Jonathan Pearson posted an articleWe remember Peace Corps community members who served our nation with honor and distinction. see more
As we mourn the loss of members of the Peace Corps community, we celebrate the lives they led with a commitment to service.
By Jonathan Pearson
Our tributes include recognition of a lifetime legal servant from western Wisconsin who established the first victim-witness protection program, a groundbreaking leader at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and an education leader in Southern California.
Roger William LeGrand Jr. (1946 – 2021) devoted his lifetime to service beginning with his time studying to be a Catholic priest in the Servite Order at Our Lady of Benburb Priory in Northern Ireland. After graduating from St. Louis University, LeGrand served domestically as a VISTA volunteer, working with migrant workers in central Florida. Soon after, in 1969, he joined the Peace Corps, where he was assigned to train English teachers in southern India. Following Peace Corps, LeGrand enrolled at the University of Wisconsin Law School. He was president of the student bar association and received the Salmon Dahlberg Award as the outstanding graduate in the class of 1975. He began a law practice in La Crosse, taught business law at two schools, and was a member of the La Crosse City Council from 1979 to 1983. Soon after, he became a member of the school board. LeGrand became district attorney for La Crosse County. During his tenure he established his first victim-witness program and founded the La Crosse Domestic Violence Task Force. At the end of his career, he served as the Family Court Commissioner and was appointed as a Circuit Court Judge. In retirement, LeGrand served on many boards and commissions including the La Crosse Community Foundation, the La Crosse Public School Foundation, and the local Rotary Club.
Rebecca “Becky” S. Rootes (1951 – 2021) served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines and also served our nation for nearly three decades in various positions with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A graduate of Southampton College, Rotes earned her master’s degree in public administration while serving as a marine extension agent with the Texas A&M Marine Advisory Service. In 1983, she was awarded a Grant Knauss Fellowship, beginning her NOAA career as a legislative fellow, serving as a staff member of the former Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee within the House of Representatives. Early in her career, she helped establish the Women’s Aquatic Network, which brings together professionals with interests in marine, coastal, and aquatic affairs and promotes the roles of women in these fields. Rootes represented NOAA as a delegate to the International Whaling Commission and International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna. After retiring nearly ten years ago, she relocated to Onancock, Virginia. She became an accomplished artist and was active with the Eastern Shore Art League, the Historic Onancock School, and the Historical Society of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Dr. Amos Isaac (1934 – 2021) began his personal relationship with East and West Africa when he and his wife, Lorraine, served as Peace Corps Volunteers in the early 1960s. That served as the first of many sojourns to the continent to advance educational opportunities. After moving as a child to San Bernardino, California, Dr. Isaac would become a noted educator and community leader in the state’s Inland Empire region. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Redlands and a Ph.D. in education from Claremont Graduate School. Dr. Isaac became the second Black person to teach in the Redlands Unified School District. Over his long career in education, Dr. Isaac served as a teacher, administrator, and educational consultant. He also was a longtime member of Concerned Citizens, a coalition of political and educational leaders, and community service organizations dedicated to improving the quality of education for all in the Redlands Unified School District.
Marcia Karen Lang (1941 – 2021) was an early Peace Corps Volunteer, assigned to Guatemala in 1963. A graduate of Miami University in Ohio, she earned a master’s degree in social work from Fresno State University. Lang traveled the world with her husband, living and working in Colombia, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Honduras, Indonesia, Russia, Egypt, and Guatemala. She was a consultant for CARE and other international development organizations during her time in Guatemala, Indonesia, and Russia. Upon her return to the United States, she settled in Sarasota, Florida, and was active with the local Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group, the Democratic Party, and the local Episcopal Church.
Thomas P. Kelly Jr. (1943 – 2021) traveled through Europe during the years of his studies at Whitman College in southeast Washington. Upon graduation in 1966 with a degree in fine art, Kelly married his first wife, Marilyn. Together, they joined the Peace Corps, volunteering for three years in Tanzania and Uganda. Returning to the United States, they settled in Eugene, Oregon, where Tom opened a graphic design business. In 1986, he joined the advertising agency Cappelli Miles Wiltz, becoming senior art director and part owner. For more than 20 years he donated his design services to nonprofit organizations in the local community.
Joseph Albert Doucet (Nigeria 1965–66; Tanzania 1968–69), 1/22/21
Dr. Arthur John Eisenhower (Afghanistan/El Salvador 1973–76), 2/3/21
Thomas P. Kelly Jr. (Tanzania/Uganda 1966–69), 1/14/21
Louis D. “Mike” Michel III (East Timor/Bulgaria 2000–03),
Shelton Pitney III (1970–73), 1/26/21
Dr. Rebecca L. Cassell (1960s), 1/31/21
Paul Bankerd (1967–68), 1/14/21
Polly Bednar, 2/8/21
J. Edward Johnston (early 1960s), 1/13/21
Judith L. Thrasher (1966–68), 2/3/21
John Raymond Bellenoit (1970–71), 2/11/21
Anne Gabele (1971–73), 1/25/21
Richard Beman, 1/13/21
Marcia Karen Lang (1963–65), 1/24/21
Roger William LeGrande Jr. (1969–71), 2/8/21
John Alden Metcalfe (1962–64), 1/26/21
Mary J. (Wertz) Fiscus (1967–69), 2/10/21
Mike John Curry (1972–74), 1/21/21
Carl V. M. Benander (1998–2000), 1/23/21
Dennis Lohr (1970–72), 12/2020
Mary Jane (Hughes) Crowther, 1/21/21
The Most Rev. Dr. Lorraine Bouffard (1963–65), 1/31/21
Wendy L. Murray (1970's), 12/26/20
Eleanor Stuart Blue (late 1960's), 1/27/21
Sowchan Vandenakker (staff), 1/22/21
Robert L. Gilbert Jr. (1972–74), 2/8/21
Joyce E. Merritt, 1/17/21
Michele Wilkie (1971–73), 1/17/21
James Proctor Brown III (1962–64), 1/4/21
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Evelyn Agnes Murrill, 2/1/21
Francis B. “Frank” O'Hara (Country Director 1979–84), 12/17/20
George Dennis Drake (1982-84), 1/20/21
Kenneth Ross Ingle (1965–67), posted 1/27/21
Richard K. Putt (1970–72), 1/24/21
Rebecca S. “Becky” Rootes, 2/5/21
Julie Myers (1983–85), 1/29/21
Jill Larsen, 5/27/20
Enoch E. Evans, 1/7/21
John Oliver, 12/31/20
Paul Justus (1973–75), 1/20/21
Nancy Frances Tuft (1964–66)
COUNTRY OF SERVICE NOT SPECIFIED
Dr. Isaac Amos (Africa early 1960s), 1/21/21
Edmond Dale “Ed” Johnson, 12/12/20
Bruce McAtee, 2/11/21
Vernell Johnson Tyler, 1/3/21
If you have information you would like to share for our monthly In Memoriam post, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Achievements in the Peace Corps community from across the country -- and around the world see more
News and updates from the Peace Corps community — across the country, around the world, and spanning generations of returned Volunteers and staff
By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–70)
Pioneering Black women in leadership roles with the Department of Labor and Department of State. Bringing expertise to work on the National Security Council and in the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. Recognition for work toward equity in health and forest stewardship. And a new role in journalism.
Photo: A Twitter moment with Janelle Jones, the new chief economist for the Department of Labor. She’s the first Black woman to serve in that role.
Erin Swiader took on responsibilities in January 2021 as Acting Forest Supervisor for the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico. She will oversee the management, protection, and productivity of the 1.6 million acres of the national forest. Swiader comes to this role from the Northern Region for the Forest Service, where she serves as chief of staff. The Northern Region is headquartered in Missoula, Montana, and encompasses nine national forests and the Dakota Prairie Grasslands across five states.
Jalina Porter (2009-2011) was appointed in January 2021 to serve as deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department. She is the first Black woman in history to serve in that role. She was formerly communications director for Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA), who has been appointed a senior advisor to the Biden Administration. Learn more about Porter and read her interview with civil rights attorney Elaine Jones in the new edition of WorldView magazine.
