Apr 8, 2022

Peace Corps 60th anniversary commemorative celebration

Glenn Blumhorst recognizes Stephan Honoré for his Peace Corps service

Ohio State commemorated the 60th Anniversary of the Peace Corps with a celebration and panel discussion on April 7. The event featured reflections and insights of returned Peace Corps volunteers spanning six decades from the present back to the organization’s founding years, during which Ohio State contributed to the Peace Corps’ initial training and recruitment operations.

Glenn Blumhorst, president and CEO of the National Peace Corps Association, delivered a keynote address on the role of Peace Corps, provided an update on the impacts of the organization’s advocacy efforts and presided over the special recognition of returned Peace Corps volunteers from the initial creation of the program, Stephan L. Honoré and the India I cohort.

Keith Sherper reflects on India I cohort experience 60 years ago.

Stephan Honoré, the first Ohio State student to be accepted into the Peace Corps, reflected on his two years in Colombia working in rural community development as part of an agricultural extension team and the impacts of his time abroad on his career. Honoré was also the first Ohioan, the first African-American, and one of the first 27 Peace Corps invitees in 1961.

Gates Garrity-Rokous reflects on his Peace Corps experience in Mali.

Originally trained at Ohio State in preparation for their time abroad, seven representatives of India I – the first cohort of Peace Corps volunteers to serve in India were recognized by Blumhorst for their service. Paul Burmseister, Roger Burt, Al (Alton) DeLong, Roger Engstrom, Keith Sherper, Robert Mitchell, and Paul Winther were honored at the ceremony. Sherper spoke on behalf of the group and reflected on their projects in India 60 years ago.

A panel discussion featured Ohio State returned Peace Corps volunteers from each of the six decades that Peace Corps has been working with, living alongside, and celebrating the diversity of cultures around the world. The volunteers addressed the efforts to promote world peace and friendship through the mission of Peace Corps.

Ann Nelson, El Salvador, 1966-1968, detailed her community development efforts through public health, 4-H, well-baby programs and teaching English. Gail and Mike Messick, Eastern Caribbean 1976-1978; Eswatini 2010-2014, served twice with Mike serving as a small business advisor and Gail providing public dental health training. Gates Garrity-Rokous, Mali 1987-1989, noted how the lessons he learned in the Peace Corps are applied every single day.

Jesse Kwiek, Malawi 1995-1996, served as a high school science teacher, sports master, and mentor to the anti-HIV club while abroad and continues to work closely with colleagues from Malawi. Jamie Rice, Cameroon 2006-2008, worked with tree nurseries and farming groups as an agroforestry volunteer. Although he was evacuated early due to COVID, Gabriel Jackson, Botswana 2019-2020, worked on HIV/AIDS outreach during his service.

This reflection on the Peace Corps’ history and impact is noteworthy as the organization resumes invitations for new volunteers to serve abroad after a two-year hiatus in the wake of the pandemic.

The film screening and commemorative event were made possible with support from the Central Ohio Returned Peace Corps Association, College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences International Programs in Agriculture, Office of International Affairs, Office of Marketing and Communications, and National Peace Corps Association.

For more information contact Ohio State’s Peace Corps recruiter, Laura Joseph.

View a complete set of photos online.