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Marking a Place in History

Celebrating Where Peace Corps Training Began

By Tiffany James

Photo at left: Students in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) with Roger Rhatton, a Peace Corps Volunteer from Bay Village, Ohio, 1965. Photo courtesy National Archives

 

In the early years of the Peace Corps, many of the first Volunteers began training on a campus in Brattleboro, Vermont, which is home to the School for International Training. Now there’s a marker honoring that legacy — and the roots of the Peace Corps in the Experiment in International Living.

Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps, was himself a participant in the Experiment in International Living before World War II. With the launch of the Peace Corps, he reached out to Experiment leaders to assist with training Volunteers headed to Gabon and Pakistan. And a decades-long partnership was born.

These Peace Corps training activities led to the establishment of the academic institution now known as SIT, which has educated countless members of the Peace Corps community over the years, offering undergraduate study abroad and master’s degrees in global issues. On August 13, members of the Peace Corps community, politicians, and university leadership came together for a ceremony dedicating a historical marker that honors “examples of America’s commitment to international peace, intercultural understanding, and improving lives.”

 

Sign of the Times: paying tribute to the people and place. Photo courtesy Peace Corps

 

Among the presenters at the ceremony were keynote speaker Carol Spahn, CEO of Peace Corps; Sophia Howlett, president of SIT; Carol Jenkins, CEO of World Learning, the parent organization of SIT; and Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT). Javonni McGlaurin, who studied at SIT and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines 2014–16, read a letter from Tim Shriver, who leads the Special Olympics board of directors and is the son of Sargent Shriver. A letter from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was read by staff member Katherine Long. NPCA Interim President and CEO Dan Baker participated in the dedication ceremony as well.

In true Peace Corps fashion, grassroots efforts helped make this moment: It was a group of returned Volunteers in Vermont who advocated for the creation of this permanent historic marker. Carol Spahn, who earlier in the day delivered the commencement address for SIT, thanked the returned Volunteers in her keynote address. “It’s important to recognize those moments that bring us to where we are and to really honor the intention with which we come together today and with which our organizations were formed,” Spahn said.

 

“No alliance of organizations or people have done more to break down the walls of misunderstanding and fear that have divided culture from culture, religion from religion, country from country, people from people.”
—Tim Shriver

 

In his letter, Tim Shriver paid tribute to the partnership being celebrated. “No alliance of organizations or people have done more to break down the walls of misunderstanding and fear that have divided culture from culture, religion from religion, country from country, people from people,” he wrote.

 


This story appears in the Winter 2023 edition of WorldView magazine.