Graduate student to explore early connection between Peace Corps, NIU at Friday lecture

Founder Sargent Shriver once visited DeKalb campus

Peace Corps founder and director Sargent Shriver visits NIU on April 10, 1962.

Peace Corps founder and director Sargent Shriver visits NIU on April 10, 1962.

History graduate student Maria ‘Rai’ Hancock will explore NIU’s rich Peace Corps heritage during a public lecture from noon to 12:50 p.m. Friday in Room 110 of the Campus Life Building.

The presentation, titled “Connecting Globally, Locally: NIU, Southeast Asia, and the Peace Corps,” honors the memory of the late R. Sargent Shriver, founder and first director of the Peace Corps, who died Jan. 18.

NIU’s Peace Corps heritage is a relatively little-known postscript to local and campus history.

Yet the university had the distinction of being the third training site in the Midwest for the now 50-year-old Peace Corps program, established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Shriver himself visited DeKalb in April 1962.

Hancock will discuss how and why the Corps’ training program first came to NIU, recruiting busloads of volunteers headed for Malaya (now Malaysia), and later the Philippines and Thailand.

The NIU Peace Corps training program was relocated in1968 to Hawaii and then to Southeast Asia. Still, about 1,200 volunteers had trained in DeKalb for service in the Peace Corps. It became a life-changing experience for many and laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS).

Maria Hancock

Maria Hancock

Today, a number of former Southeast Asia Peace Corps volunteers can be counted among current and retired faculty affiliated with the center, including Jim and Patricia Henry, John Hartmann, Grant Olson, CSEAS Director Jim Collins and Clark and Arlene Neher.

Hancock’s talk is part of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies’ weekly lecture series.

This year marks the 50th anniversary for the Peace Corps, which is working to increase its volunteer numbers and is currently recruiting on campus.

Peace Corps information and applications are available online and must be submitted by Wednesday, Feb. 9, for those wishing to set up an interview at NIU later in the month.

Peace Corps representatives will be on hand at the Spring Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the NIU Convocation Center. They also will conduct an information session from 6 to 7 p.m. that same day in Room 406 of the Holmes Student Center. Interviews with potential Corps candidates will be held Thursday, Feb. 24.

For more information, contact Peace Corps representative Rok Teasley at (312) 353-1128 or rteasley@peacecorps.gov.

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