Carol Bellamy left the agency on May 1, 1995, and for several weeks it appeared that Harris Wofford (Ethiopia CD 1962-1964), a central figure in the creation of the agency, might become the new director. Clinton, however, had other plans and Wofford was asked by the president to take over and ‘save’ the new National Service Corporation. In August, Mark Gearan, then in the press office of the White House, and a political type, was named the next Peace Corps Director. Gearan was Director until August 1999, a total of four years and proved to be an outstanding director. I am indebted to Mark for taking an idea of mine—the Crisis Corps—and making it a reality.
I had previously floated the idea of a “Crisis Corps” in a memo to Carol Bellamy who was intrigued by the idea but she didn’t last long at the agency.
However, shortly after Gearan took over the agency, he attended the NPCA Conference in Austin, Texas and Chris Hedrick (Senegal 1988-90) then Director of Domestic Programs at the Peace Corps, who knew Gearan from the campaign, arranged for the three of us to have breakfast. As I discuss the opportunities and challenges for the Peace Corps, I mentioned the idea of a Crisis Corps and Gearan stopped eating and seized on the idea, hastily scripting down a note. It would take him more than nine months to bring folks like Hogan around to making it happen. Today, establishing the Crisis Corps is cited by the agency as one of Gearan’s achievements as Peace Corps Director.( I also read somewhere where Mark said that taking ‘so long’ to start the Crisis Corps was his biggest failure at the Peace Corps.) Then in 2006 when Ron Tschetter (India 1966-68) became the director he changed the name to Respond Corps. Perhaps because he thought Respond Corps was more “PC.”