Maurice Lee has received the Fifth Annual Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Equity. The award, presented by the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, began in 2016. Dr. Lee is Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director of St. Vincent de Paul’s Virginia G. Piper Medical and Dental Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2016 Dr. Lee founded the Arizona Safety Net, collaboration among 40+ Phoenix-area free and low-cost clinics aimed at improving health equity for Arizona’s uninsured.
Topaz Smith is the founder and CEO of EN-NOBEL, with a vision to improve global peacefulness and sustainable socioeconomics in culturally rich communities.
Megan Vigil was recently appointed by the Lake County Commissioners as the county’s new Public Health Officer. She is a family practice physician with St. Luke Community Healthcare in Ronan, Montana.
Juan Gonzalez (2001–04) has taken on responsibilities as Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere. He previously served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs during the Obama administration.
Steven Lawrence is an adjunct professor of American government at Walters State Community College. He has been appointed as a Hamblen County Election Commissioner by the Tennessee State Election Commission.
Michaela Washington (2018–20) was sworn in in December 2020 as an Equal Opportunity Specialist with the Chicago’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
Robert Allen Jr. (2019–20) has been selected as a 2021 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow. The fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of State, administered by Howard University, attracting and preparing outstanding young people for Foreign Service careers in the U.S. Department of State. It welcomes the application of members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the State Department.
Ethan Fogg (2017–19) has begun an 11-month internship to bolster community and economic development efforts undertaken by Grow Gillespie, the local volunteer group focused on the economic growth of Gillespie, Illinois.
Stacie Haines (1997–2000) is the development director at Maine Conservation Voters, and has been appointed by the governor as an expert in the delivery of environmental services to communities and individuals.
John D. Mann (1988–91) has been reappointed by Californiia Governor Gavin Newsom as Deputy Director of Legislation at the California Department of Technology, where he has served since 2017. He served as communications director in the Office of California State Senator Tony Mendoza from 2014 to 2017, and as communications director on the Alex Padilla for Secretary of State Campaign from 2013 to 2014, and in the Office of California State Senator Alex Padilla from 2011 to 2014.
Robin Martz (1993-1995) is the director of the USAID Rwanda Health Office. She has worked on maternal and child health in Laos, polio in Afghanistan, HIV in Haiti, and emerging pandemic threats in Thailand and Cambodia.
Brendan O’Brien assumed the position of the Charge d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in San Salvador in January. Previously, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission (2019–21), Consul General at the United States Embassy in San Salvador (2017–19), and at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires. Aires, Argentina (2014–17).
Janelle Jones has taken on the role of Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Labor — the first Black woman to serve in this top post. Previously, she has worked for the Economic Policy Institute (2016–18) and the Center for Economic and Policy Research (2011–14). One place to start to learn more about her work and ideas: a piece she co-authored last summer for the Washington Post, “The Federal Reserve could help make the job market fairer for Black workers.”
Rajiv Joseph’s play, “Red Folder,” is the opening production for the new year by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. It is the third of six productions debuting on its Steppenwolf NOW virtual stage.
E. Scott Osborne (1980–82) is the president of the board of the Gulf Coast chapter of UN Women USA. She leads seminars on gender equality and speaks often to young people in the Sarasota, Florida, area. She has also raised the profile of the nonprofit organization’s Through Women’s Eyes film festival, an annual event that screens films by women directors from around the world. The festival is now in its 22nd year.
James Wilterding was appointed in January to serve as executive director of University of New Mexico Student Health and Counseling (SHAC). The pandemic has emphasized the essential role healthy campus communities have on student success.
Andy Blye (2017-2018) was hired by the Phoenix Business Journal to cover financial services and technology. Previously, he was a reporting intern at Dow Jones News Fund. He was also a graduate assistant at Arizona State University and has served as a market intelligence specialist at bChannels.
Full funding of $410.5 million for fiscal year 2021 see more
Full funding of $410.5 million for fiscal year 2021. And Peace Corps must put together a plan to provide access to menstrual hygiene products wherever Volunteers are serving.
By Jonathan Pearson
Peace Corps received good news on the budget front in December: Congress approved level funding for the agency at $410.5 million. The House had supported full funding all along, but the Senate Appropriations Committee had called for cutting $51 million.
“We are extremely grateful to our Capitol Hill Peace Corps champions for their efforts to make sure Peace Corps remains strong with level funding to help it begin the process of redeploying thousands of Volunteers in the field,” said National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst. Also thanked: “Thousands of members of the Peace Corps community who wrote a letter, made a phone call, reached out to neighbors and friends, or took action through the media. The fight to sustain funding for Peace Corps is your victory.”
More from Congress
The 4,500-page National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes reporting requirements regarding Peace Corps redeployment and Volunteers who were evacuated in 2020. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) introduced that component. Three months after bill passage, Peace Corps must update Congress on offers of redeployment assignments to all evacuated Volunteers who wish to continue service; progress on obtaining approval from countries of service to allow return of Volunteers; health and safety measures, including COVID-19 contingency plans; and need for additional funds or new statutory authorities to safely enroll 7,300 Volunteers within one year of resuming operations. Congress passed the NDAA in December. President Trump vetoed it on issues not related to Peace Corps. On January 1, Congress overrode the veto, making the bill into law.
After meeting with female Peace Corps Volunteers, Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced House legislation in March 2020 to require Peace Corps to develop a policy to ensure Volunteers have adequate access to menstrual hygiene products wherever they are serving. During NPCA’s Days of Action, returned Volunteers spoke with members of Congress about the value of this legislation. It didn’t pass, but what it was aiming for will guide Peace Corps’ work going forward: The Fiscal Year 2021 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations package includes language instructing Peace Corps to provide a strategy within 90 days to ensure access for Volunteers to feminine hygiene products.
John Garamendi, only returned Volunteer in Congress, is introducing Peace Corps legislation see more
The 2020 congressional elections mark the end of an era for Peace Corps in Congress: Now there’s only one. And he is working on new legislation to support and improve the Peace Corps.
By Jonathan Pearson
Photo: John Garamendi
The 2020 congressional elections mark the end of an era for Peace Corps in Congress: Since 1975, at least two returned Volunteers served simultaneously in the halls of Congress. Until now.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), who served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1966–68, was reelected with a relatively comfortable victory, securing 58 percent of the vote in California’s Third District. But he’s the sole RPCV to return.
Donna Shalala (D-FL), who served as a Volunteer in Iran 1962–64, lost her bid for reelection, one of 14 incumbents to do so.
Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), who served as a Volunteer in Dominican Republic 2004–06 and in the House since 2012, lost a primary bid for U.S. Senate. His departure marks the end of another era: Since 1947, a Kennedy has had a seat in Congress, with only two brief interruptions. The first, Joe Kennedy’s great-uncle John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps by executive order in March 1961.
Garamendi is Updating the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act
Congressman Garamendi is in the process of updating and reintroducing comprehensive legislation to support and improve the Peace Corps. The legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks. He introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R.3456), with bipartisan support, in the last session of Congress.
In introducing the bill, Garamendi said, “My wife Patti and I owe so much to our service in the Peace Corps. It inspired a lifetime of service that began in Ethiopia during the late 1960s and continued into state government in California, the Clinton Administration, and now the U.S. Congress. Now more than ever, Congress must support the Peace Corps’ mission and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place. Our reauthorization bill does exactly that, and I thank my fellow Peace Corps Caucus co-chairs and Congressional colleagues for their support as original cosponsors.”
That bill did not come to a vote. Read more about it here.
The evacuation of all Volunteers from posts around the world in March 2020 has changed the landscape for Peace Corps. And as the community-driven report Peace Corps Connect to the Future stakes out, this is a time to retool and reshape the agency. The report contains recommendations for Congress, the Executive Branch and the agency, as well as the wider Peace Corps community. Garamendi and others have been briefed on those recommendations.
Here are more legislative updates regarding the Peace Corps community.
Peace Corps Community Connect launches to bring together the Peace Corps community see more
Introducing Peace Corps Community Connect—an effort to connect, inform, and engage the Peace Corps community like never before.
By Marieme Foote, Caitlin Nemeth, and Molly O’Brien
Illustration by Forum One
The past year has underscored just how crucial the experience of Peace Corps service is, as are the values that it instills. Recent months have also driven home the fact that we need to connect, inform, and engage our community like never before. Which is why National Peace Corps Association has launched Peace Corps Community Connect.
