Steven Saum posted an articleThird director of the Peace Corps, he led the agency through tumultuous times see more
Third director of the agency, he led during turbulent times
By Steven Boyd Saum
The Peace Corps community mourns the loss of Joseph H. Blatchford, third director of the Peace Corps. He took on that role at a time that heralded, he said, a “new world and a different America from 1961” when the Peace Corps was launched.
Joseph Blatchford was appointed to lead the Peace Corps by President Richard Nixon in May 1969 — and he headed the agency during turbulent times of Nixon’s first administration. Tapped for the post at 34 years old, he came with nearly a decade’s experience of organizing international volunteers: In 1961, he had launched the organization Accion to send U.S. volunteers to work in Latin America.
Some of the initial luster was already off Peace Corps when Blatchford took on the director’s role. That was true in the U.S. — deeply divided over the war in Vietnam — as well as internationally, where countries were increasingly seeking Volunteers with greater skills and expertise.
Blatchford called for a “wider spectrum” of volunteers, seeking, as the New York Times noted, to enlist “trade union members and blue collar workers, mature persons in mid-career, not just fresh college graduates.” He also floated the idea of a “reverse Peace Corps” to bring volunteers to the U.S. to help in domestic antipoverty programs.
New Directions: Third Director of the Peace Corps Joseph Blatchford in his office, January 1971. Photo by Warren K. Loeffler / Library of Congress
Blatchford introduced changes to the agency under the banner of “New Directions.” That included the creation of an office for minority affairs. “I think that the people who characterized the Peace Corps as an organization made up primarily of lily-white, middle-class people may have had a very valid point,” he told an audience at Harvard University in 1970. “But I think that has changed. We have a tremendous need for Blacks and other minorities, particularly in places like Africa and Latin America."
It was also during his tenure as director, in May 1970, that a group of returned Peace Corps Volunteers occupied Peace Corps headquarters for several days in protest of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. That was the same U.S. military campaign that led to the tragic shootings at Kent State University.
In the fall of 1970, writing for the journal Foreign Affairs, Blatchford asked, “Are we seeing the beginning of the end for the Peace Corps, or is it perhaps the end of the beginning?” He noted, “The American people, in a public opinion poll, declared the Peace Corps to be the best investment among our foreign assistance programs.” But, he said, “To attract Volunteers from a wider spectrum of American society, the Peace Corps has to broaden its appeal.” He put in place policies to allow Volunteers to serve with families. And he recognized that when it came to building true partnerships with countries, “if the Peace Corps has done better than some agencies, it is still behind the times.”
At a time of national turmoil, he also raised a question that resonates many decades later: “It is common for Americans to ask today, ‘Why go overseas when there is so much to be done at home?’”
At a time of national turmoil, he also raised a question that resonates many decades later: “It is common for Americans to ask today, ‘Why go overseas when there is so much to be done at home?’ The answer to the question is also best exemplified in the nearly 40,000 Volunteers who have now served in the Peace Corps and returned home. After living among the poor abroad and struggling in the agonizing process of change, they are not satisfied with ‘band-aid’ cures.”
He acknowledged the “bitter disillusionment over the Vietnam war among the Peace Corps’ traditional college constituency. For many of these students the Peace Corps is tainted by the war, an arm of the Establishment, merely the most tolerable part of an intolerable government.”
And he recognized the perception that the days of the Peace Corps might be numbered. “Some think the President will allow the Peace Corps to die of inattention. In the Congress the Peace Corps could fall victim to partisan politics.”
That didn’t happen. But under Nixon Peace Corps was folded into a new umbrella agency, ACTION, along with other domestic agencies including VISTA and Teacher Corps. And Blatchford was named head of ACTION.
Blatchford’s life story includes a remarkable television moment as well: As Director of the Peace Corps, in 1972 he appeared on “The Mike Douglas Show,” which was being guest-hosted by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. One fellow guest that day: rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry.
That same year saw President Nixon reelected in a landslide. All agency heads were asked to submit their resignations. The story is that Blatchford told a colleague, “But I thought we won.” Along with a pro forma resignation, he submitted a real resignation letter, and he stepped down at the end of the year.
