Remembering Bob Klein, Ghana 1: 1929-2012
By Guest Contributor on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Bob Klein passed away on April 4, at the age of 83. Bob was a tireless and passionate supporter of the Peace Corps who late in life made it his mission to preserve an important part of the Peace Corps community’s–and our nation’s–history. He will be missed.
By Phyllis Noble
RPCVs gathered to remember Bob Klein — member of Ghana 1, (1961-1963,) Country Director of Peace Corps Ghana 1966-1968, Founder of the Peace Corps Oral History Archival Project, and Author of Being First: An informal history of the early Peace Corps — in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sunday, April 29, 2012.
Over 45 friends and neighbors and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) participated in a celebration of Bob’s life, reading passages from Bob’s book, and then going outside for a ritual libation and a recollection of Bob’s life work. We remembered his humor and his wit, his unfailing dedication to Peace Corps, and his determination to keep the Peace Corps Volunteer experience alive and accessible through oral history interviews and careful archival work.
A week earlier, in Tucson, Arizona, other RPCVs honored Bob at a book reading at Or Chadash Library.
Bob was a member of Ghana 1, the first group to begin Volunteer service overseas on August 30, 1961. After serving as Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana from 1961 to 1963, Bob Klein joined Peace Corps staff, supporting in-coming volunteers in the field in Ghana, then helping to set up the Peace Corps program in Kenya, and then returning to Ghana as Peace Corps Country Director. A few years later, Bob returned to Ghana with his wife and two children and served another stint as a Volunteer!
In retirement, after many years of teaching in New Jersey, Bob began to interview RPCVs, beginning with the members of his own group, Ghana 1. Together with archivists at the National Archives in the John F. Kennedy Library, Bob set up a protocol for interviews and established the Peace Corps Oral History Archival Project. Between 1999 and 2012, Bob interviewed almost 300 RPCVs; the audio-tapes are now in the public domain, part of the National Archives housed in the JFK Library. Many of those RPCVs whom Bob interviewed are now out there, interviewing yet more RPCVs. The project continues!
Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, Bob Klein published Being First: An informal history of the early Peace Peace Corps. In 2011, in recognition for his work, Bob was given the Peace Corps Writers’ Advancing the Mission Award, an honor which gave him great delight.
A member of the RPCVs of Wisconsin-Madison sums up the feelings of many when she says,
“Bob had the ability to warmly welcome each new person in his life. When I first met him just a few short years ago, he made me feel like I’d known him forever. He paid attention to what each person brings to this life, recognized and honored it.”
Thank you to Phyllis for this contribution.