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Peace Corps Volunteer
2 years, 3 months
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Peace Corps Response
Up to 12 months
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3-6 months
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Past Directors

Learn more about the people who have served as Director of the Peace Corps since its founding in 1961.

Jody Olsen

Dr. Josephine (Jody) K. Olsen

March 30, 2018 – January 20, 2021

Appointed by: President Trump

Dr. Josephine (Jody) Olsen became the Peace Corps’ 20th Director, having served as a Volunteer in Tunisia (1966-1968) and in multiple leadership roles with the agency throughout the decades since its founding. When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, Dr. Olsen made the unprecedented decision to evacuate all Peace Corps Volunteers and successfully orchestrated their safe return to the United States. Dr. Olsen developed a comprehensive reentry plan for Volunteers to return to service and expanded what it means to serve, launching the Virtual Service Pilot Program. She also championed global women's economic empowerment.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet

Carrie Hessler-Radelet

June 6, 2014 - January 19, 2017

Appointed by: President Obama

Carrie Hessler-Radelet, a member of a four-generation Peace Corps family, began her career in international development as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Samoa (1981–83). During her time at the Peace Corps, Hessler-Radelet led historic reforms to modernize and strengthen the agency. She spearheaded sweeping efforts to revitalize the Volunteer recruitment, application, and selection process, resulting in record-breaking application numbers in 2015. Hessler-Radelet was also instrumental in forging innovative strategic partnerships, such as Let Girls Learn and the Global Health Service Partnership.

Aaron Williams

Aaron S. Williams

August 24, 2009 – September 17, 2012

Appointed by: President Obama

A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in the Dominican Republic from 1967 to 1970, Williams, during his first year as Director, oversaw the historic re-opening of Peace Corps programs in Colombia, Sierra Leone, and Indonesia. In recognition of the agency's 50th anniversary in 2011, Director Williams encouraged all Americans to consider being part of the Peace Corps' legacy of public service and benefit from its life-defining leadership experience.

Ron Tschetter

Ronald A. Tschetter

September 26, 2006 – January 16, 2009

Appointed by: President George W. Bush

Tschetter is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served with his wife, Nancy, in India from 1966-1968 in community health. As Director, he focused on expanding the number of Peace Corps Volunteers age 50 plus, measuring success and impact of the agency, and promoting volunteerism.

Gaddi Vasquez

Gaddi H. Vasquez

January 23, 2002 – September 7, 2006

Appointed by: President George W. Bush

The first Hispanic American Director, Gaddi Vasquez focused on recruiting a more diversified Volunteer corps and oversaw a 30-year high in the number of Volunteers. He opened a historic program in Mexico, enhanced the worldwide safety and security systems, and initiated programs under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Mark Schneider

Mark L. Schneider

December 23, 1999 – January 20, 2001

Appointed by: President Clinton

Schneider was the second Returned Volunteer (El Salvador, 1966-68) to head the agency. He launched an initiative to increase Volunteers' participation in helping prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, and he also sought Volunteers to work on information technology projects to enhance development of overseas communities.

Mark Gearan

Mark D. Gearan

August 11, 1995 – August 11, 1999

Appointed by: President Clinton

Gearan established the Crisis Corps, a program that allows Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to help overseas communities recover from natural disasters and humanitarian crises. He supported expanding the corps of Volunteers and opened new Volunteer programs in South Africa, Jordan, Bangladesh, and Mozambique.

Carol Bellamy

Carol Bellamy

October 7, 1993 – May 1, 1995

Appointed by: President Clinton

Bellamy was the first Returned Volunteer (Guatemala 1963-65) to be confirmed by the Senate as Director of the Peace Corps. In her tenure, she launched the Peace Corps’ first website and expanded the agency’s HIV/AIDS education programs. She also supported the return of the Peace Corps to Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Guyana; established Volunteer programs in Mozambique and Niue; and began the negotiations for a Peace Corps program in South Africa.

