February 3, 2012
By Charles Scott
In 1960, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their nation in the name of peace by working and living in developing countries.
His goal became a reality in 1961 when he became president and established the Peace Corps.
Faculty, students, alumni and returned Peace Corps volunteers alike filed into the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom Tuesday afternoon for a celebratory luncheon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. . .
Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs who spoke at the luncheon, said, "[Peace Corps] not only builds bridges between people but among countries."
Thomas Tunks, professor of music at SMU, began recalling his experience while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Columbia, South America in the late ‘60s by forming a V sign (peace sign) with his left hand to engage the audience's attention. Before joining the Peace Corps in 1968, Tunks said he was an isolated individual.
Unlike many of his peers he adamantly opposed the Vietnam War.
He didn't want to go to Canada and hideout. Instead, he said he wanted to do something he thought was worthwhile for his country. He heard about the opportunities Peace Corps offers.
"I thought, you know, this sounds like a real possibility. I can do something worthwhile and learn something [too]. So I joined, and it turned my life around completely," he said.
As a senior at Yale University, Dennis Cordell, a history professor at SMU, decided to join the Peace Corps — the same year as Tunks. Cordell served in Chad, Africa until 1970.
He said he thought the opportunity sounded like something new and spectacular. "If you're thinking about what to do next, I urge you to consider the possibilities of the Peace Corps. You very well may end up with the hardest job you ever loved."
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SMU Peace Corps Participants
(left to right) Courtney Pinkerton (Nicaragua), Paula Selzer (Dominican Republic), Susan Kress (Malaysia), Thomas Tunks (Colombia), Dennis Cordell (Chad), Allison Hannel (Honduras), Jane Albritton (India), Owen Ross (Ecuador) and Donald Ross (Thailand). Owen and Donald are son and father, respectively.
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