Service & Advocacy

The Peace Corps at 50


UW-Madison Archives

Changing the world is a Wisconsin idea, so it makes sense that UW–Madison alumni have stepped up to serve in the Peace Corps ever since 1961, when President John F. Kennedy first challenged University of Michigan students to foster peace by living and working in developing countries. The UW’s connection to the volunteer program runs deep, so much so that its current director, Aaron Williams MBA’73, will return to campus in March for a fiftieth anniversary celebration hosted by the African Studies Program and the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Madison.

Here are some facts about the UW’s ties to the Peace Corps:

91 UW alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers

2,942 Peace Corps volunteers from the UW since the program began, ranking number two on the all-time producer list, following University of California-Berkeley

Famous volunteers: Donna Shalala, former UW–Madison chancellor, served in Iran from 1962–64; former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle ’67 and his wife, Jessica Doyle ’67 MS’76, served together in Tunisia from 1967–69.

Family tradition: Judy Lamm Figi ’64 MMusic’68 met her husband when they were both Peace Corps volunteers in Sierra Leone. Their daughter, Alison Figi Van Rens ’00, went on to serve on the island of Yap in Micronesia.

For more details about the March 24–26 events, visit

Published in the Spring 2011 issue


  • Kevin M. Kuschel March 7, 2011

    I was a volunteer in Honduras from 1981 t0 84. I graduated from the school of ed in 1980. My son is a volunteer in Bulgaria right now. He graduated from the college of L and S in 2009. The tradition continues.

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