Elaine Chao

Elaine Chao

October 8, 1991 – November 13, 1992

Appointed by: President Bush

Chao was the first Asian American to serve as Director of the Peace Corps. She expanded the Peace Corps presence in Eastern Europe and launched the first Peace Corps program in the Baltic nations and the former republics of the Soviet Union.

Paul Coverdell

Paul D. Coverdell

April 20, 1989 – October 1, 1991

Appointed by: President Bush

Coverdell established two programs with a domestic focus. World Wise Schools (now Global Connections) enabled U.S. students to correspond with Volunteers serving overseas in an effort to promote international awareness and cross-cultural understanding. Fellows/USA assisted Returned Volunteers in pursuing graduate studies while serving local communities in the U.S.

Loret Miller Ruppe

Loret Miller Ruppe

May 6, 1981 – April 20, 1989

Appointed by: President Reagan

Ruppe was the longest-serving Director and a champion of women in development. She launched the Competitive Enterprise Development program to promote business-oriented projects. She established the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the Initiative for Central America, and the African Food Systems Initiative to help address regional challenges.

Richard Celeste

Richard F. Celeste

April 27, 1979 – January 20, 1981

Appointed by: President Carter

Celeste focused on the role of women in development and was successful in involving women and minorities in the agency, particularly for staff positions. He invested heavily in training, including the development of a worldwide core curriculum, so that all Volunteers had a common context in which to work.

Carolyn Payton

Carolyn R. Payton

October 11, 1977 – December 18, 1978

Appointed by: President Carter

Payton was the first female Director of the Peace Corps, and the first African American. As Director, she believed strongly in reflecting America's diversity in the corps of Volunteers and worked tirelessly to convince young people that Peace Corps service would enrich their lives.

John Dellenbeck

John Dellenback

April 28, 1975 – May 13, 1977

Appointed by: President Ford

Dellenback worked to make the best possible health care available to Volunteers. He also placed great emphasis on recruiting generalists. He believed in taking committed applicants without specific development skills and providing concentrated training to prepare them for service.

Nick Craw

Nick Craw

October 1, 1973 – September 1, 1974

Appointed by: President Nixon

Craw sought to increase the number of Volunteers in the field and to stabilize the agency's future. He introduced a goal-setting measurement plan, the Country Management Plan, which gave a firm foundation for increased Congressional support and for improved resource allocation across all Peace Corps' countries.

Donald Hess

Donald Hess

August 11, 1972 – September 30, 1973

Appointed by: President Nixon

Hess initiated training of Volunteers in the host country where they would eventually serve. With this came the greater utilization of host country nationals in the training programs. The training provided more realistic preparation, and costs dropped for the agency. Hess also sought to end the downsizing of the Peace Corps.

Kevin O'Donnell

Kevin O'Donnell

July 1, 1971 – September 30, 1972

Appointed by: President Nixon

O'Donnell's appointment was the first for a former country director (Korea, 1966-70). He worked tirelessly to save the Peace Corps from budget cuts. He believed strongly in a non-career Peace Corps and resigned as Director exactly six years after first joining the Peace Corps.

Joseph Blatchford

Joseph Blatchford

May 1, 1969 – July 1, 1971

Appointed by: President Nixon

Blatchford served as head of the new ACTION agency, which encompassed U.S. domestic and foreign volunteer service programs including the Peace Corps. He created the Office of Returned Volunteers to help Volunteers serve in their communities at home, and initiated New Directions, a program emphasizing Volunteer skills.

Jack Vaughn

Jack Vaughn

March 1, 1966 – April 30, 1969

Appointed by: President Johnson

Vaughn took steps to improve Peace Corps marketing, programming, and Volunteer support as large numbers of returned Volunteers joined the Peace Corps staff. He also promoted Volunteer assignments in conservation, natural resource management, and community development.

Sargent Shriver

R. Sargent Shriver

March 22, 1961 – February 28, 1966

Appointed by: President Kennedy

On March 1, 1961, President Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. Three days later, Shriver became its first Director. Deployment was rapid: Volunteers arrived in five countries during 1961. In just under six years, Shriver developed programs in 55 countries with more than 14,500 Volunteers.