Remembering Jane Campbell (PC Staff — DC and Ethiopia)

by Bill Josephson (HQ Staff 1961-68)


Jane Campbell who died on December 19, 2023 at the age of 89, was unusual among original Peace Corps staff people. We all were smart, dedicated, reliable, hardworking, insightful, and Jane had all of those virtues. Plus, she was exceedingly well bred and stylish, never a hair out of place. Always looked her absolute best.

A stalwart in the Division of Volunteer Support, Jane had already had significant international experience. In fact, as events unfolded, I realized that under that Green Springs Valley Maryland veneer beat the heart of a genuine international adventurist.

Jane was a staff person in Ethiopia after three years at Peace Corps Washington.

Jane with one of the lion cubs

She became somewhat famous there for nursing and nurturing three lion cubs. When the cubs began to be of a certain age and size, she arranged for them to be donated to an English wildlife farm. While traveling by air to their new home, the cubs broke out of their containers, and the plane made an emergency landing in Brussels.  Against all advice, a local zoologist entered the cargo hold and coaxed the cubs back into their crate.  The journey continued without further incidence.

This became an international news story the next day.  A newspaper reporter is Addis Ababa knew Jane and that she had given the cubs to an English wildlife farm. When he told Jane about the lions breaking loose, he quoted Jane in the International Times, “Oh, they just wanted to say hello.”

Jane from time-to-time visited her lions in their new home and swore that as soon as she came to the fence, they came to greet her.

I happened to be in London once on business when Jane was there.  She invited me to a party.  Never have I been with so many Honorables, including one who trailed after her like a pet.  What’s the story about him?  “Oh, he fell hard for me at a New College (Oxford) dance, and he’s having a hard time getting over it.”

Earlier I said that Jane was at heart an adventurist.  One only has to read about her trip across Lake Rudolph and up the Omo River, swimming with crocodiles and battling mosquitos, for you know what I mean.  She could have flown.  She chose not to.

Following her Peace Corps career, Jane became the first Director of Admissions at the new State University of New York College of Old Westbury of which Harris Wofford was president.  Then she went overseas, this time to Asia, with United States International Children’s Educational Fund.  Later she worked in Indonesia and in the Sudan.  In Nigeria, Jane met John Beaven, a British foreign service officer, whom she later married.

When John was assigned to New York, Jane worked at the UNICEF headquarters there.  When John retired, they moved to Jane’s house in Columbia County, New York.  He died some years ago.

Jane preferred to be called Mrs. Beaven.  But for those of us in the Peace Corps who knew her well, she will always be “Jane Campbell.”

A close friend of Jane’s, Bill Josephson (Peace Corps 1961-68) was the co-author (with Warren Wiggins) of  “The Towering Task,” a proposal for the workings of Peace Corps that was given to Sargent Shriver, and the principal author of the President’s Executive order which brought the Peace Gorps into existence. He then was (younger than most PCVs) the General Counsel for the Agency until he “in, up and out” of the Peace Corps in 1968.



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  • I remember Jane fondly & saw her during various to Africa many years ago. A lovely person – smart, dedicated to international development, & an inspiration to female staff members at Peace Corps & beyond. May she rest in peace.

  • My addition to the flying story, as I recall it, included the conversation between the pilots and the French control tower operator, who upon being notified of their emergency quipped “You have a tiger in your tank?” To which they responded, “No, lions!” And I believed the pilot and the co-pilot hatched their way out of the cockpit with their emergency ax, after landing.

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