The University Record, October 9, 2000

Peace Corps’ 40th marked Oct. 13–14

By Janet Mendler
News and Information Services

The reunion and celebration will be more subdued than that for the Wolverines this weekend, but no less filled with memories.

Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider and several hundred returned Peace Corps volunteers will gather at the Michigan Union Oct. 13 to commemorate the 40 years that have passed since then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy introduced the concept of the Peace Corps on the steps of the Michigan Union at 2 a.m.

A crowd of more than 5,000 waited for hours to hear the dynamic young senator speak. And shortly after he became president, he formalized what had been only a vague exhortation to service during his campaign swing through Michigan.

At 8 p.m. Oct. 13, a special exhibition of more than 200 photos that includes unpublished Michigan Daily pictures of Kennedy’s visit to the University, along with pictures donated by returned volunteers, opens in the Art Lounge on the first floor of the Michigan Union. The Peace Corps is using the display as a traveling exhibit after it closes here. A special feature of the opening is a newly created video of Sen. Kennedy’s speech.

At 8:30 p.m., a reception for volunteers and guests is scheduled for the Union’s U-Club, followed by a brief program and a walk from the Union to the Diag.

There, students, faculty and community members will gather to light candles, and then return to the Union for an 11 p.m. candlelight vigil on the Union steps.

Michael Kennedy, vice provost for international affairs and director of the International Institute, will welcome participants. Other speakers include Schneider and the coordinator of the Southeast Michigan returned volunteers.

On Oct. 14, Schneider, flanked by more than 40 volunteers wearing dress native to the countries in which they served, will make a midfield, pre-game presentation to President Lee C. Bollinger.

Since the Peace Corps program officially began in 1961, more than 155,000 Americans have joined the organization, including nearly 2,000 from the U-M. In 1999, with 78 volunteers, U-M ranked third among universities. Only the universities of Wisconsin and Colorado sent more.

In October 1994, the then-Peace Corps director presented the University with a commemorative plaque that is displayed at the Union’s front entrance.

Two University faculty members, Wilbur Cohen and Samuel Hayes, helped the Kennedy administration formalize the program, which Cohen said would allow young people to become familiar with world problems, to contribute to international peace and to build understanding among nations that joined the program.

For information on the Peace Corps, contact campus representative Denise Mortimer, (734) 647-2182 or dmortime@umich.edu.