Back to all news stories

Honoring idealism of JFK, UM students & faculty

By Dana Budzaj

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of John F.Kennedy’s visit (below right) to the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus, where the then-presidential candidate first articulated the goals of the Peace Corps, the Hatcher Graduate Library is hosting “U-M and the Peace Corps: It All Started Here,” through Nov. 30.

Sponsored by the UM Library and the International Center, the exhibit showcases the unique role of university students and faculty in the creation and popularizing of the Peace Corps. The development of student activism, the hard work of the Americans Committed to World Responsibility (ACWR), and stories by Peace Corps volunteers are among the highlights.

Great attention to detail was paid in the creation of the exhibit as a result of the intense research of Kay Clifford, program coordinator at the UM International Center and past Peace Corps member (1970-1972).

Within the 1960’s style design, significant moments of Peace Corps history have been re-created. At the exhibit entrance is a picture-story of the iconic October 14, 1960 event, including an audio recording of Kennedy’s inspiring words when he arrived on campus in the early morning and shared his vision of global peace and justice with an anxious, ambitious and passionate student body.

Immersed in the collection of enlarged 1960’s campus photos is the Guskin’s living room, often referred to as the “war room” for the ACWR. It includes: historic-like newspaper clippings; tables made from doors and spindles; a replica of the black leather couch were many important discussion took place; and even the Olivetti typewriter that help catapult the group to the forefront of the student activism movement in the 1960’s.

Original memorabilia materials are speckled throughout the exhibit and add to the sensation of taking a journey through history. A quilt of comments displays levels of humanitarianism and shares the motivations of past volunteers for joining the Peace Corps and their experiences during their service.

An interactive video element, “Where did you Serve?”, allows returning members an opportunity to create a short clip that documents their own personal piece of history with the Peace Corps.

Since the beginning of the Peace Corps, more than 2,200 university graduates have joined the nearly 200,0000 individuals that have volunteered to live and work abroad and use their education and experience to make a difference by building friendships and promoting world peace in developing countries around the globe.