50th ANNIVERSARY REUNION, 2011: Joseph Blatchford, second from left, joined other leaders of the agency for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps. | Front row from left: Gaddi H. Vasquez, Ronald A. Tschetter, Jack Vaughn, Mark L. Schneider, Carol Bellamy, Mark D. Gearan, Elaine Chao. | Back row: Joseph Blatchford, Kevin O’Donnell, Richard F. Celeste, Aaron S. Williams, Nick Craw, Donald Hess
“Joe Blatchford led the agency through some of the most challenging and turbulent periods of Peace Corps’ 60-year history,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “In recent years, Director Blatchford has been a regular, enthusiastic participant in bipartisan efforts of past Peace Corps directors to support the agency and defend its independence.”
Indeed, in January 2020 he joined nine other former Peace Corps Directors to write an open letter opposing U.S. Senate legislation that would fold Peace Corps administration into the State Department. As that letter noted, in quoting Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s comment in 1961: “The Peace Corps is not an instrument of foreign policy because to make it so would rob it of its contribution to foreign policy.”
Joseph Hoffer Blatchford was born in Milwaukee in 1934. His family moved to California when he was 10 years old, and he was raised a Christian Scientist. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles for his undergraduate studies and excelled at tennis. He played at Wimbledon. In 1967 he wed Winifred March, an Accion veteran. Accion International, the organization that he founded in 1961, continues its work today. He died on October 7 at age 86.
“Every time we mourn the loss of a former Peace Corps director, we lose a part of our history,” said Glenn Blumhorst. “Our condolences to his family and to others who knew him, worked with him, and loved him.”
Steven Boyd Saum is editor of WorldView magazine and Director of Strategic Communications for National Peace Corps Association.
Meisha Robinson posted an articleRecent Political Appointees to Peace Corps headquarters staff. see more
Patrick Young, Associate Director for Global Operations
Patrick Young joins the Peace Corps as Associate Director for Global Operations. He most recently served as the Acting Chief of Staff for the Office of Personnel Management during a period of significant transition. Prior to public service, Patrick gained extensive experience in operations as well as project and organizational management as an entrepreneur and business owner. Patrick has managed projects and teams for government, private sector, and non-profit clients both international and domestic. Patrick has a master's degree from George Washington University.
Joel Frushone, Associate Director for External Affairs
Joel Frushone joins the Peace Corps as Associate Director for External Affairs after serving for four months as our Director of Communications. Joel brings over 20 years of experience in Africa, where he lived for nearly 10 years.
Most recently, as the Global Communications Director for Malaria No More, Joel drove the organization's communications in the U.S. and Africa, and worked closely with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.
Previously, as the founder and CEO of Crescent Consultants, an international strategic relations firm that specialized in communications strategies and government relations in Africa, Joel worked closely with foreign governments, public and private enterprises, foundations, development agencies, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and others on policy and message development across the African continent.
Educated at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joel began his professional career as a legislative assistant for Congressman Tom Ridge, and worked as his personal assistant when Mr. Ridge was Governor of Pennsylvania. Joel went on to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho, where he taught small-scale agriculture production to women and children from 1995 to 1997.
After his Peace Corps service, Joel worked as the communications and advocacy director for World Vision International in Rwanda and Burundi, where he promoted World Vision's work with genocide survivors. Subsequently, he worked as an Africa policy analyst for the U.S. Committee for Refugees, where he documented the plight of uprooted populations in Africa's most volatile countries.
In addition, as a consultant for the Stevens & Schriefer Group, Joel helped elect Republican U.S. members of Congress, senators, governors, and foreign leaders.
