Bay Area Native Named As Peace Corps Chief
By Elizabeth Bell Chronicle Staff Writer
President Clinton yesterday appointed Bay Area native Mark L. Schneider as the next director of the Peace Corps, where he will oversee an operation involving 7,000 volunteers in 77 developing countries.
Schneider, who grew up in Antioch, has worked since 1993 as an assistant administrator for the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, D.C. He directs U.S. foreign assistance programs promoting democracy, social and economic development and environmental protection.
Schneider earned his bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his master's degree from San Jose State University, then volunteered for the Peace Corps.
He was assigned to help people in poor neighborhoods in the capital of El Salvador to develop self-help community organizations.
"Without any question, the Peace Corps turned me toward development issues and increased concern in Latin America," said Schneider. "I am excited about the honor President Clinton has given me to serve as the director of the Peace Corps. It is about the highest honor I can imagine receiving."
The job had been vacant for six months.
Schneider will oversee a $245 million budget and carry out plans to expand the Peace Corps from 7,000 to 10,000 volunteers over the next three years. In addition to recruiting volunteers, the Peace Corps must set up programs and locations to put them to work for two-year stints.
Schneider, 57, said his interest in Latin America grew from observing the many links between California and Latin America. He studied Spanish at Antioch High and grew curious about the roots of his Latino peers.
From 1977 to 1979, Schneider served as a senior deputy assistant secretary for human rights at the State Department. Later, he acted as a senior policy adviser for the Pan American Health Organization.
Schneider said his proudest achievement has been helping wipe out measles in Latin America.
The government of Chile honored Schneider with the Bernardo O'Higgens Medal for human rights work. He also was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellowship at Reed College in Portland, Ore., and the Congressional Fellowship of the American Political Science Association.
Schneider lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Susan, also a former Peace Corps volunteer, and has two grown children.