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Angene Wilson Co-Authors Book on Kentuckians in the Peace Corps

by Brad Duncan

photo of Voices from the Peace Corps book coverIn 1960, then-Senator John F. Kennedy spoke to students at the University of Michigan and expressed his hope that they would take two years out of their lives to visit and work in developing countries. A year later, the Peace Corps was officially established and it has grown into an organization that currently has placed more than 8,600 volunteers in more than 70 countries all over the globe.

Angene and Jack Wilson joined the Corps in 1962, traveling to and living in Liberia until 1964. The Wilsons are not the only Kentuckians to have served in this capacity, and in their new book, “Voices from the Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Kentucky Volunteers,” they chronicle the experiences of a number of these volunteers with Kentucky connections.

In the postscript of the book published by the University Press of Kentucky, Angene, an emeritus faculty member of the UK College of Education, and Jack state: “In March 1961, we were idealistic seniors at The College of Wooster in Ohio. We had heard John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address and wanted to see other parts of the world, to learn about other cultures and people, to travel – and to serve. We thought Peace Corps would be an exciting and a good thing to do.”

During the Wilson’s service in Liberia, Angene taught social studies to students in grades 7-12, and she learned as much from them as she taught. In the almost 50 years since returning to the U.S., she has used her global perspective as a teacher. “My contribution to the students and teachers of social studies with whom I worked more than 30 years was to try to expand their world so they would do the same for their students,” she said.

The Wilsons accumulated 100 interviews and used the information to follow the life cycle of volunteers from all five decades in more than 50 countries in programs that ranged from education and health to agriculture and community development.

“We wanted people to understand the lives of Peace Corps volunteers before, during and after their service,” she said. “We wanted to help inspire the next generation of Peace Corps Volunteers, and we offer this book as a celebration of people who have participated in a very special organization.”

photo of Angene Wilson at Joseph Beth
Angene and Jack Wilson read from ‘Voices from the Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Kentucky Volunteers’ at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Ky.

One of the volunteers mentioned in the book is College of Education Assistant Professor Kristen Perry. Perry admits that her experience in the southern Africa country of Lesotho (1999-2001) taught her many things about her host country, about what it means to be an American and about herself.

“I learned that other ways of life, other cultures, other people are important and we can’t ignore that,” Perry said. “Being in the Peace Corps also helped me to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was completely fascinated by issues of culture, language and literacy. The Peace Corps helped me to understand that my passion was for understanding how culture impacted literacy development.”

In addition to “Voices in the Peace Corps,” Angene is the author of “The Meaning of International Experience for Schools” (Praeger Publishers) and co-author of “Social Studies and the World: Teaching Global Perspectives” (National Council for the Social Studies). She spent much of her career as a faculty member in the UK College of Education Department of Curriculum and Instruction and served as the chair of the Secondary Social Studies Program for 29 years. For more than 20 of those years, she also taught the class for students planning to fulfill their student teaching requirements overseas.

For more information, visit the University Press of Kentucky at http://kentuckypress.com.