With an executive order signed by President John F. Kennedy on March 1, 1961, the Peace Corps officially began, sparking a tradition of volunteerism and deep cultural understanding that has only grown during the subsequent 50 years. To honor this momentous occasion, HWS will host “Practical Idealism,” a panel featuring returned Peace Corps volunteers on Tuesday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center.
“This panel presents a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a powerful idea that has flourished for 50 years,” says President Mark D. Gearan, former director of the Peace Corps. “Hobart and William Smith have a long and very successful history with the Peace Corps that continues to grow as more and more members of our community opt to volunteer through service around the world.”
Open to the HWS and Geneva communities, the panel will explore the Peace Corps’ journey over the past five decades and reflect on the organization’s practical approach to global understanding and citizenship that President Kennedy outlined in a national press conference. Kennedy remarked, “For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps-who works in a foreign land-will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”
The panel will be comprised of HWS faculty, staff and alums. Contributing faculty will include Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science David Belding, who served in Sierra Leone from 1974-76, Professor of Art Michael Bogin, who taught secondary math in a small village in Ghana from 1968-70, Professor of Economics Alan Frishman, who served in the town of Kano in Nigeria from 1966-69, and Associate Professor of Economics Jo Beth Mertens, who volunteered in Mali from 1985-86. Center for Global Education Program Coordinator Doug Reilly, who spent two years in the Slovak Republic from 1999-2001, Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter ’86, who served in Dominica from 1986-88, and husband and wife Matt Lyttle ’06 and Jessica Werder ’04, who recently finished serving in Nicaragua from 2007-09, will also join the panel.
Recently, six students from the HWS community were accepted to serve in locations around the world. Shanelle France ’11, Lisa Maticic ’10, Kerry O’Neill ‘09, Amanda Slack ’11, Samantha Tripoli ’11 and Cara Walden ’11 will continue the Colleges’ long tradition of volunteerism with the Peace Corps. Within the past few years, the number of HWS graduates serving in the Peace Corps has increased dramatically, and the number of graduates actively engaged in service has more than doubled going from 8 to now more than 20. In fact, HWS currently rank No. 17 for ‘Small Colleges and Universities’ on the Peace Corps’ annual rankings of Peace Corps volunteer-producing schools. Since the organization’s inception, nearly 200 HWS students have joined its ranks.