High-Profile Peace Corps Alums Made Their Marks
We did a story a while back about Lynn Dines, a 29-year veteran pharmaceutical executive from Huntington Beach, Calif. who left the corporate sphere to help the world as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco.
She's been a poster child of sorts for the corps' effort to recruit midlife volunteers who can utilize their wisdom and experience in fields such as business management or academia to help people in developing countries improve their families' lives.
Dines spent 27 months teaching entrepreneurial skills to Moroccan villagers before completing her service in November. On Monday, she posted the final entry in the blog that she's been writing about her experiences. "Now it's on with life," she writes. "As usual, or hopefully a bit more unusual. Looking forward to the next adventure that awaits."
As I hear about the service of Dines and her midlife compatriots in the corps, I'm reminded of the scores of volunteers who came before, the ones who joined the corps as twentysomethings fresh out of college in the 1960s through the 1980s. From the Peace Corps website and other sources, here's a list of a few of the former corps members who went on from their service to make even bigger contributions to the world.
- Bob Shacochis, a novelist, short story-writer and magazine journalist born in 1951, served as a corps volunteer in the Grenadines, an island chain in the Caribbean, in 1975-76. His experiences there later became the basis for Easy in the Islands, a collection of stories that won the prestigious National Book Award for first fiction in 1985. His nonfiction book, The Immaculate Invasion, a chronicle of the U.S. military intervention in Haiti, was a finalist for the New Yorker Magazine award for best nonfiction in 1999. He now teaches writing at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
- Reed Hastings, born in 1960, is the chief executive and chairman of Netflix, the DVD rental and streaming-video service that has altered Americans' viewing habits. But before accomplishing that, he served as a corps volunteer in Swaziland in 1983 to 1985.
- Barbara Ferris, born in 1954, is the founder and president of the International Women's Democracy Center, which works to gain access for women to the political systems in countries around the world. She served as a corp volunteer in Morocco in 1980.
- Chris Matthews, born in 1945, is the host of MSNBC's Hardball and author of the 1996 book Kennedy and Nixon and other books. He served the corps in Swaziland in 1968-70.
- Carl Pope, born in 1945, is an environmental activist who now serves as chairman of the Sierra Club. He also blogs for the Huffington Post. He served in the corps in India in 1967 to 1969.
- Donna Shalala, born 1941, served for eight years in the Clinton Administration as Secretary of Heath and Human Services, and now is president of the University of Miami. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 2008. She was a corps volunteer in Iran from 1962 to 1964.
- Chris Dodd, born in 1944, spent 36 years in Congress in both the House and Senate before deciding not to run for reelection in 2010. He authored the Family and Medical Leave Act and was one of the architects of recently-passed legislation to reform the financial industry. Dodd served as a corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic from 1966 to 1968.
- Christopher Hill, born in 1952, is a former U.S. diplomat who served at various times as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Poland, South Korea and Macedonia. He was a member of the negotiating team that achieved a peace settlement in Bosnia in 1995. Hill is now dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Hill was a corps volunteer in Cameroon from 1974 to 1976.
- Vicki Huddleston, born in 1942, was named Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa in the Department of Defense in 2009. Prior to that, she had a long career as a U.S. diplomat in Africa, including stints as ambassador to Madagascar, Mali and Ethiopia. She served as a corps volunteer in Peru from 1964 to 1966.
- Richard "Kinky" Friedman, born in 1944, has been a satirical country singer-songwriter, cigar maker, and author of a series of detective bestsellers in which he served as his own protagonist. He ran for governor of Texas in 2006 and finished fourth out of six candidates. He served in Malaysia from 1967 to 1969.
BTW, the Peace Corps turns 50 in 2011.
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