What The University of Michigan Is Planning For The 50th Anniversary

Looking forward to the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps–and stepping up with a plan ahead of the agency’s celebrations in 2011–the University of Michigan has set up a series of special events, including a national symposium on the future of international service, and a commemoration of Senator John F. Kennedy’s speech on the steps of the Michigan Union. It all begins this September, 2010 and is being organized  by two RPCVs on the faculty of the University of Michigan, Dr. John Greisberger (Afghanistan 1973-75) and Kay Clifford (Uganda 1970-72). The events planned (so far) include:

September 6
Hilltopia Music and Arts Festival (HMAF)
7:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Palmer Field

MServe, Michigan Student Assembly, Peace Corps 50th Committee, and a growing number of student organizations and U-M offices have created a free outdoor music and arts festival as part of Welcome Week activities and the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. HMAF will provide students with information and outlets necessary to actualize John F. Kennedy’s challenge of 50 years ago to serve this country and those in developing nations.

October 13
National Symposium: The Future of International Service
8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Blau Auditorium
Ross School of Business

This symposium focuses on new initiatives and policies related to global service and kicks off a year-long series of events across the nation that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. This event is sponsored by U-M, the Brookings Institution, and the National Peace Corps Association. Registration required; Web streaming available.

October 13
Paul Theroux Speech
7 p.m.
Hatcher Library

The American travel writer and novelist will discuss the impact of the Peace Corps on his life. Sponsored by LSA Theme Semester (“What Makes Life Worth Living”), Hatcher Graduate Library, and the International Center.

October 13/14
Challenges and Opportunities of International Service: A Student Symposium10 p.m.
Oct 13 – 2 a.m.
Oct 14
Michigan Union

This student organized and led symposium will address issues and challenges related to  student  engagement, activism and service, both at home and abroad. It will culminate with a ceremony on the steps of the Union at 2:00 a.m. at the same time and place JFK spoke 50 years earlier.

October 14
First Ceremony on Michigan Union steps
2 – 2:30 a.m.
Michigan Union steps
Program will include audio of JFK’s speech followed by remembrances of those who were there  on the steps the night of October 14, 1960. Special guest speaker will be Dr. Alan Guskin, student leader in 1960 who with others advocated for the creation of the Peace Corps.

October 14
Second Ceremony on Michigan Union steps
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Michigan Union steps

Participate with special guests in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s speech that led to the creation of the Peace Corps. Special guest speakers include former Kennedy aide and architect of the Peace Corps, Sen. Harris Wofford; Jack Hood Vaughn, second director of the Peace Corps and U-M alumnus; and Aaron Williams, current director of the Peace Corps.

October 1 – November 30 U-M and the Peace Corps
Normal library hours – Hatcher Library

Enjoy an archival exhibit of U-M student and faculty involvement in the creation of the Peace Corps. As Sargent Shriver said, “It might still be just an idea but for the affirmative response of those Michigan students and faculty.”

October 14
Spending Your Days in Ghana: Responding to JFK’s Challenge
1:30 – 5 p.m.
Symposium: Pendleton Room
Michigan Union, Reception:

JFK asked, “How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana?” Learn about the U-M’s long history-and exciting future-in Ghana and how both Ghana and U-M have benefited from partnerships in a number of fields including medicine, engineering, technology and museum studies. This symposium and reception in UMMA are sponsored by the Medical School.

October 14
Reception for U-M Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs)
4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Michigan Union Anderson Room

U-M alumni who are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers will be special guests at a reception honoring all U-M alumni for their service to others. This event is sponsored by the U-M Alumni Association.

October 15
History of the Peace Corps: From the Michigan Union Steps to the Present
1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Hatcher Library

Hear an eyewitness account of JFK’s speech and the campus events that followed leading to the creation of the Peace Corps, and then hear about the growth and development of the Peace Corps over the past fifty years. Co-presenters are Alan Guskin (U-M alumnus and RPCV-Thailand) and Stanley Meisler (former Peace Corps staff member and author of When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years). John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64–Author, Peace Corps historian and RPCV-Ethiopia) will serve as moderator.