As part of that team, we’re already partnering with groups of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and individual community members to find fellow RPCVs from their country of service. One goal is to connect our robust and active community and, in this time of social distancing, host virtual events, hear and better understand the impact of service on us and our communities — whether that service took place decades ago or was brought to an abrupt end last year.
At a time when it’s important to amplify our voices, Peace Corps Community Connect is also intended to link the entire Peace Corps community and bring change-makers together to engage on key issues like accessible healthcare, racial justice, and climate change. Lessons in the value of community are something learned by Volunteers who have served around the globe.
The 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps is a time for celebration. And it’s a time to commit to shaping a better future together. This year will be crucial for advocating for the reimagining and retooling of the Peace Corps for a changed world, and ensuring more meaningful positive and sustainable impact here at home.
As community outreach specialists, we’re working to connect 250,000 members of the greater Peace Corps community. For Marieme Foote, this work is shaped in part by her experience being evacuated from Benin in March. For her, it will help ensure we can build a better and stronger Peace Corps. Together with other evacuated Volunteers, she has advocated for greater support to Volunteers more broadly, and she has appreciated the sense of community she has experienced since returning.
For Caitlin Nemeth, who completed her service in The Gambia in 2019, the stories and insights from Volunteers and staff who went through the evacuation last spring have struck a chord. As Meg Holladay put it in the summer 2020 edition of WorldView, speaking of the work she was doing in Ghana: “Peace Corps work is so powerful because it’s work we do together with our communities, based on their priorities.” That sense of community-driven work carries into the efforts of Peace Corps Community Connect.
At a time of isolation that has lasted months, Molly O’Brien, who served both in Jordan and Thailand, has taken comfort in reconnecting with fellow RPCVs. It reminds her that a support network is always nearby: a place to share memories and experiences, and to find camaraderie with Volunteers from many generations and all walks of life.
We have already begun working with groups of returned Volunteers and former staff from around the world, helping them broaden and deepen their connections. We’ve been working with groups connected to countries including Guyana and Pakistan, Kenya and Kiribati, Vanuatu and Sudan. In the months ahead, we’ll be working with groups connected to every country where Peace Corps has served. As we do that, it’s with a clear awareness of this fact: Together we are stronger.
Peace Corps Commemorative continues to pay tribute to the Peace Corps legacy. see more
A concluding moment to the service of Joe Kennedy III in the House: legislation to enable work on the Peace Corps Commemorative to carry forward
By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum
Illustration by Edward Rooks
Joseph Kennedy III served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. After he was elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed focused on Peace Corps: It provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C.
In September 2020 the design was unanimously approved by the Commission on Fine Arts. But authorization for completing the project was set to expire before ground would be broken. On December 17, 2020, in the closing days of Kennedy’s tenure in the House, he and others secured passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to continue. Colleague Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grandnephew.
Photo by Drew Altizer Photography. Rendering courtesy Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation
And Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”
Late on December 20, the Senate unanimously approved the legislation. Sponsors Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a release paying tribute to Volunteers. “For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for Volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Portman. “We can ensure the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation can finish this important project and honor those Americans who have donated their time and talent to serving others.”
President Trump signed the bill into law on January 5.
First African American to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice see more
First African American to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice — and the first Black man to lead any division at Justice, period.
Photo Courtesy Yale Law School
Drew S. Days III was appointed to the Department of Justince in 1977 under President Jimmy Carter. He later served as solicitor general of the United States under President Bill Clinton. Gentle, courageous, and kind, he devoted much of his career to striving for racial equality. Born in Atlanta in 1941, he grew up in Tampa, Florida, and at the age of 30 won a lawsuit that desegregated the schools where he was educated.
“I rode segregated buses, and I was from the era with the segregated lunch counters and water fountains,” he recalled. Early work as a lawyer also included fighting housing discrimination.
He studied English literature at Hamilton College and law at Yale. And he sang. It was at Yale Russian Chorus rehearsals that he met Ann Langdon. They wed and joined the Peace Corps and served in Honduras 1967–69 and were married for 54 years.
After Peace Corps service, Drew Days worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York City. Tapped for his role in the Justice Department, he tackled racism in blatant forms in school districts and sought to ensure more effective discipline for police who abused their authority.
He joined the faculty of Yale Law School in 1981 and was founding director of the Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights. Days argued 17 cases before the Supreme Court and supervised nearly 200 more. He died on November 15 at the age of 79. Our hearts go out to Ann and the family he loved dearly.
COVID-19 is not the first time Ethiopia has dealt with public health concerns see more
Another time, another place, another virus
By Barry Hillenbrand
”Eradicating Smallpox in Ethiopia” is a hefty and important book that rightfully deserves an honored place on any shelf of serious books about epidemiology and public health. The book tells the tale of the work that some 73 Peace Corps Volunteers did in the 1970s with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Smallpox Eradication Program (SEP), a massive project that ultimately eliminated smallpox from the world.
This serious story is served up with large dollops of nostalgia, humor, delightful tales of daring, and loads of information about fighting infectious diseases, which — as it turns out in these times of the coronavirus — makes the book very contemporary. Even useful.
By the early 1970s, WHO’s goal of eliminating smallpox around the world was nearly accomplished. The SEP had battled down smallpox in all but a handful of countries. Ethiopia was one where the disease had been stamped out in major population centers, but it still raged in the remote corners of the country where there were few roads and meager medical infrastructure. Peace Corps and the WHO agreed to send Volunteers into these remote areas to root out the disease.
In late 1979, Ethiopia — and the world — was declared smallpox-free.
This book is made up of essays by the Volunteers who served in the SEP, plus contributions from Dr. D.A. Henderson and Dr. Ciro de Quadros of WHO. Inevitably there is a bit of repetition in the stories of broken Land Rover axles, tent-invading ants, the administration of massive numbers of vaccinations in crowded market places, impassable roads, and parasite ravaged guts. But the sum is far greater than the parts. This is a rich narrative history of a wildly successful and difficult Peace Corps project. These guys — and, yes, they were all men — were what we ordinary Peace Corps Volunteers called “real Peace Corps.” Peace Corps staff called them “Super Vols.” And they were.
Edge of the Gishe plateau: from left, SEP team members Ali Abduke, Lewis Kaplan, Girma, October 1973. Courtsey Warren Barrash.
The program used classic public health tactics: Find the remaining cases of the disease via intensive search and surveillance of the far corners of the country, then isolate and contain the disease carriers behind circles of vaccinations. No need to vaccinate the entire population of the country (though in the end SEP administered more than 17 million doses), just areas around where an outbreak was taking place, to create a barrier against its spread.
Sounds easy, but it wasn’t. Ethiopia is the second-largest country in Africa, but at the time had only 5,000 kilometers of what might be generously classified as all-weather roads. Over 80 percent of the population lived more than 30 kilometers from these roads. There are highlands with 13,000-foot mountains and sweltering deserts that sit below sea level. And in between are endless gullies, gorges, escarpments, and ridges to traverse.
Logistics were a nightmare. WHO handed out new Land Rovers to many PCVs in the program; they carried supplies to the jumping-off points, loaded gear on mules and, if they were lucky, also rode mules up and down escarpments in search of smallpox cases. Once, when there were no mules to rent, a PCV suggested to WHO headquarters in Addis that WHO buy a couple of mules for SEP use. The request was sent all the way up to WHO’s Geneva headquarters, where it was denied. The Volunteer, disappointed but determined, ponied up his current month’s living allowance and bought a pair of mules himself, reselling them later after the project was finished.
Gemu Gofa: A child receives a smallpox vaccination from Volunteer Michael Santarelli, 1973. Courtsey Mark Weeks.
Mostly they walked: hours and hours, from village to village over footpaths that took them to the far reaches of Ethiopia. They carried cards with pictures of smallpox victims, asking villagers if they had seen any cases. The PCVs hauled tents with them, but often they slept on the floors of regional health centers or, more often, in the mud tukul (round hut) of villagers who offered them welcome and shared food with them. The generosity and friendliness of these villagers — often the poorest of the poor of Ethiopia — was boundless and fills the PCVs’ writings, 50 years later, with a profound sense of admiration and affection.