Jeffrey Harrington, Associate Director for Office of Management
Jeffrey Harrington joins the Peace Corps as Associate Director in the Office of Management. Prior to the Peace Corps, he served in the U.S. Secret Service from 2009 to 2017 in a variety of roles including Program Manager, Protective Operations, Presidential Protective Division; and Branch Chief, Performance Studies and Statistical Systems, Management and Organization Division. He was the Department of Homeland Security Fellow at the RAND Corporation from 2011 to 2012. In addition, he has served as a vice president with responsibilities for training and education in the private sector, and as a dean and academician in higher education. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after 25 years of service, including two tours with the U.S. Department of State as a Marine Security Guard.
Jeffrey holds a doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; a master's in public administration from the University of Oklahoma; master degrees in psychology and history from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland; and a bachelor's degree from Regents College in Albany, New York.
Nancy Bruce Herbolsheimer, Director of Congressional Relations
Nancy Bruce Herbolsheimer joins the Peace Corps as Director for Congressional Relations after more than 35 years of senior level legislative and administrative service in the public and private sectors. She was most recently Senior Appropriations Advisor for Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA). Prior to that, she was affiliated with Herbolsheimer Law Offices, which she joined in 2003. She is admitted to practice law in the State of Illinois.
Ms. Herbolsheimer served previously as Senior Counsel to the Governor of Illinois, Director of Government Affairs for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and in the first Bush Administration under Secretary Samuel Skinner at the U.S. Department of Transportation as Director of Congressional Affairs. She later served as Chief of Staff for the Federal Railroad Administration, where nearly 800 employees reported through her to the Administrator.
Ms. Herbolsheimer worked as Appropriations Committee staff for Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), who served on the Subcommittee on Transportation Appropriations. Prior to that she served as press secretary to Congressman Jack Edwards (R-AL).
Ms. Herbolsheimer is a graduate of the George Washington University School of Law. She clerked for Judge Kenneth B. Kramer in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and family social science from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. In addition, she holds a master's degree in social work from the University of Minnesota.
Ms. Herbolsheimer has a daughter, Courtney, who is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania.
Robert Shanks, General Counsel
Robert Shanks joins the Peace Corps as General Counsel. Robert most recently worked at Raytheon Company as vice president of the legal arm for international and Washington operations. He was responsible for all legal issues involving Raytheon's international business, including international transactions, compliance, cross-border disputes, and corporate governance for Raytheon's foreign subsidiaries, joint ventures and foreign offices, as well as the company's Washington office. Prior to joining Raytheon, Robert served as vice president and assistant general counsel for Nextel Communications and deputy general counsel for Nextel International (now Sprint).
Robert's career has included government service, private practice and industry experience as senior in-house counsel responsible for international business. He has extensive experience with international transactions, disputes and corporate governance issues in Asia, Europe, the Americas, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, and North Africa. Following his clerkships, he joined the Washington office of Latham & Watkins as an associate. He left private practice to serve as Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice and subsequently served as Vice President and General Counsel of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Following his service at OPIC, he returned to private legal practice as a partner specializing in international project finance, privatizations and cross-border investments, including a two-year tour in Hong Kong.
Robert serves on the boards of the Children's National Hospital Foundation, the Council on Accreditation, and the St. Albans School for Public Service. He has previously served as a director of the International Law Institute, the Washington Foreign Law Society, as a member of the International Steering Committee of the D.C. Bar, and as chair of an ABA International Law Section subcommittee on Central and Eastern Europe. As an adjunct law professor at the Georgetown University Law School, he has taught courses on negotiating international transactions and the First Amendment. He is a fellow in the London-based Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University and from the University of Virginia School of Law, Order of the Coif, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review.
Matt Sheehey, Director of Press Relations
Matt Sheehey joins the Peace Corps as Director of Press Relations. He worked on Capitol Hill for six years, serving most recently as press secretary for former Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19). Matt and his wife, Lisa Chesnel, were Peace Corps Volunteers from 2007 to 2009 in Panama, where they lived in a small village of sugar cane growers in the province of Veraguas.
Matt worked on numerous environmental health projects and edited the Peace Corps/Panama magazine La Vaina. Prior to serving in Panama, he was a reporter and editor for seven years at The Independent, which published community newspapers in upstate New York. He grew up in Kinderhook, NY and graduated from Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. Matt and Lisa live in Arlington, Virginia with their sons Peter, 8 and Patrick, 5.
