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Peace Corps Achievements — November 2021

News and updates from the Peace Corps community — across the country, around the world, and spanning generations of returned Volunteers and staff.

By Peter V. Deekle (Iran 1968–70)

Ambassador Donald Lu (pictured) confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. Gary M. Restaino nominated to be U.S. Attorney for Arizona. Women advancing in medicine and business. New books. Honoring an early Volunteer for outstanding contributions to the community. Nonprofit leaders research clean energy and financial empowerment.

Have news to share with the Peace Corps community? Let us know.



Ken Culver (1965–67) has been inducted into the Central Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, which recognizes persons over 60 who have made special contributions to their communities. In addition to his time on city council in Lancaster, Ohio, he works with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Fairfield County.  He is a founding member of the Lancaster Playhouse and served on the Fairfield Medical Center board, and has also worked with the Maywood Mission, Habitat for Humanity, the Lancaster Public Education Foundation, the Salvation Army, and the First Presbyterian Church Elder Mission.




Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel (1999–01) is a photo editor at National Geographic. She serves as a judge for the Ocean Storytelling Grant and has edited stories in the magazine’s 2019–20 series highlighting women. She also contributed to the 2018 series on race and diversity.






Melvin Foote (1973–75) was recognized as one of the Top 500+ Annual Powerlist Influential Africans in the World by Tropics Magazine. He was honored with the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mali—the Knight of the Order of Mali, for a foreign national. Foote is the founder and CEO of the Constituency for Africa.






Charles Blomquist (1988–90) has been appointed to the Baltimore City Circuit Court by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. He has spent his entire legal career as a prosecutor and is currently a deputy state prosecutor in the Office of State Prosecutor.






Chris Roesel (1973–75) is the founder and president of P2P, Inc. It is a nonprofit organization providing water, sanitation, hygiene, malaria-elimination, and income improvement in Uganda. The organization was named a 2021 Top-Rated Nonprofit. In August, his new book, How to Improve the World Quickly, was published by Peace Corps Writers. “After the Peace Corps, how to help those most in need was the question that drove me,” he noted. “So I searched out the best projects in the world, analyzed them, and then tested what and how to do it in more than 20 countries of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.”





Margaret Chell (2018–20) was more than a year into her service as a Volunteer when COVID-19 struck. Now she is completing medical school at Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in Pasadena, California.







Adam Browning, co-founder and longtime executive director of Vote Solar, is leaving the organization that he began 20 years ago. Vote Solar was founded in 2002 and advocates for clean energy in legislative and regulatory arenas at the state level, where most decisions about electricity are made.




Jessica Collins (1996–98) is executive director of the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. Her wide-ranging professional leadership in building coalitions to tackle the pressing community issues has been recognized through her selection as a 2021 Woman of Impact by Business West.






David Brummel (1998–2000) has been appointed (October 2021) Director of Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment in Minnesota. He served as deputy director beginning in 2014.






Clifford Garstang (1976–77) practiced international law before becoming an active writer of fiction. He recently published Oliver’s Travels (Regal House Publishing), a novel exploring the “folly of memory and life’s meaning” through Ollie Tucker, a recent college graduate and student of philosophy, who invents an alter ego, Oliver, who lives the adventurous and exotic existence Ollie cannot.






Roland Merullo (1979–80) has published Driving Jesus to Little Rock (PFP Publishers), a quirky travelogue about a driver who picks up a passenger who claims to be Jesus.






Lawrence Leamer (1965–67) has published Capote’s Women, which depicts Truman Capote’s relationship with notable women during his lifetime and is just out from Putnam. Leamer is the author of 18 books including five New York Times bestsellers and one off-Broadway play.





Mike Mitchell (1983–85), founder of Project Play, was awarded Alumnus of the Year by De La Salle High School in Concord, California. The nonprofit organization provides universal access to basic social services; empowering people living in poverty and their organizations; progressively developing social protection systems to support those who cannot support themselves; addressing the disproportionate impact of poverty on women; intensifying international cooperation for poverty eradication.




Gary M. Restaino (1991–93) was appointed in October to be the United States Attorney for Arizona — the top federal law enforcement officer in the state. Restaino has been a federal prosecutor in Arizona since 2003 and was previously the chief of the criminal division and the white collar crime section. Restaino has also worked as a trial attorney for the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section and worked on some of the highest profile cases of the past decade in Arizona. Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Restaino was a civil rights lawyer for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and represented farmworkers for a Phoenix-based legal aid service.




Donald Lu (1988–90) became Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs on September 15, 2021, after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Prior to this assignment, Assistant Secretary Lu served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic from 2018 to 2021 and the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Albania from 2015–18. Before his posting in Albania, Assistant Secretary Lu worked on the Ebola crisis in West Africa as the Deputy Coordinator for Ebola Response in the Department of State. Lu is a Foreign Service Officer with more than 30 years of U.S. government service.




Lauren North (2010–12) is the newly-appointed staff attorney for the Jefferson County Family Court (KY) and the first recipient of Earlham College’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award (October 2021).


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