While logistics were a major problem, the PCVs had to contend with other subtle and often more worrisome issues. Getting permission to vaccinate from local officials, in the form of a letter adorned with official stamps in that obsequious — and very essential — purple ink beloved by Ethiopian bureaucrats, was time-consuming and required great patience. Even with the letter from government officials in hand (some PCVs also carried a copy of a letter from Emperor Haile Selassie himself urging citizens to get the vaccination), finding cases and convincing people to be vaccinated was a laborious task.
Some ethnic groups in Ethiopia were more receptive to vaccination than others. The Amharas of Gojjam and the central highlands, for example, were cool to the idea of letting foreigners jab them with the special WHO-designed smallpox vaccination needle. They required extensive persuasion by the PCVs, even when smallpox was maiming and killing people in the villages. Other Ethiopians eagerly accepted these strange foreigners, mistakenly called “doctors.” In some places when word went out that vaccinations were on offer, hundreds of villagers showed up and pressed forward with such eagerness to get their vaccinations that it was difficult to maintain order.
Market day: Senyo Gebaya, northwest of Addis Ababa in Gishe woreda (district), May 1974. Courtesy Warren Barrash.
As for that needle: It was a two-pronged affair, and each cost less than a quarter cent to produce. The bifurcated tip was dipped into a bottle of vaccine; a drop would stick between the forks. The vaccinator would then make multiple punctures in the skin of the person being vaccinated.
Some PCVs worked alone, mastering not only the difficult terrain and stubborn mules, but the mélange of languages and customs. Most traveled with Ethiopian coworkers — public health professionals often called “dressers” or “sanitarians.” They shared the difficult trails, administering the endless rounds of vaccinations. Often they were able to provide interpretation into the other languages of Ethiopia. And they were good company and became close friends with the PCVs. Stuart Gold writes: “The WHO and Peace Corps workers of SEP… did contribute to the eventual demise of smallpox in Ethiopia, but in fact, it was the nationals on the ground, the translators, the helpers, and the sanitarians who worked alongside us who deserve most of the credit. Without them, we would have been unable to navigate the nuances of the Ethiopian culture and traditions.”
In their individual essays, the PCVs unfailingly pay tribute to the two beloved and admired WHO leaders of the project: Dr. Donald A. (D.A.) Henderson, director of the WHO’s Global Smallpox Eradication Program, and Dr. Ciro de Quadros, the charismatic and tireless WHO epidemiologist in charge of field operations in Ethiopia. These two WHO professionals not only led the successful fight to eradicate smallpox in Ethiopia, but taught the inexperienced PCVs their fieldcraft. The book is dedicated to them.
“The Smallpox Eradication Program in Ethiopia.” Mural by Ato Tesfaye Tave, 1975. Mural courtesy the Institute of the History of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University.
By 1973, smallpox was on the run, even in remote areas, but Ethiopia was undergoing profound changes. A severe famine struck the country’s central highlands. A few PCVs left the smallpox project and began working in famine relief. In 1974 Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown and an autocratic, communist-leaning government, the Derg, took power. Peace Corps withdrew from the country. WHO hung on, secured the support of the new revolutionary government, and ultimately finished the smallpox project using government helicopters and highly effective Ethiopian health workers, many of whom had worked with the PCVs. In late 1979, Ethiopia — and the world — was declared smallpox-free.
As for those young PCVs who had arrived in Ethiopia clutching their newly minted degrees in English and history and left the country after two years of service as battle-
tested public health workers, many of them returned to the United States to get advanced degrees in public health. Some even went to work again with WHO. Michael Santarelli, who once vaccinated Mursi warriors he encountered while traveling, participated in WHO’s smallpox eradication project in Bhola Island, Bangladesh, where the last recorded outbreak in Asia took place. Once a Super Vol, always a Super Vol.
Barry Hillenbrand was a Volunteer 1963–65 in Debre Marcos, Ethiopia, where he taught history at a secondary school. As a summer project, he gave TB test injections in the central market in Harrar, Ethiopia. After Peace Corps, Hillenbrand became a correspondent for Time magazine. His essay first appeared on PeaceCorpsWorldwide.org.
Eradicators and Contributors
Writing the book “was truly a group effort that required a bit more than five and a half years to complete,” says lead editor James Skelton. And, as he told the Houston Chronicle last year, “It became clear to me pretty early on that these guys in the field were heroes.” An attorney in Houston, Skelton knew the journals that most Volunteers kept could help provide raw material. But giving the material shape took work. D.A. Henderson provides the opening context with “Global Eradication of Smallpox.” Ciro de Quadros wraps things up.
Here’s the Peace Corps team, along with their years of service:
Warren Barrash (Malaysia 1970–72, Ethiopia 1973–74)
Gene L. Bartley (Ethiopia 1970–72, 1974–76)
David Bourne (Ethiopia 1972–74)
Peter Carrasco (Ethiopia 1972–74)
Stuart Gold (Ethiopia 1973–74)
Russ Handzus (Ethiopia 1970–72)
Scott D. Holmberg (Ethiopia 1971–73)
John Scott Porterfield (Ethiopia 1971–73)
Vince Radke (Ethiopia 1970–74)
Michael Santarelli (Ethiopia 1970–73)
Alan Schnur (Ethiopia 1971–74)
James Siemon (Ethiopia 1970–72)
James W. Skelton Jr. (Ethiopia 1970–72)
Robert Steinglass (Ethiopia 1973–75)
Marc Strassburg (Ethiopia 1970–72)
In May 1980, the World Health Assembly declared: “The world and all its peoples have won freedom from smallpox.”
For 3,000 years smallpox exacted a terrible toll; in the 20th century it killed 300 million. In May 2020, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus observed: “As the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, humanity’s victory over smallpox is a reminder of what is possible when nations come together to fight a common health threat.”
Key to success: an effective vaccine and a concerted effort to help people around the world. In strictly economic terms, the $300 million invested over a decade saves more than $1 billion a year in health costs. That does not measure the value of lives saved and suffering averted.
A Volunteer-led project now serves communities in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. see more
A Volunteer-led project now serves communities in the Americas, Asia, and Africa — and just hit a big milestone.
Olla Milagrosa (Fundacion, Magdalena, Colombia), which has benefited from earnings through TCP Global, has didistributed food and facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy TCP Global
Two decades ago, when 25,000 families were displaced annually by violence in Colombia, a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers started The Colombia Project, a loan program to help families reestablish financial independence. The program quickly grew to include communities in Niger, Guatemala, and Peru. It now serves 14 countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In October 2020, this volunteer effort reached a milestone: $1 million in microloans.
“The goal is to create opportunities so migration becomes a choice rather than a necessity,” says co-founder Helene Dudley, who served as a Volunteer in Colombia 1968–70. “We expect to reach the next million by 2025.”
Last year, six Volunteers who were evacuated because of the pandemic joined the TCP Global team, bringing energy and creativity. The program added 30 new sites, including five introduced by evacuated Volunteers who worked with their counterparts virtually to introduce microloan programs.
From South Korea, a token of gratitude to the Volunteers who served see more
Decades ago, a young American woman served an impoverished South Korea as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Now the country is an economic powerhouse, and it decided to send her a token of its gratitude.
By Choe Sang-Hun
Photo: Sandra Nathan teaching in South Korea. Courtesy Sandra Nathan
Sandra Nathan spent 1966 to 1968 in a South Korean town as a young Peace Corps Volunteer, teaching English to high school girls. Fifty-two years later, Nathan, now back in the United States, received a care package from South Korea that nearly brought her to tears.
Nathan, 75, had been feeling increasingly isolated at home in Stephentown, New York. Reports about the exploding number of COVID-19 cases in the United States had made her anxious about going outside, where experts warned of second and third waves of infection. Then, early in November 2020, she received a package labeled “COVID-19 Survival Box.” It was a gift from the South Korean government that contained 100 masks and other items “as a token of our gratitude for your dedication to Korea.”
“It was as if this box had been traveling to me since 1968,” said Nathan, a retired civil rights and labor lawyer. “There was something magical about the box. Some people, Korean people, very far away wanted to make sure that I was OK; that I had what I needed to fight a bad disease. They behaved as though they cared and were responsible for me.”
Departure: A Korean student presents a gift to Volunteer Phil Venditti (1977–78). Photo courtesy Friends of Korea
Decades ago, South Koreans felt similarly toward Nathan and 2,000 other Peace Corps Volunteers. When the young Americans served as teachers and health care workers between 1966 and 1981, South Korea was a third-world country stricken by disease, a dictatorship, poverty, and destruction left by the Korean War.
