Father to Daughter to Granddaughter: A Peace Corps Legacy Continues in the O'Donnell Family
February 14, 2007Former Peace Corps Director's granddaughter departs for Volunteer service on February 14.
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2007 - Kevin O'Donnell is recognized throughout the Peace Corps community for establishing the Peace Corps program in South Korea in the 1960s. He is also distinguished as one of the agency's great champions when in 1971 as the Director of the Peace Corps he saved the agency's budget, under fire at the time in Congress.
O'Donnell's public service, in particular his commitment to Peace Corps, has since then influenced future generations of O'Donnells. His daughter, Megan O'Donnell served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal from 1984-1987. Now his granddaughter, Allison O'Donnell, leaves for Honduras on February 14 to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, and the third O'Donnell to serve the Peace Corps.
So what accounts for this type of call to public service? Says former Director O'Donnell: "My family fit the classic profile for producing a Peace Corps Volunteer, that is, to have one or both of the parents in some type of service vocation. It was part of our culture growing up in the Midwest."
Megan, Allison and Kevin O'Donnell now have a legacy of Peace Corps experiences.
The O'Donnells' Peace Corps exposure began when former Director O'Donnell made the first bold departure from the Midwest to become the Peace Corps Country Director in Korea in the 1960s. He and his wife and their family of eight children packed their bags and headed off to an unfamiliar country. "My own family became exposed to overseas living and service, and mission oriented careers."
Years later, his son, Michael O'Donnell, returned to Korea as a Fulbright scholar where he lived for a year with his family, including daughter, Allison, then 14 and a student at the Seoul Foreign School. Allison believes this experience will help her to adapt to life in Honduras as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
"Serving in the Peace Corps has been a life-long dream for me," says Allison, a dream that will soon come true as she and a group of 51 Peace Corps trainees will attend Pre-service training in Honduras for the next three months. During their training they will learn more about Honduran culture, take intensive language courses, and learn technical skills related to their area of service. In Allison's case, she will work as a health volunteer as part of an HIV/AIDS and Child Survival project, and will acquire technical skills during training that will help her carry out her Peace Corps assignment successfully.
Allison, who recently graduated from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, also believes that her future career will be enhanced by the Peace Corps experience. "My career aspiration is to earn a graduate degree in Public Health and pursue a career in the global health field. I see Peace Corps service as an important stepping stone for career goals as well as my life goals. Instead of passively reading about public health issues in a book I will proactively learn about them firsthand. That's part of what I want to do with my life."
Americans often apply to be Peace Corps Volunteers for altruistic reasons, not knowing that the Peace Corps Volunteer experience can be a boost to their career when they return from service. Says former Director O'Donnell: "I can attribute whatever success I've had in the business world to what I learned in the Peace Corpsprimarily the necessary interpersonal skills to work cross-culturally and to work with young, bright and highly motivated individuals."
Above all, former Director O'Donnell says he is proud of his daughter Megan for her Peace Corps service and his granddaughter Allisonone of the oldest of his 15 grandchildrenfor her decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. "I'm very gratified that the sense of putting something back, the sense of being service orlunteer. "I'm very gratified that the sense of putting something back, the sense of being service oriented has gone into the third generation, says O'Donnell, "and I'm really excited that she has the opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps. My hope is that she as one of the older grandchildren will in turn be a role-model for the other cousins."
The Peace Corps is celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Since 1961, more than 187,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.