared experiences about his days as a PCV. He also spoke movingly about how far short of the initial vision of the Peace Corps we were… with only 4,000 volunteers annually rather than 100,000 per year.
Peace Corps deputy director Carrie Hessler-Radelet spoke compellingly about the agency’s new strategic vision and how it was using new resources to improve impact, open new countries, and improve its systems and infrastructures.
Perhaps the evening’s most moving remarks were made by Timothy Shek, who is currently a graduate student at Rutgers and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia. Tim is in the Peace Corps Fellows program and described poignantly how his Peace Corps experience changed and enriched his life. Tim’s remarks also underscored the ongoing continuum linking the volunteers of Colombia One and volunteers today.
In their irrepressible fashion, a triad of Colombia One “rock stars” sang an original do-wop song extolling the great virtues (and looks) of the Colombia One volunteers.
This symposium was a great prelude to the unveiling of the plaque the next morning honoring this pioneering group’s training and the role played by Rutgers in the early days of the Peace Corps.
Watch wonderful vintage newsreel footage about the group’s training here.
An added bonus: NBC Nightly News sent a news crew to Rutgers to report on the Colombia I reunion. Watch it here: