Professor of law
I was a tenured law school teacher, 54 years old, when I began a new career as a Peace Corps volunteer. Why? Many of my friends joined the Peace Corps out of college. I shared their values, but was a bit slow to sign up. My husband had died several years earlier and I had recovered from my grief. I felt capable of doing my job and wanted a new and different challenge—and a deep immersion in a culture different from my own.
When I arrived in Romania a few years after Communist dictator Ceausescu was overthrown, the country looked like an enormous clean-up, fix-up, paint-up project. Ceausescu paid down the country’s international debt by impoverishing his own people. People wanted simple material objects that had been hard to find during the socialist regime, such as cotton terry towels and toilet paper.
In Communist Romania, volunteer service activities were not voluntary: Students were obliged to sweep streets or even harvest crops when not in school. And if there was a chess club or fishing club, the government had created it. Nevertheless, I organized a group of Romanian women friends into a public service organization. They collected clothes for the poor, created a teen social club in a school basement, and inspired students to clean litter from the public woods on Earth Day—and persuaded some public sanitation workers to pick up the collected debris. “Grupul Start” proved that a civic spirit could thrive.
I returned from my service having satisfied my personal goals and eager to get back to teaching at Santa Clara, including new courses in comparative law. Today, the law school offers a scholarship for returned Peace Corps volunteers interested in that field.