The People In The Pews

Shriver in those first days was fond of talking about how his staff got to the Peace Corps. “Tom Mathews was on a skiing trip in Alta, Utah, when I called him. He arrived in Washington still wearing his ski boots. Gordon Boyce got a telegram and arrived the very next afternoon. At the time our payroll arrangement were slow and inadequate and most of these people worked for as long as three months without pay.”

The Peace Corps was a disorganized mess. When Lee St. Lawrence, Director of the Far East Regional Office, arrived he took one long look at the confusion and commented to no one in particular, “this place is all fouled up.” Then he wanted to know which desk was his.

Others came on ‘day one’ and stayed where Charlie Nelson, Willie Warner, Sally Bowles, Charlie Peters, John Corcoran, Nan McEvoy, John Alexander.

There were not many women in that first group of staff at 806 Connecticut Avenue, the Maiatico Building. Mary Ann Orlando was the only person Sarge brought with him from Chicago. Mary Ann worked with Sarge at the Merchandise Mart, and had been his secretary for 14 years. She carried the title of Confidential Assistant to the Director. Nancy Gore, daughter of Tennessee Senator Albert Gore, older brother of Al, was the assistant to the Associate Director for Planning and Evaluation. Nan Tucker McEvoy was the Deputy Director of Africa Programs. Her family owned the San Francisco Chronicle. Another young, recently graduate (from Smith) was Sally Bowles, the daughter of Chester Bowles. She started at the Peace Corps (unpaid) on March 1, 1961. Her title was Volunteer liaison officer in the Division of Volunteer Field Services (DVS). Dorothy Mead Jacobsen was an old government hand and the Chief of the Division of Personnel. A really terrific woman was Ruth Olson, Special Assistant to the Chief of the Division of Volunteer Field Support. Alice Gilbert was the Director of the Division of United Nations and International Agency Programs. Gordon Boyce brought her to the agency when she was working for a law firm in New York City. Then there was Betty Harris. You could write a whole book about Betty Harris at the Peace Corps.  I’m not sure what her title was, but when I was briefly (1964-65) in HQ, she seem to be involved with everything.

The talent that came to Washington was impressive. Besides skiers, mountain climbers, big-game hunters, prizefighters, football players, polo players and enough Ph. D’s (30) to staff a liberal arts college, there were 18 lawyers, of whom only four continued to work strictly at attorneys in the General Counsel’s office. (You would think with that many lawyers, the Peace Corps won’t have a chance of making good!)

At the beginning of the agency (certainly no longer) the Peace Corps was organized with the goal of one staff person for every ten Volunteers. During World War II 30 people were required to support every soldier on the front lines.

According to the U.S. Budget Office, as outlined in the 1st Annual Report to Congress for the Fiscal Year that ended on June 30, 1962, the cost per Volunteer for 1961 was $9,000 or $18,000 for two years. The cost was higher for the first year because of training and transportation.

On June 14, 1961, the first 12 Peace Corps trainees were selected.

By June 30, 1962, 1.077 Volunteers were already at work in 15 countries, and another 2,939 were in training or scheduled for training during the summer.

By June 30, 1962, agreements for Volunteers had been reached with 37 countries.

So, in the first full fiscal year, the Peace Corps recruited, selected, and trained Volunteers at the rate of approximately 240 per month and reached agreements at the rate of approximately three per month.

Not bad for a new agency. As Warren Wiggins would tell me, it couldn’t be done today.