From April 14-15, West Chester University’s Office of Co-Curricular Programs & Contemporary Issues will present the Sargent Shriver’s Point of the Lance Conference. The conference will feature a variety of national leaders involved in the Peace Corps and VISTA from the 1960s through the present. It will be a unique opportunity for students to meet and interact with leaders actively involved in the service of humanity.WCU is fortunate enough to have six WCU professors on campus who are all Peace Corps returning volunteers. They are Sharon Kletzien who volunteered in Tunisia and Malawi, Jim Jones in Swaziland, Paul Stroller in Niger, D. Gary Coutou in Thailand, Peter Glidden in Botzwana and Fred Gage in Ethiopia.
Gage, vice-president for Information Services at WCU, took an exam in April of 1963 to become a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia from 1963-1965. Sargent Shriver Jr., first Director of the Peace Corps and brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy, sent Gage a letter stating that he had been chosen as a candidate. He then began his journey to the Army Induction Center in Fairmont, West Virginia for a physical exam and was then given a plane ticket to Los Angeles to attend training at UCLA.
After learning about Ethiopia and the national language Amharic, Gage was sent to Addis Ababa where he met Emperor Haile Selassie just in time for Meskal. This is the time period of the “big rains” in Ethiopic (from June to September) when Ethiopians celebrate the arrival of spring.
Gage taught in the Public Health College and local secondary school in Gondar. He later returned to Addis Ababa to teach at University College Addis Ababa and the Technical School. There he worked closely with a Peace Corps staff member to build a residence for mentally handicapped children in the Cheshire Homes.
In 1995, Gage had the opportunity along with 83 other volunteers and family members to return to Ethiopia to visit and celebrate Ethiopia- Eritrea II: Peace Corps: 30 Year Reunion. Peace Corps volunteers must run in the family, as his two daughters have also served in Poland and Niger, West Africa.
Gage frequently hears people say, “I wish I had done that”; however, it is never too late. As Gage said, “Don’t let the fears of others defer your dreams. The opportunities for service are boundless and rewarding.”
Come out to the event and support Gage, as well as the other five faculty members of WCU as they share their experiences with the West Chester community. With 13 sessions, and three movies regarding America’s ongoing service to humanity, there will surely be a session for everyone.
Featuring over 10 conference guests, including former Pennsylvania senator Harris L. Wofford, who is currently helping to manage Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, with numerous presenters and academic scholars on panels or serving as program moderators, the Sargent Shriver’s Point of the Lance Conference will provide hours of entertainment and education for everyone to enjoy.
All programs will be held in Sykes Student Union and are free and open to all students with no registration necessary. Representatives from VISTA and the Peace Corps will be in Sykes throughout the conference for anyone that is interested in volunteering. For more information about Sargent Shriver’s Point of the Lance Conference, stop by the Office of Co-Curricular Programs in 238 Sykes.
Jackie Aliotta is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. She can be reached at JA609350@wcupa.edu.