South Korea is now one of the richest countries in the world, and its response to the coronavirus pandemic has been held up as an example for other nations, even as it deals with a small uptick in cases. In October, to pay back some of its debt, the government-run Korea Foundation said it was sending its COVID-19 Survival Boxes to 514 former Peace Corps Volunteers.
“Thanks in no small part to the help received from the Peace Corps,” the Korea Foundation’s president, Lee Geun, said in a letter in the box, “Korea has since achieved an economic breakthrough.”
Nathan joined the Peace Corps after graduating from the University of Chicago. She was among the first Volunteers to arrive in South Korea and was assigned to Chuncheon, in the north, where she taught English at a local high school. She was 21.
Health fair on tour: Volunteer Nancy Kelly (1979–81) dons a white coat to play midwife in a skit in which she talks with a pregnant woman and her mother-in-law, played by two fellow Volunteers, about maternal health and proper nutrition. Photo courtesy Nancy Kelly
The country around Chuncheon was beautiful. Its pine trees were graceful, and azaleas covered its hills in spring. But most of the streets were dirt roads. Children went outside without shoes. After dark, Nathan could hear rats running across ceilings. Plumbing was generally nonexistent.
“An ongoing debate among Volunteers was whether Time or Newsweek was more absorbent,” Nathan said in an email interview. “Toilet paper was unavailable.”
Both magazines came with pages blacked out by government censors. Crude anti-communist propaganda was everywhere. During her stay in South Korea, North Korea captured a U.S. Navy ship, the Pueblo, off its coast and sent armed commandos across the border to attack the South Korean presidential palace. On winter mornings, Nathan broke the ice in a plastic container in order to wash. Her school was a sad and drafty place where classrooms were heated by a single charcoal stove.
“I began to feel uncomfortably cold so that when I was not teaching, I regularly followed the circling sun as it flooded through the windows around the school building,” she said. “Even when it was very cold, students did not wear coats to school or to morning assemblies, and probably no one had a coat.”
But Nathan developed strong emotional ties with her students, who were eager to learn English. She once took a poor and sickly girl to an American military doctor for treatment for intestinal parasites, a common problem in Korea back then. The girl’s mother later arrived at the school and presented Nathan with several warm eggs, soft gray feathers still attached.
“The eggs, which I am sure my student and her mother themselves needed, expressed such gratitude that I was close to tears,” she said.
The irony of the reversal of fortunes during the pandemic did not escape her. South Korea continues to keep the coronavirus largely under control, thanks in part to its aggressive contact tracing. Although it has recently faced a small rise in infections, it is nothing compared to what is happening in the United States, where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has announced harsh new restrictions in Nathan’s home state. In August, she received the offer from the Korea Foundation to send her the gift box. She accepted, wondering if it was merely a public relations stunt for the Korean government.
Contents may inspire: what’s inside the box. Photo courtesy Friends of Korea
“I did not think much about it until the box arrived on Saturday, November 7, ironically the day that the U.S. presidential election was called for Joe Biden,” she wrote.
Nathan said she delayed opening the package for about a week because she wanted to preserve the wonderful feeling that it gave her. In addition to the masks, the box also included gloves, skin-care products, ginseng candies, a silk fan and two sets of silver chopsticks and spoons with the traditional Korean turtle design.
“I am a practical person, not usually given to ideas unfounded by fact,” wrote Ms. Nathan. “But there was definitely something magical about the box.”
This story originally appeared in The New York Times. Reprinted with permission.
MORE TO THIS STORY
Communities across the United States have shared the stories of how returned Volunteers in their communities served with the Peace Corps in South Korea — and found their lives profoundly touched by this gesture decades later. We’ve gathered some of them here.
Volunteers will return to a program suspended in 2016 see more
Volunteers will return to a program suspended in 2016
By NPCA Staff
The President of El Salvador, Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez, tweeted news about the Peace Corps to his 2.2 million followers on a Saturday morning in November: “Ahora, que hemos dado grandes avances en seguridad, regresan,” he wrote. Now that we have made great advances in safety, they return.
That was on the heels of a release shared by the Peace Corps agency: Community economic development Volunteers will return to El Salvador in 2022. The Peace Corps program in El Salvador was established in 1962, making the country one of the earliest to host Volunteers. More than 2,300 Volunteers have served there. But in 2016, gang-fueled violence and resulting security concerns led to the suspension of the program. Since then, the murder rate, the number of disappearances, and other indicators of violence have plummeted — which set the stage for Volunteers to return.
“I want to thank our many community and government partners in El Salvador for their support and enthusiasm and the Peace Corps staff who worked diligently to lay the groundwork for this important decision,” said Peace Corps Director Jody K. Olsen.
The reaction in El Salvador? Among the hot takes on Twitter: “Wow! Excelente noticia.” In emoji: fist bumps, love you, raised hands, thumbs-up, and a smiling face with a halo.
Mapping home: work by Salvadoran artist Rodolfo Diaz. He and other artists make their work available to U.S. audiences through the RPCV-founded World Maps Collaborative. Check it out and order archive-quality prints to support artists in communities around the world.
Community news highlighting achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers see more
Achievements in the Peace Corps community from across the country — and around the world
By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–70)
From new books to leadership roles, working with students and refugees, in conservation and the church. Plus a story of gratitude for all the Volunteers who served in Korea — with a thank-you and help in a time of pandemic.
Photo: Shenna Bellows, who served as a Volunteer in Panama, is sworn in as Maine’s Secretary of State — the first woman to serve in that role.
Connie Czepiel (2009–11) has a career in international finance. She is also recently author of Dream On! The Alarm Clock of Your Life Hasn’t Gone Off Yet, a chronicle of her overseas work for Mission Aviation Fellowship, Peace Corps, Mercy Ships, and Samaritan’s Purse.
Marni von Wilpert (2006–08) was one of five new members joining the San Diego City Council in December 2020. She was a social worker for the Peace Corps in Botswana during an AIDS epidemic there, providing experience with virus testing and contact tracing for today’s pandemic.
Felicia Singh (2013–15) is a Democratic Party candidate for New York City District Council 32, with education reform as a major campaign objective along with utility management and women’s empowerment. The election will be held in June 2021.
Jim LaBate began his Peace Corps service in the mid-1970s in Costa Rica. He recently retired from Hudson Valley Community College where has was a writing specialist. His sixth novel, Streets of Golfito, published in 2020 is loosely based on his Peace Corps experience.
Polly Dunford was named president and CEO of IntraHealth International, a large global health organization based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina just as Covid-19 was emerging as a threat to the world.
Edward Crawford (2004–06) is the co-founder and president of Coltala Holdings in Dallas, Texas. He recently announced a $150 million partnership with Trive Capital. He has authored works regarding “conscious capitalism” and the potential rise of this socially responsible economic and political philosophy. Crawford is also in the inaugural cohort of the National Peace Corps Association 40 Under 40.
Mildred Warner (1979–81) received the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, Inc. (ACSP) Margarita McCoy Faculty Award for the advancement of women in planning in higher education through service, teaching, and research in November 2020.
Father Michael Fuller, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, has been named associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in November 2020. Before arriving at the USCCB, he served as chairman of the Department of Spiritual Theology from 2011 to 2016 and chairman of the Department of Christian Life from 2002 to 2011 (University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary). He also was editor of the Chicago Studies Theological Journal.
Christen Marie Smith (2007–09) has taken a new role as Vice President of LMI federal health and civilian market. She aims to continue LMI's efforts to help government customers manage health care delivery and federal work environments as well as drive scientific and space innovation efforts.
Jackson Willis has been named a Rhodes Scholar in the first-ever virtual selection process, necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He will pursue Master of Science degrees in economics for development and in global governance and diplomacy at Oxford.
Michael Hotard (2009–11) manages research projects related to undocumented immigrants and health care at Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab. In late October 2020 he discussed the experiences and struggles that have shaped his career in an online presentation to current Stevenson Center Fellows at Illinois State University.
Sandra Nathan (1966–68) was among the Korea RPCVs who received a surprising gift from the people in her Peace Corps community more than fifty years earlier – a "COVID-19 Survival Box." The box containing expressions of concern and support was sent to former Volunteers who served in Korea during the early 1960s. Here’s the story from The New York Times.
Michael Drake is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Taza Aya (“fresh air” in Krygyz). The company has been named an awardee in the Invisible Shield QuickFire Challenge, a competition created by Johnson & Johnson Innovation in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The program seeks protections from airborne viruses with minimal impact on daily life.
Randy Hobler (1968–69) interviewed 101 of his fellow RPCVs in depth for his new book: 101 Arabian Tales: How We All Persevered in Peace Corps Libya.
Zac Schnell (2012–14) was named the Pamlico Community College’s 2020 Instructor of the Year. He also began assisting with Occupational Safety and Health Administration training for Continuing Education students.
Cal Mann (2017–20) will share his experience as a Rotarian serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Eastern Europe before the 2020 pandemic evacuation. Tune in on February 11, 2021 with the Rotary Club of Northfield at 12:00 PM via Zoom (Meeting ID: 853 8396 5788; Passcode: 601997).
Kyle Fredrickson (2014–16) is District Forester for Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District. His work with an aerial drone for conservation purposes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region has deepened understanding and created new educational opportunities. “To cross a wetland, it could take two to three hours to reach the site,” Hughes told a reporter recently. “The drone can do it in five minutes, plus we can’t get that perspective from the ground.”
Katie Murray is the new executive director of Oregonians for Food & Shelter (OFS), a nonprofit agribusiness group. At OFS she aims to safeguard necessary tools for natural resource industries while ensuring users aren’t left without alternatives if regulatory changes occur.
Shenna Bellows (2000–02) has been elected by Maine’s 130th Legislature to be Maine's new secretary of state. She is the first woman elected to serve in the role. During her remarks at her swearing-in in January, she noted that her grandmother, who celebrated her 101st birthday just days prior, was born in the year that saw the final ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Christopher Davenport (1994–96) published the memoir Tin Can Crucible through Lume Books in December 2020. The title, an account of modern-day sorcery, was previously available via NetGalley. The author is a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State.
Estee Katcoff (2011–14) founded in 2016 the Superkids Foundation, a nonprofit in Paraguay that fills in literacy gaps and trains students to be educational leaders. In 2017 she founded GMAT/GRE test prep company PrepCorps in Seattle to recruit top test-takers to teach courses while fundraising $60,000+ for international education.
Jet Richardson (2008–10) has completed his first year as Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Tri-County Partners. Prior to that he has completed nearly four years with the International Crisis Group — an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.
Adeel Amed has been appointed by the University of Nevada, Reno, Extension, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources as Lyon County educator, focusing on community and economic development. He was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the United States as a child before entering college and serving in the Peace Corps.
Kari Miller (1997–99) is the Founder and Executive Director of International Neighbors. She works with Charlottesville, Virginia's refugee and SIV population (special immigrant visa holders, who worked for the United States during the conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq), equipping these new neighbors with the network and skills needed for them to thrive — not just to survive — as aspiring Americans.
Dick Sandler is known as Thailand’s “Grandfather of eco-tourism” and was one of the early pioneers in Thailand’s now burgeoning eco-tourism sector. A Fulbright scholarship in research economics led to him joining Peace Corps staff in Thailand. He has also worked for the United Nations Development Fund and the World Bank, focusing on rural development projects. His latest resort project in Thailand is Our Jungle Camp in Khao Sok.
Melissa Wurst (1989–92) is the owner and founding member of Language Solutions, Inc. Founded in 1998, the enterprise is assisting those with limited literacy, translation, and interpreting skills.
Renee Manneh (2007–09) is a doctoral candidate at Campbell University for a degree in Health Sciences. She is the Executive Director at her private practice where she also sees clients as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Brianna Russell (2008–10) is the Founding Executive Director of Girls Leading Girls, Inc., a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that trains young women in leadership and life skills.
Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleWe honor those members of our Peace Corps community whom we recently lost. see more
Remembering those we’ve lost recently in the Peace Corps Community
Whether in law, government, social work, or the arts, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and former Peace Corps staff are leaders and visionaries in their selected fields. We honor those leaders who recently passed away.
Drew Saunders Days III (1941-2020) graduated from Hamilton College with a degree in English Literature before receiving his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1966. A year after graduating law school, Days served in the Peace Corps in Honduras from 1967 to 1969. After serving, Days became a successful civil rights lawyer focusing on police misconduct, school desegregation, and employment discrimination. Additionally, he worked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York City for eight years. He then joined the faculty at Yale Law School where he taught classes that focused on subjects including civil procedure, federal jurisdiction, Supreme Court practice, and many more. In addition to teaching, Days was the founding director of the Law School’s Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights, and wrote several books and articles regarding Supreme Court jurisprudence and civil rights. In 1977, Days was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first African American U.S. assistant attorney general for civil rights. He played a large role in advocating for upholding affirmative action in universities as litigated in the famous Supreme Court case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. In 1993, he continued to demonstrate his lifelong commitment to social justice and the law when Bill Clinton nominated him to serve as solicitor general in the Department of Justice, where he argued a total of 26 cases before the Supreme Court.
In 1977, Drew S. Days III was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first African American U.S. assistant attorney general for civil rights.
Hugh Jesse Arnelle (1933-2020) graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1955. He was the first Black student body president in the school’s history. An excellent athlete, Arnelle was drafted by both the NFL and NBA, and ultimately chose to pursue professional basketball. After retiring from the NBA, Arnelle served as an officer in the United States Air Force. He then earned an LLB from Dickinson School of Law before serving as a Peace Corps Director in Turkey for two years, and in India for one year. Once he returned to the United States, Arnelle practiced law at the San Francisco Federal Public Defender’s Office and eventually started a solo practice focused on criminal and civil law. He also spent 45 years on the Penn State Board of Trustees before participating as an active member on the boards of Waste Management, Gannett Company, the Metropolitan Life Series Fund, Eastman Chemical Company, Textron Corporation, Armstrong World Industries, and Florida Power & Light. Additionally, in 1969 he was elected to the PSU Board of Trustees, and served as the president from 1994 through 1996. He also co-founded the Penn State Renaissance Fund, which works to increase and support minority students at the university.
An excellent athlete, Hugh Jesse Arnelle was drafted by both the NFL and NBA, and ultimately chose to pursue professional basketball.
Genevieve Rafferty (1922–2020) earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Ambrose College, where she co-organized the creation of the Iowa-Illinois Information and Referral Service. She managed this program up until her retirement in 1992, making sure every student was provided with the resources that they needed. Rafferty was a member of Junior Board Rock Island and Project Now, which participated in outreach efforts for issues such as housing, senior services, and child services within the community. She also held board positions at the Just For Kids Daycare and Directors for Transitions – Mental Health. Rafferty was named Social Worker of the Year by the Association of Social Workers before joining the Peace Corps in 1992, volunteering within cities along the ancient “Silk Road” in Uzbekistan. Upon her return to the United States, Rafferty continued to prove her dedication to civic engagement when she received the Civic Service Award as well as the Keys of the city of Rock Island Illinois. Additionally, she was recognized in “Who’s Who of American Women” and “Who’s Who in the Midwest.” In 2003, Genevieve received The Jefferson Award from the American Institute for Public Service, where an awards ceremony was held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Jack Roderick (1926–2020) received his education from Yale, Harvard, and the University of Washington. Before he became the regional director of the Peace Corps in India, Roderick worked as a truck driver in Anchorage, spent some time in the oil exploration business, and practiced law. Five years after his service in the Peace Corps, he became mayor of the Greater Anchorage Area Borough from 1972 to 1975. As a mayor in Alaska, Roderick took pride in advocating for environmental preservation of parks and the establishment of trail systems such as the Campbell Creek trail, community councils, and the People Mover public bus system. Additionally, he had a passion for getting others in the community involved in civic engagement and local government. Roderick himself held a few positions in state government, before teaching at local universities and publishing a memoir about witnessing the downfalls of Alaska’s oil economy, titled “Crude Dreams: A Personal History of Oil & Politics in Alaska.”
