Sargent Shriver: Brief Encounters of the Most Memorable Kind
By Kevin Quigley on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Like many volunteers who did not serve in the pioneering Shriver era, 1961-66, I knew only the faintest outline of Sargent Shriver’s remarkable life: founder/first director of the Peace Corps; vice presidential candidate; and husband to Eunice Kennedy.
Shortly after I started at the NPCA, I had the fortunate opportunity to make a courtesy call to meet Director Shriver. In that first meeting, he defied my expectations.
By coincidence, that morning my parents were visiting from New York. Over breakfast, my mother—Katherine Dunphy Quigley—told me something that I hadn’t heard before that provided me an opening line for my meeting with Sarge:
“Mr. Shriver, you and I have something in common: your wife and my mother shared a gym locker at Manhattanville College.”
His eyes twinkled, and he laughed infectiously.
As I looked around his office, there was an incredibly rich visual record of an amazing life. Given that, I anticipated that he wanted to discuss the past.
Boy, was I wrong.
I began by talking about the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. Sarge wasn’t interested.
Instead, he wanted to talk about how we could make a much more peaceful and prosperous world.
Then, he wanted to know specifically what I was going to do to make that vision a reality, and by when.
The last time I saw Sarge was at Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s wake in Hyannis. Sarge looked fabulous, handsome and debonair as always, although it was clear that his Alzheimer’s was advancing rapidly.
In introducing myself on the that day, I said I was from the National Peace Corps Association and had been a Peace Corps volunteer.
His eyes twinkled, he squealed with delight, and exclaimed, “I love the Peace Corps,” And then he kissed my hand.
Knowing that this might be the last time I saw him, I kissed his hand and said, “And the Peace Corps loves you.”
We do love Sarge. Against the odds he built the Peace Corps in a way that its best features of passion and commitment to making the world a better place are perhaps some of the truest reflections of Sargent Shriver.
Kevin F. F. Quigley is President of the National Peace Corps Association.
Read NPCA’s statement on the passing of Sargent Shriver, plus links to a condolence book, Shriver resource information and more.