October 15
Peace Corps Authors
3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Hatcher Library

U-M alumni who wrote books and or poetry about their Peace Corps experience will discuss the affect and impact of the Peace Corps on their writing. John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64) will serve as moderator of panel to include: Terry Sack (Bolivia 1963-65); Jan Worth-Nelson (Tonga 1976-78); and John Flynn (Moldova 1993-95).

October 15
Happy Hour for RPCVs and Their Families and Friends
5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Dominick’s on Monroe Street

October 16
Tailgate Party(prior to football game)
President’s Venue

U-M alumni who are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are invited to join President Mary Sue Coleman at her tailgate party prior to U-M’s Homecoming game.

October 16
Football Game and Half-Time Program
Michigan StadiumU-M-affiliated Returned Peace Corps

Volunteers will be recognized at half-time during the Homecoming football game.
Tickets may be purchased through the Athletic Ticket Office in June or July. Watch this space for more information.

October 1 – 31
Peace Corps Photo Exhibit
Normal Union hours, Michigan Union

Enjoy a photo exhibit featuring five decades of U-M alumni experiences in the Peace Corps.

October 19 and 26, and November 2 and 9
Film Series on International Development
7:00 p.m. North Quad

Issues, problems, successes and failures of international development will be explored through films followed by discussion. Once in Afghanistan is a film about the work of female Peace Corps vaccinators and its impact on them and Afghans (Oct. 19). Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai is the inspiring story of the Green Belt Movement and its Nobel Laureate founder (Oct. 26). End of the Rainbow is about the impact of gold mining in Guinea (Nov. 2). Poto Mitan is the story of five Haitian women who struggle against huge obstacles to create change through collective action (Nov. 9). This program is co-sponsored by the Global Scholars Program, LS&A Theme Semester and the International Center.

October 28
Sarah Chayes: Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series
5:10 p.m. Michigan Theater

Author Sarah Chayes’ presentation is part of the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series.

Ms. Chayes is a former Peace Corps Volunteer and NPR reporter. She has lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan since 2002 where she has established a number of cooperatives to help local farmers. She will discuss the current dilemma in Afghanistan and a plan for its resolution. This program is sponsored by the School of Art and Design, LS&A Theme Semester and the International Center.

November 10
Provost’s Seminar on Educating Globally Competent Students
1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Michigan League

This seminar, sponsored by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), is a professional development opportunity for U-M faculty members that will provide opportunities to explore and examine ways to internationalize course material and class discussions in order to increase students’ intercultural competency and maturity, and skills for global citizenship.


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  • Can you clarify? The 50th is in 2011, right? So are these activities being held a year early? Was it 1960 when Kennedy gave his speech at Michigan? Sorry but I just wasn’t sure whether or not these events were being held this year or next year.

  • Well, Linda, as I get older I can’t remember my name some days, so I feel your pain. Kennedy announced that he was running for the presidency on January 2, 1960. On June 13, 1960, he was nominated by the party. On October 14, 1960, he gave his 2 a.m. address at the University of Michigan where he challenged the students to volunteer for service overseas. A week later, at the Cow Palace, he mentioned the name “peace corps’ for the first time, and outlined the idea of the agency. On November 8, 1960, he defeated Nixon. Then on January 20, 1961, he was sworn in as president. On March 1, 1961, he created the Peace Corps.

    I have written about this a number of times on this website, various blogs on the founding of the agency.

    I’m told by Aaron Williams, the current director of the Peace Corps, that we will be have a series of official events in Washington, D.C. in September 2011.

    This event in October 2010, celebrates the Kennedy visit to the University of Michigan and their rightful claim that it “all began here.”

    I know that the Kennedy School, which is part of Harvard University, is also planning a series of lectures in the fall of 2010. Also, the Black Mountain Institute, at UNLV, is also have a special lecture in October 2010. Other colleges and universities, I suspect, will be doing the same.


  • How much does PC pay universities and what is the nature of their relationship? For example, free degrees for RPCVs.

    It didn’t all begin at Michigan. Peace Corps had a 30 year history before Kennedy made it official. Maybe we should honor the actual history instead of the politician that made it part of the US government.

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