Stacy Elko served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco between 1988 and 1992. In 2005 she joined the faculty of the Texas Tech University (TTU) School of Art. In addition to teaching and mentoring students in printmaking, drawing, and video/transmedia, she also served as MFA Coordinator and engaged in research with collaborators from across the nation. A multi-dimensional artist, Elko’s work stretched beyond printmaking to embrace time-based media, music, and performance art, as well as interactive environments that were epitomized in her sculptural airships, “Flying Machines.” Elko took special pride in her work with an interdisciplinary research team to create a tablet-based application that would enable persons with aphasia — a language and cognition disorder that frequently appears after a stroke — to communicate with healthcare providers and other clinicians. This application, known as the Visual Interactive Narrative Intervention, or VINI, united Elko’s three great passions: her love of the digital interface and its gaming aspects, her extensive artistic background and talent, and her belief that the arts as a whole have meaningful and useful contributions to make through interdisciplinary collaborations that improve lives and quality of life. Her pathbreaking work on this project was a critical component in the college’s award of its first major federal grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab. The TTU School of Art plans to establish a scholarship in Stacy Elko’s memory.
PEACE CORPS STAFF
Hugh Jesse Arnelle (Country Director Turkey, India 1960s), 10/21/20
Sharon Sue Hale (1960s), 10/24/20
Ronald Wayne Bengston (Ecuador 1993-95; Honduras 1999-2001)
Margaret O'Brien Donohoe (Ethiopia staff 1962-64; Somalia staff 1966-68)
Robert Earl “Bob” Evans (late 1970s), 10/19/20
Maxwell Creighton (1968-70), 11/7/20
Sylvan ”Gene“ Prell (1963-65), 10/24/20
Therese “Tess” Pawelecki Carolan (1966-68), 10/22/20
David Goodrich Gabel (late 1960s), 10/18/20
Kenneth James Freebury (staff 1966-68), 10/31/20
Philipp A. Auer, 10/15/20
Greg Radinovich (1993-94), 10/22/20
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
William H. Hielscher (late 1960s/early 1970s), 10/18/20
Donald Hemenover (1972-74), 11/15/20
Martina McCormack, 11/6/20
Drew S. Days III (1967-69), 11/15/20
Kathleen Anne Rick (early 1970s), 10/16/20
Ruth W. Johnson, 11/12/20
Harold Hersch (1965-67), 11/9/20
Ronnie E. Alff (1962-64), 11/2/20
Stacy Elko (1988-92), 8/26/20
Purita Molina Dayawon, 11/12/20
Joan Carter (1962-64), 11/10/20
Helen R. Cooper (1980-82), posted 11/11/20
V. Edward Bates, 10/10/20
Michael James Belsom (1997), 10/29/20
Wayne A. Aprill (1980-82), posted 11/6/20
Frances English Moore (1991-93), 11/12/20
Judith A. (Pierson) Beggs (1990's), 11/6/20
Robert Richard Charles (staff – early 1970s)
Gary Steven Izo, 11/21/20
Wilbur Taylor “Bill” Little III, 8/31/20
Bruce James Abbey (1966-69), 10/26/20
Richard K. “Rick” Beebe Jr. (1967-69), 10/23/20
Barbara Anne Morin (1969-72), 11/11/20
Eileen M. Kelly (2012-14), 11/1/20
Genevieve Rafferty (1992-94), 11/13/20
Roger A. Ackerman (1962-64), 10/17/20
COUNTRY OF SERVICE NOT SPECIFIED
Lyle Wayne Graf, 10/17/20
Mary A. Korneman (early 1970s), 11/1/20
Bruce F. Lawhead, 11/12/20
Gordon Authur “Pete” Maue (1962-63), 11/13/20
Jean E. Rainey, 10/30/20
If you have information you would like to share for our monthly In Memoriam post, contact email@example.com. Thanks to NPCA intern Kaylee Jensen for assistance in preparing this post.
Honoring six Returned Volunteers and a civic leader in Chicago see more
Honoring six Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have served around the world — and a leader who has worked to close the racial and wealth gaps in the Chicago area.
By NPCA Staff
On December 15 the Peace Corps recognized leaders in the Peace Corps community — and a civic leader with a shared commitment to Peace Corps values — with the Franklin H. Williams Award. The award honors ethnically diverse Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have demonstrated a commitment to civic engagement, service, diversity, inclusion, world peace, and to the Peace Corps’ Third Goal — to strengthen Americans’ understanding of the world and its peoples.
The award was presented to six Returned Volunteers, and a special Director’s Award for Lifelong Service honors was presented to recognize an individual who has not served in the Peace Corps but shares a commitment to building peace and civic involvement.
The keynote address was delivered by Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, whose pathbreaking career in the Foreign Service has created new opportunities and possibilities for women and minorities. Abercrombie-Winstanley served with the Peace Corps in Oman, was the first woman to lead a diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia, advised U.S. Cyber Forces on diplomatic priorities, and served as U.S. ambassador to Malta.
The event was hosted and awards were presented by Dr. Darlene Grant, who serves as a special advisor to Dr. Jody Olsen, Director of the Peace Corps. Meet this year’s winners.
Dr. Sabrina T. Cherry
The Gambia 2001–03
Dr. Sabrina T. Cherry has worked for nearly 20 years within the field of public health. Dr. Cherry’s professional experience started as a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia, West Africa. As a public health practitioner, Dr. Cherry collaborated on Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) for the Greater Atlanta Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and two rural Georgia hospitals; provided technical assistance to faith-based, mini-grant recipients in Southwest Georgia; and worked on a food insecurity and medication-adherence pilot study for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
Dr. Cherry served as part of a research team that won the 2018 National Economic Development Award awarded by University Economic Development Association Awards of Excellence and is the recipient of the Distinguished Scholarly Engagement and Public Service Award awarded by UNCW. Her primary research interests are the intersection of public health and religion. She earned a Master of Science Public Health degree from the University of South Carolina, a Master of Theological Studies from Emory University, and a Doctor of Public Health, as a well as a Certificate in Interdisciplinary Qualitative Research from the University of Georgia.
Denisha Richardson, a Minnesota native, offers 10+ years of broad base program administration and communications skills. She specializes in transformation and competency; in the areas of power, ability, status, anti-racism, diversity and inclusion, gender rights, youth development and leadership. Her work spans over four continents, in diverse access and living conditions. Richardson is a proud HBCU graduate of Florida Memorial University, where she obtained her bachelor of arts in public relations. She obtained her Master of Sociology with a concentration in Intercultural and Diversity Studies from the University of Cape Town.
In June 2020, she and fellow Fiji Peace Corps Volunteer-turned-business-partner Montrell Sanders founded the Beacon Axiome Group (BAG). Motivated by world events, the BAG was formulated out of their shared experiences, passions, and desires to assist with transforming society to end injustices, anti-blackness, and discrimination. Her work experience includes serving as a Refugee Officer and Immigration Services Officer in the federal service.
From 2015–17, Denisha served as a Community Youth Development Specialist Volunteer in the Republic of Fiji. For ten years she was a mentor and later the Program Coordinator for a diversity and leadership program throughout an independent school district in Minnesota. Her teaching and development experiences extend to South America and South Africa. She previously served as a Congressional intern on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. In these roles, she has led, planned, implemented, and facilitated efforts to provide training, research, resources, and developmental activities to youth, young adults, and learners.
“I believe in fostering a culture of empowerment that equips others with the skills and knowledge to be not only productive but also provide the opportunity for them to showcase their unique abilities and contributions.”
Jalina Porter is an entrepreneur and strategic communications professional who serves as the Communications Director for Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) in the U.S. House of Representatives. A seasoned communications advisor and foreign policy professional, Jalina has advised non-profit organizations and conducted inclusive communications-based professional development training for over 4,000 working professionals including current elected officials, veterans, global leaders, corporate executives, and congressional staff. Jalina is a current Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations, member of The Links, Incorporated, and serves on the Executive Advisory Council of the National Peace Corps Association.
Jalina served as a Volunteer in the Kingdom of Cambodia 2009–11 and has been recognized as a 2018 Next Generation Foreign Policy Leader by New America, a 2019 African-American Foreign Policy Influencer by Women’s Foreign Policy Group, and a 2020 “40 Under 40 Returned Peace Corps Volunteer” by National Peace Corps Association. Jalina earned her B.B.A. in Marketing from Howard University and her Master’s in Global Strategic Communications from Georgetown University. A former professional dancer, Jalina values connecting with others through performing and creative arts, cultural exchanges, and mindfulness practices.
