U.C. Berkeley renews Peace Corps push on 50th birthday

February 02, 2011

Steven E.F. Brown, San Francisco Business Times

The University of California, Berkeley, is urging its graduates to join the Peace Corps as that organization celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Although U.C. Berkeley is still the No. 1 all time producer of Peace Corps volunteers, with more than 3,400 of its graduates joining the organization since 1961, it has slipped to No. 6 on the annual college ranking this year, with just 92 volunteers. Cal finds itself behind the University of Colorado (117 volunteers this year), the University of Florida (97) and the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina and the University of Washington (94 each).

“I would like to challenge our graduates to recapture the No. 1 spot,” said Cal Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

In 1984, U.C. Berkeley ranked first, and it has consistently been in the top 10. No other university has had more than 3,000 graduates volunteer in the Peace Corps.

Berkeley plans numerous campus events as part of a “Cal Renews the Call” push this spring. On Feb. 26, there’ll be a Peace Corps symposium in the International House, with a speech by C.D. Glin, the organization’s director of intergovernmental affairs. That evening there will be a reception for many Bay Area volunteers who’ve served in the Peace Corps.

The university has also chosen to make the Peace Corps the theme of its annual Cal Day celebration on April 16. About 40,000 people descend on the campus that day. Carrie Hessler-Radelet will speak at that event -- she’s deputy U.S. director of the Peace Corps.

President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps in 1961 via executive order. The first director of the organization was Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who died at 95 last month.

Robert Haas, chairman of Levi Strauss & Co., is a U.C. Berkeley alumnus who served in the Peace Corps in Ivory Coast from 1964 to 1966. Congressman John Garamendi of Walnut Creek is another -- he went to Ethiopia from 1966 to 1968.

Read more: U.C. Berkeley renews Peace Corps push on 50th birthday | San Francisco Business Times