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U-M, birthplace of Peace Corps, remains high in representation

U-M ranks high in the nation for the largest number of graduates enrolling in the U.S. Peace Corps, according to a list released by Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez.

U-M, where John F. Kennedy first proposed creating the Peace Corps in 1960, currently has 95 graduates serving, second only to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which has 123 graduates enrolled. The state of Michigan has more graduates on the top 10 list than any other state in the union because of U-M's ranking and Michigan State University's seventh-place position on the list with 66 Peace Corp volunteers.
John F. Kennedy announces plans for the Peace Corps on the steps of the Union in 1960. (File photo courtesy Ann Arbor News)

Nearly all Peace Corps volunteers are college graduates, with 98 percent holding bachelor's degrees and 6,678 volunteers serving in 136 countries around the world. During the organization's 42 years, U-M has sent 1,970 graduates into service, fourth on the list of schools that have produced the most volunteers.
The University of California-Berkeley has sent the most volunteers during the past 42 years, a total of 3,110 graduates.

Rodolfo Altamirano, director of the University's International Center, which oversees and promotes Peace Corps programs on campus, notes that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States made many students want to learn more about the rest of the world. He says former Peace Corps volunteers also work in the International Center and says the center's Overseas Opportunities Office "does an excellent job in promoting the Peace Corps program via e-mail, which reaches 10,000 recipients, and through our educational forums." He also is proud to tell the story of how the Peace Corps was born at U-M.

"In the early hours of Oct. 14, 1960, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy made an unprepared campaign speech to a group of U-M students on the steps of the Union," he says. "He asked if they would be willing to devote a few years of their life working in under-developed countries around the world to promote better understanding between the United States, developing countries and their peoples. Within weeks, 1,000 Michigan students had signed a petition calling for the establishment of the Peace Corps program. Less than one year later, on March 1, 1961, the Peace Corps was officially launched."

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