Ella Cheri Bennett
Dominican Republic 1991–93
While in high school during the late 1970s Ella Cheri Bennett was intrigued by the Peace Corps commercial that proclaimed that the Peace Corps was “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” This anthem seemed to speak to her personally. Although she was 29 years old when she joined, she remained faithful to her childhood dream. From 1991 to 1993, she served as a Community Education Volunteer in San Jose de Los Llanos in the Dominican Republic. Her principal project included collaborating with school personnel and the community to plan and implement major physical repairs to Maria Nicolasa Billini School. Bennett also formed the asociación de padres y maestros, the U.S. equivalent to the Parents and Teachers Association. As a team, this group planned and implemented projects to assist in securing funding, in addition to support received from the country’s Ministry of Education, to make school repairs.
Following her Peace Corps service, Bennett continued to serve her community through her work. For more than 17 years, she taught Bilingual Adult Basic Education (ABE) and General Education Development (GED) in Anson County, North Carolina. While many of her students could not read or write, others were competent scholars that only needed encouragement to complete their high school equivalency (GED) exams. During this time, Bennett also taught English as a Second Language to Spanish speakers from various countries living in Richmond County, NC. These experiences provided an opportunity for Bennett to share her Peace Corps experience and the language that she learned, as well as share her African American culture with others.
Today, Bennett teaches nutrition education to bilingual groups with a focus on encouraging families to make healthy choices to improve their health and prevent chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes that are prevalent in communities of color. The classes also serve as an opportunity for cultural exchange, as families have the opportunity to prepare recipes hands-on and experience ethnic dishes that are made with healthier options.
Twenty-seven years after her Peace Corps service, Bennett remains in contact with her many friends in San Jose de Los Llanos in the Dominican Republic. She also serves on the International Awareness Committee of the Laurinburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Dr. Sheldon Gen
Sheldon Gen is the son of immigrants who fled China’s communist revolution following World War II. He was raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley in Turlock — then a rural agricultural town, where his parents established a successful restaurant. Gen began working in the back of the restaurant at age 8, learning a full range of kitchen skills that would eventually pay his way through college and feed many friendships. He is a first generation college graduate, earning a B.S. in civil engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. This led to a decade of engineering work with federal agencies, including the Peace Corps (Kenya), the U.S. Air Force (Los Angeles AFB), and the Environmental Protection Agency (San Francisco and San Diego) where he was a Presidential Management Fellow. As his engineering career progressed, he earned a MPA degree with honors at the University of Southern California to understand the public service and policy contexts of his engineering projects. These studies engrossed him and eventually led him to complete a PhD in public policy at Georgia Tech (with honors).
In 2003, San Francisco State University hired Gen into a joint appointment between the Public Administration Program and the Political Science Department, focusing on public policy studies. He is now an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement. He maintains interests in civil engineering, having worked on many Bay Area public policy issues related to public infrastructure and the environment. He has also kept his kitchen skills sharp, and for five years he was the co-owner and executive chef of Chef Camps, a cooking camp for kids in Sonoma County.
Diamond Butler is a New York native dedicated to youth and community development. Her interests in international affairs sprouted while interning at the International Rescue Committee. After graduating from Cheyney University with a degree in political science, Butler worked on various political campaigns while teaching workshops for the 181st Beautification Project. She then became the Director of Youth Programming and Internships at the United Palace in Washington Heights for several years. She also worked at the YMCA of Greater New York Global Teens program where she had the opportunity to lead students on service-learning trips to California and South Africa. Butler served in the Peace Corps as an English teacher in Comoros while working with various community projects. She is a proud Community School Director for Global Kids at the Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists (BSSWA).
Franklin H. Williams Director’s Award for Lifelong Service
Dr. Helene D. Gayle
Helene D. Gayle has been president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations, since October 2017. Under her leadership, the Trust has adopted a new strategic focus on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago region.
For almost a decade, she was president and CEO of CARE, a leading international humanitarian organization. An expert on global development, humanitarian and health issues, Dr. Gayle spent 20 years with the Centers for Disease Control, working primarily on HIV/AIDS. She worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation directing programs on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues. She also launched the McKinsey Social Initiative (now McKinsey.org), a nonprofit that builds partnerships for social impact.
Dr. Gayle earned a B.A. in psychology at Barnard College, an M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.P.H. at the Johns Hopkins University. She has received 18 honorary degrees and holds faculty appointments at the University of Washington and Emory University. She serves on public company and nonprofit boards, including The Coca-Cola Company, Colgate-Palmolive Company, Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, New America, ONE Campaign, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Economic Club of Chicago. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Council on Foreign Relations, American Public Health Association, National Academy of Medicine, National Medical Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics. She has authored numerous articles on global and domestic public health issues, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and social justice.
About Franklin H. Williams, the award’s namesake
An early architect of the Peace Corps, Franklin Williams also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. ambassador to Ghana, and he worked for years as an advocate for civil rights. The award was founded in 1999, and past winners include Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative; Ambassador Charles Baquet III; and Sia Barbara Ferguson Kamara, who served as Associate Commission of Health and Human Services.
Peace Corps beginnings: Franklin H. Williams, left, with Sargent Shriver. Photo courtesy Peace Corps
King County Seeks to Double Number of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Serving as Contact Tracers to Stop the Spread of COVID-19The NPCA Emergency Response Network is seeking Returned Volunteers for contact tracing positions. see more
In a pioneer program for the country, Seattle and King County deployed a cohort of Returned Volunteers this fall. Now they have partnered with National Peace Corps Association to expand the role of the NPCA Emergency Response Network. And Returned Volunteers are wanted for contact tracing now.
By Steven Boyd Saum
In response to the surge in cases of COVID-19, National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) and Seattle Peace Corps Association (SEAPAX) have put out an urgent call to action for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to serve as contact tracers with the Seattle and King County Health Department.
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, more than 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from around the world. Multiple pieces of national legislation have called for the deployment of evacuated Volunteers as a group as contact tracers, but those have stalled in Congress.
Seattle and King County led the way with the first cohort of Volunteers serving as contact tracers as part of the new NPCA Emergency Response Network. Some of the Volunteers were evacuated this year, and some served in Peace Corps years before. They include retired health professionals. They served in countries including China and Morocco, Uganda and Uzbekistan, Albania and the Philippines. And they have been working seven days a week calling people who have been exposed to someone who tested positive with the virus.
Now King County is seeking to expand the program.
Dedication and Purpose
Renowned infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci offered words of encouragement and inspiration to the first cohort of contact tracers. “I am a longstanding admirer of your passion and dedication to a purpose greater than yourselves,” Dr. Fauci told the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. “I am profoundly grateful for your resilience and your adaptability that has enabled you to transfer your skills and commitment to this urgent need in our country to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.”
Dr. Peter Kilmarx, deputy director of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health, welcomed the first cohort of Peace Corps contact tracers by Zoom. With decades of experience working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Kilmarx served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1980s in Democratic Republic of Congo, then known as Zaire.
“Done right, contact tracing is very effective,” Dr. Peter Kilmarx told the Volunteers.
“Done right, contact tracing is very effective,” Dr. Kilmarx told the Volunteers. “In New Zealand, contact tracers brought the average time from onset of illness to isolation from 7.2 days in March, to negative 2.7 days in April. That means that on average, cases were isolated 2.7 days before they fell ill, and local transmission in New Zealand dropped to zero.”
Dr. Kilmarx also noted that efforts go back months to involve more returned Volunteers in contact tracing. “If you ask me, ‘What makes a great contact tracer?’ I would say, ‘A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer,’ or anyone with that kind of resilience, cultural competence, and a spirit of service to the community.”
Dan Baker directs the Global Reentry Program for National Peace Corps Association, an initiative brought online quickly earlier this year to assist evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers, and now serving Returned Volunteers more broadly. He is fielding applications for the contact tracing positions, and he notes: “We are open to interest and applications from all states, but especially Washington state.”
Returned Peace Corps volunteers who are interested in serving as contact tracers should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Dan Baker at National Peace Corps Association at (202) 934-1534.
Find out more about the NPCA Emergency Response Network here.