David Hapgood (PC Evaluator 1962-65) Dies in Manhattan

Thanks to an alert from Kitty Thuermer (Mali 1977-79) I’ve learned that David Hapgood, one of the legendary early evaluators of the Peace Corps has passed away in New York. Hapgood co-authored the first inside Peace Corps books on the agency, Agents of Change: A Close Look at the Peace Corps. It was written with another evaluator, Meridan Bennett. In their acknowledgments they state that: “This book is anything but official,” and then go onto praise their boss, Charlie Peters, who headed the Peace Corps Division of Evaluation from 1962 to the spring of 1968. As they write, “The unique process of self-criticism known in the Peace Corps as evaluation would never have existed without Charlie Peters’ courage and imagination.”

agents-changeHapgood and Bennett’s book was published by Little, Brown & Company in 1968. I always enjoyed that the book was dedicated to “H.C.N. Without whom this book would never have been written.”

The book is what you would expect from two serious evaluators of the agency. The flap copy says: Agents of Change is a no-nonsense appraisal of this increasingly important federal agency.

The following obituary was written by David’s family and friends and submitted to the New York Times for publication:

David Hapgood, journalist, author, editor and translator, died of natural causes at his Manhattan home on October 18. He was 87. A son of Norman Hapgood, author and an editor of Colliers Magazine, who was appointed US ambassador to Denmark by Woodrow Wilson, and Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood, translator of the works of Constantin Stanislavski, he spent his early years in New York, Paris and the Hapgood family country residence in Petersham, Massachusetts, where he was born.

After graduating from Swarthmore College, he worked as a reporter for the Trentonian, and became a writer-editor for the New York Times News of the Week in Review. He served as a Senior Editor of The Washington Monthly, and appeared on the Johnny Carson show to discuss his book The Screwing of the Average Man, (1974) a collection of essays he wrote for that magazine.

He was an evaluator of Peace Corps programs in West Africa, India and Costa Rica. In 1961–1963 he traveled in West Africa with his family, as a Fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs. He subsequently became a Trustee of the Institute and a managing editor of its South-North News Service.

His life reflects his wide range of interests in, among others, foreign affairs, theatre and French literature. His books include: Africa, From Independence to Tomorrow (1965); Agents of Change, A Close Look at the Peace Corps (1968); The Murder of Napoleon (1982); Monte Cassino (1984); Year of the Pearl, The Life of a New York Repertory Company (1993) and Charles R. Crane: The Man Who Bet on People (2001). His translations include My Father’s House by Henri Troyat, The Totalitarian Temptation by Jean-Francois Revel, and Albert Camus’s posthumously published The First Man (1995), of which the New York Times Book Review observed: Mr. Hapgood’s translation deals skillfully [ . . . ], capturing the tone of Camus: direct, understated, occasionally aphoristic, sustained by subdued lyricism and a nostalgic attention to detail.”

In 1978 he and Pierre Tonachel of New York created The Katherine Dalglish Foundation which over 28 years provided financial support to more than 50 Off-Off Broadway theatre companies, most notably Dixon Place and The Pearl.

His marriage to the former Janice Terhune, of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, ended with her death in 2002. They jointly raised her twin sons by her previous marriage: Bruce and David Van Ness; he is survived by David, of Newport, Rhode Island, and Bruce’s widow Cheryl Van Ness, of Norfolk, Virginia.

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