Shannon Kendrick, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Governmental Affairs
Shannon Kendrick joins the Peace Corps as Director of Strategic Partnerships and Governmental Affairs. Before owning her own company, Kendrick Consulting Group, Shannon served as the senior vice president of marketing, communications and operations for the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance in Norfolk, Virginia.
Shannon served as district director for Congressman Scott Rigell in Virginia's 2nd congressional district, and held active roles in the Leadership Institute, the National College Republican Committee, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Shannon earned her MBA from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is a magna cum laude graduate of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she majored in government and law. She is a recipient of the Virginia Leadership Institute's Trailblazer Award for her political leadership in Virginia. She was recognized as 2013's Top 40 Under 40 in Hampton Roads, and the YWCA of South Hampton Roads 2016 Woman of Distinction. Shannon is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, The Links, Incorporated and the 20/20 Leaders of America Association.
Derek Anderson, Volunteer Placement and Assessment Specialist
Derek Anderson joins the Peace Corps as a Volunteer Placement and Assessment Specialist. Most recently he worked as a management consultant for Capco. While at Capco, Derek worked as an IT project manager and was responsible for coordinating milestone delivery, project reporting, and tracking program action items. Simultaneously, Derek led an internal Capco change management team to align stakeholders and successfully open a new office in DC. Derek joins the Peace Corps team excited for the opportunity to work where his true passion lies.
Derek graduated cum laude with a bachelor's of business administration in finance and international business from Loyola University Maryland in 2016.
Karen Jones Roberts, Director of Gifts and Grants Management
Karen Jones Roberts joins the Peace Corps as the Director of Gifts and Grants Management. Karen has over 20 years of senior management experience as an administrator in government and business where she has advised organizations on strategy, development, marketing, government relations, and public affairs. Karen most recently served as senior advisor to the president and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). In this role, Karen served as OPIC's liaison to top White House officials on policy, management and personnel issues. She also served at OPIC from 2003-2009 as managing director of market initiatives where she identified opportunities in education, healthcare, and financing for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Prior to her role at OPIC, Karen served as director of outreach for the Caregiver Action Network, a national organization that works to support family caregivers. She also served as a founding partner for Team on the Ground, LLC, a government and public affairs consulting firm. Earlier in her career, Karen served as deputy chief of staff for the Small Business Administration, where she was the catalyst for establishing a vision and a strategic plan for the agency. In addition, she directed the Potomac Conference at the Greater Washington Board of Trade, a regional chamber of commerce. In that role, Karen significantly expanded and managed a policy program for regional CEOs and other senior level leaders focused on economic development, quality of life, and new economy issues.
Karen has served in senior level roles at the Department of Labor and at Citicorp/Citibank. She served at the White House as the deputy to the special assistant to the President for intergovernmental affairs and as director of trip coordination in the Office of Presidential Advance. While working toward her degree in business administration and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, Karen worked for the Texas House Minority Leader. Karen has a certificate in international business management from Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. She is a native of California.
Joske Bautista, Deputy Director of Congressional Relations
Joske Bautista joins the Peace Corps as Deputy Director of Congressional Relations. Most recently, he served as a senior professional staff member for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC). During his tenure Joske managed the foreign affairs, immigration, border security, and international programming portfolios. Prior to joining HSGAC, he served as the policy advisor for the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Joske earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from Hendrix College and a master's in international law from the University of Kent. He is a native of Tennessee.
Leah Kieff, Program Specialist in the Office of Gifts and Grants Management
Leah Kieff joins the Peace Corps as a Program Specialist in the Office of Gifts and Grants Management. Most recently, she served as foundation director at Generation Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on helping young Americans gain knowledge and tools to take control of their financial futures and better their lives and communities.
Before joining Generation Opportunity Institute, Leah served in the Peace Corps as a community and organizational development Volunteer in Moldova.
In her spare time, Leah enjoys travel, listening to management books, and using her Yelp Elite status to discover the hottest spots in D.C.