Robert Klein Passed Away on Wednesday

klein-bRobert Klein (Ghana 1961–63; 1974–75), recent winner of Peace Corps Writers Advancing the Mission Award for his book Being First, an informal history of early Peace Corps/Ghana, and founder of the RPCV Oral History Archival Project, passed away yesterday, April 4, 2012, at the age of 83, after complications arising from the implantation of a pacemaker.

being-firstKlein was a tireless supporter of the agency and RPCVs across the country, and dedicated to having RPCVs tell their individual stories. He taught in Ghana for two years, a member of the first Peace Corps group to go overseas. He then joined the Peace Corps program staff, serving in Kenya and in Ghana, where he was the country director from 1966 to 1968. Returning to the U.S., Klein had a career as a journeyman educator working in New Frontier and other experimental settings in the areas of remedial education and English as a second language. In 1974 he returned to Ghana, with his family, to serve another term as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Through the years he has remained close friends with his Ghanaian students whom he first taught in 1961, and has made periodic visits back to the school and community. He lived in Madison, Wisconsin and at the age of 81 began to work with the National Archives at the John F. Kennedy Library, conducting oral history interviews with former Volunteers.

He will be missed for his personality, and for his work for all of us who believe in the Peace Corps and the work of RPCVs.

To know more about everything that Bob did, read Hugh Pickens column on our site about Klein’s life and work with his Oral History project at:


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  • This is a tremendous loss. Bob Klein was passionate about Peace Corps and Volunteers, serving and returned, Ghana, Africa, Education and life itself. He is already missed and mourned.

  • Bob represented and lived what the Peace Corps was, is and should be about. He is a mensch I will miss.

  • I am so sad to learn of Bob’s passing. I was a member Ghana IV, the group that replaced Ghana I. Bob was an associate director for our group. Bob was fabulous. He managed to visit all of us during his tenure and brought his unique blend of humor and irony to all situations. What a guy!

  • Bob joined the reunion of Ghana IV last September in DC. We were all pleased to renew our friendship with him. I remember so well how he both encouraged and entertained me when I was a new PCV in 1963 and he was on the PC Ghana staff. He convinced me that I could do the job. He surely did that for others too.

    I love his book, Being First, seeing it as a prequel to my PC years. I told him that it seemed that he had written it just for me. I think that he was pleased with the praise. Only he could capture that time and those events so personally and vividly.

    Those of us, like me, who remember his influence and inspiration will miss him sorely.

  • Bob will be sorely missed for many reasons. Up until his untimely death he was working with Joanne Roll and me to expand the Peace Corps-related archives at American University. That effort is well underway thanks to his inspiration. His legacy as team-player, coach and cheerleader live on in this project and in the memories of everyone who encountered him.

  • It was such a delight to see Bob again at our reunion this summer and to enjoy again his humor, dedication and awareness. I am sorry he died so soon.

    I also was a member of Ghana IV, so benefited from his experience as a staff member supporting us volunteers. In Accra, I also benefited from his gourmet cooking abilities and his wonderful conversation. He was a beautiful man who shared his beautiful qualities with so many.

  • Bob dedicated much of his life to Peace Corps and to those of us who voluntered.

    He often visited us, and stay the night, in Kumasi.

    I’m glad to have had the opportunity to visit with him again in DC last September – thanks to the Ghana 4 folks.

    My condolences to his family.

    Wayne Newhart
    PC Ghana 2

  • I first met Bob when he was a member of the PC’s first teacher project, Ghana 1, met him again when we both were in East Africa, and again when he was compiling his PCV recollections for the Kennedy Library. There are few who more deserve the title “Mr PC”, than Bob. His book is a valuable historical statement not only on the beginnings of the PC as volunteers knew it, but the era of the ’60s that prompted it’s creation. It also may shed some light on the differences between that time and today, when as many as half an entire PC project may terminate early. Back then, early terminations barely exceeded 1%, and that often for medical reasons. Bob takes his rightful place, along with Ghana’s first country director, George Carter, as one who made the PC a success, in those early days when it was not at all certain. Good Bye, Bob.

    John Turnbull
    Ghana-3, Nyasaland/Malawi-2

  • Ghana VI, VII, and VII were blessed to have had Bob as their director. He was down-to-earth, and inspirational. How great that Ghana VI could reconnect with Bob in Santa Fe at our reunion, and share memories. Sarah and I send our condolences to Bob’s family.

  • Bob’s passing is a shock and sorrow. He was a fine man and a friend. We were members of Ghana II and enjoyed the reunion he organized in Tucson. The privilege and opportunity for reconnecting was greatly appreciated. There is always someone who stands as the heart of a community and Bob certainly had that place.

    Our prayers and concerns to his personal family and the very broad extended family in the Peace Corps.

    David and Judy Lambert

  • A man of compassion, joy, unbounded love. He’d drop by our school in Dunkwa on his way to his own school way up a rutted dirt road in Ghana. We are all better people for having Bob in our lives. God bless you.

  • Although we had heard of Bob because of his PCV Oral History project, we only met him a few years ago through his partner Phyllis.

    What a simply delightful character. I am just sorry that Anne and I had not met him much earlier in our lives. However, We are so happy that we had a chance to see him in DC at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps.

    He will be missed.

    I hope that someone continue on with his PCV project.

    Anne and Andy Philpot CUSO and VSO

  • I am saddened to hear of Bob’s passing.. He was country director in Ghana when I was a volunteer in the Ghana VI group. He was so good at making us feel at ease as new volunteers and treating us as peers. I just got his book, now I will read it in a different state of mind. Bob, where ever you are…

    Nante Yie.

  • I was lucky to have known Bob from his earliest days in the Peace Corps, as I was lucky to be in Ghana I along with him. Because of his enthusiasm for the Peace Corps and its mission, he began the interviews that finally became his book “Being First”. That project took a long but joyous time. He was the “pater familias” of Ghana I. We all will miss him.
    Tom Livingston

  • We all have lost a dear brother.

    Bob, you were in every way a mensch.
    Words cannot express—-our wonder at your openness, , your courage, your perseverance, your kindness..

    You will live in our hearts.

    We love you.


  • Bob was a good friend for several years, then we lost touch. Happily we got back in contact sometime after 2000 and the reunion was quite delightful. I think of Bob as a person who fully enjoyed his life, taking up its opportunities and its challenges, and making friends with those he met while doing this. He was generous, good company, dryly funny, kind, ethical, and thoughtful about the issues that he encountered. He was a bit of a cynic yet still maintained a commitment to make the world better.

    Bob’s post-retirement Peace Corps oral history venture drew together many of his earlier interests, a kind of capstone project to record the experiences of those who were part of the contradictory but exciting, formative, and unusual concept that was the early Peace Corps.

    My condolences to all those who comprised Bob’s family — and to us, his friends, for our loss.

    Paddy Colligan, Ghana IV

  • Bobs passing is a huge loss to all Ghana RPCVs. Bob was the mortar that kept Ghana groups linked together and our history intact. His book now becomes his elegy. Miss you Bob. Bill Lober Ghana ll

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