Alice Gilbert, First Woman Director of a Peace Corps Division

After Alice Gilbert took her degree at Radcliffe in American government (Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude), she fell into a debate with herself on whether to enter Government service or go to law school. “My father finally convinced me that training for law was just excellent training in general,” she now says, “and besides, once I got into law, I found I liked it.”

Her decision—which brought her to Yale Law School, where, in her senior year, she became a member of the Law Journal—was doubtless assisted by the fact that both her father and mother are lawyers. “But so is everyone else in the family,” she adds—which might be explained by the fact that her grandfather was the late Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis.

If Ms. Gilbert’s second alternative—entering Government service—is now also fulfilled, that can large be credited to the Experiment in International Living, the organization in Putney, Vt. Which sends young Americans to live with foreign families and which has conducted training programs for several Peace Corps projects.

While she was still at Radcliffe, Ms. Gilbert spent a summer in Nice and the French Alps as a member of an Experiment group. After she had entered law school, she devoted her summers to serving as an Experiment leader. She led a group to northern France one year, to Helsingborg in Sweden the next, and in a third year, to Reading in England.

During the English summer, the group lived beside the Thames River in a row of seven houses named for the seven deadly sins. “I lived in ‘Gluttony,” Ms. Gilbert reports, “and I have hoped ever since that the fact would have no effect on my life.”

Born and raised in New York City—with summers spent on the beach at Chatham, Mass.—Ms. Gilbert picked up her law degree, passed the New York bar examinations and entered the Wall Street firm of Cahill, Gordon, Reindel andOhl. Handed trial assignments in due course, she set up an unbroken string of courtroom victories. “If my cases weren’t earth shaking, I still found them fascinating,” she says.

In two of them, for example, she represented the Radio Corporation of America—once to determine who had the rights to recordings made by the late Glenn Miller, and again to settle a question involving the “Banana Boat Song.” She happened to be in court acting in defense of the Gruen Watch Company when she received a call from the Peace Corps. As she recalls that hectic day, “I finished with a witness in the morning, packed up and left in the afternoon.”

The call had come from Gordon Boyce who was then setting up the Peace Corps’ Division of Private Agency Relations. When the establishment of this division was completed Boyce returned to his position as President of the Experiment in International Living, and Miss Gilbert took his place after first giving up, on entering the Government, her own position on the Experiment’s board of directors. In May of that year, she was advanced from Acting Chief of the Division of Private Organizations to Director of the Division of United Nations and International Agency Programs. She spent her spare time polishing her French which she sometimes has to use in her negotiations.

 

The Peace Corps is a year old,
And now more people are
Convince that such activities
May be the core of peace.

       Keokuk (Iowa) Gate City

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