My Life in Review: Have I been Lucky or What?

Origins of the Peace Corps/College Degree Program

One of Al Brown's many ideas for program development was to apply the ROTC model to the preparation of Peace Corps Volunteers i.e., to combine an undergraduate degree program with training for service in The Peace Corps. In the fall of 1966 he invited representatives from Peace Corps/Washington to the campus to discuss that possibility. I was asked to sit in on that meeting and make a recommendation to Vice President Gordon Allen. That resulted in a proposal prepared under Wayne Dedman's leadership which called for combining a degree program in one of the Social Sciences with Peace Corps training. The Washington officials seemed responsive to the general idea but pointed out that Peace Corps countries needed math and science teachers not social scientists.

Early in January, 1967 Al Brown collared me at a Saturday afternoon cocktail party, informed me of the Washington reaction and told me to prepare a new proposal which would fit their needs. He concluded saying, "you don't have to rush. I don't need it until Tuesday!" That meant just one working day to put together a full-blown proposal. I used Sunday to sketch it out. On Monday Dot Bandemer, my efficient secretary, typed a couple of drafts and by evening we had produced a final version with the requisite number of copies. We were both a bit groggy and failed to notice that she had typed "Peace Crops" instead of Peace Corps on the title page. That typo turned out to be prophetic for the program did produce a rather remarkable harvest.

The officials at Peace Corps headquarters found the proposal acceptable and Brockport was asked to submit a budget as the basis of a contract. Working with The Research Foundation we hammered out a document identifying the number of staff required, suggested salaries and other costs involved in executing a fifteen-month program. In mid-January Alex Cameron, Vice President for Administrative Services; Don Nasca, Director of The Research Foundation and yours truly flew to Washington, met with the appropriate officials, negotiated adjustments which with their superior sophistication they deemed necessary and produced a mutually satisfactory budget. A few days later a contract for about three hundred fifty thousand dollars was signed by the Director of The Peace Corps, Jack Vaughn, and President Brown in the office of Jacob Javits, New York's senior U.S. Senator and in the presence of our congressman, Barber Conable.

Now, with the contract in hand, Brown's problem was that of identifying a Director for this unique Peace Corps/College Degree Program. He arranged for interviews with several persons in Washington with administrative experience in The Peace Corps. When he returned he called me (I remember that we were eating supper). I asked if he had found a Director. "Perhaps I have," he said. "I couldn't work out a satisfactory arrangement with any of the candidates in Washington. So how would you like to be the director? Harold Rakov suggests that you're the logical choice. I agree. Give it some thought. I'll see you in the morning."

I was stunned by this unexpected turn of events and somewhat overwhelmed by the prospect of conducting a program containing a critical component about which I knew virtually nothing. President Brown came to my office the next morning armed with two arguments which persuaded me to "Give it a shot." Whipping out his pen he scratched a set of numbers on a note pad to show me the impact on my salary if I went on a Federal payroll (a twenty-five percent raise). Secondly, he pointed out that I could appoint a Deputy Director who had Peace Corps experience. My affirmative response marked the beginning of the most exciting and rewarding chapter in my administrative career.

If you are an alumni of the PC/CDP, please e-mail us your address so we can update our database for the next reunion.

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