They join out of a sense of adventure. Or to take the road less traveled. Or to learn about themselves in a place far from home. Most of all, they go out of a devotion to service—to give to others a part of the gifts and privileges they've received.
Whatever the reasons, there's something about the Dartmouth experience that has inspired over 550 of its sons and daughters to leave the green hills of New Hampshire for the far-flung outposts of the United States Peace Corps. In the Corps' most recent survey, statistics show that Dartmouth contributes more volunteers than any other college or university its size.
"With its strong academic excellence, close-knit campus community, and history of service, Dartmouth is a leader in producing well-rounded students," says Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. "Last year, Dartmouth was our number two top-producing school in its size category. This year it's number one. Dartmouth students have again demonstrated that a top tier school does more than provide great academics—it provides people with a desire to use their skills to serve others."
"I have an obligation to give something back to the world after having received such a tremendous education," says Paul Heintz '06, who intends to join the Corps after graduation this spring. "As a Peace Corps volunteer, I feel I'd be able to put a lot of the skills I've learned here to practical use."
Rebecca Perkins '04, writes from her Peace Corps assignment in West Africa. "In northern Senegal, I am a small enterprise development volunteer. I teach business in an African language, Wolof. I live with a family and I eat out of a bowl, sitting on the ground, with my hand. But all of these different customs have blended into the background of everyday life. Into the foreground stride the people I've met. There are people here that I'll know for the rest of my life."
Bill Marshall '63 doesn't remember being recruited into the Corps. But he does recall the atmosphere in America during the administration of John F. Kennedy, who brought the Corps into being while Marshall was an undergraduate. "There was a powerful spirit of volunteerism at the time," says Marshall. "Kennedy inspired us with his famous quote, 'Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.' He told young Americans to go out, do good, and help out. I knew that by joining the Corps, I would learn about myself and the world."
Marshall grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh and majored in English at Dartmouth. "Most of my classmates decided to go to business, law, or medical school," he says. "None of those appealed to me and three weeks after graduation, I was on a flight to Logan, Utah, where I went through 13 weeks of basic Peace Corps training at Utah State University."
He spent the next two years teaching English in Morocco, then only recently independent from French colonial rule. Assigned to a primary school in a small Berber village in the high Atlas Mountains, he was welcomed as the only English speaker in a town of proud, independent mountain people.
"The people there were living a timeless way of life, the way they'd lived for centuries. I had a wonderful opportunity to see that intact. I loved being in Morocco, loved seeing an entirely different culture. It became clear to me that there are lots of different ways to live your life and it made me understand the dynamics of poverty. Education is one of the primary vehicles to change that."
Forty-three years later, Marshall says his Peace Corps experience inspired his career. He met his wife, Donna, another volunteer, on the flight to Utah. Following his service, he began a lifelong career as an educator, working in Hanover and Washington, D.C., and as a founder of an alternative school in Vermont. Marshall was also headmaster of the Applewild School, a private school in Fitchburg, Mass., for 23 years.
"My experiences in Morocco showed me how I could make a contribution by being involved in education," he says. "The whole direction of my life started with Dartmouth and the Peace Corps."
By PETER WALSH
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Last Updated: 5/30/08