Skip Navigation

50 Years of Peace Corps

How UW-Madison Alumni Have Helped Change the World

Wendy Krause Hathaway '04
March 25, 2011
Lou and Lynne Santangelo live and teach in a slum neighborhood on hills edging Lima, Peru. May 1969

Lou and Lynne Santangelo live and teach in a slum neighborhood on hills edging Lima, Peru. May 1969

How UW-Madison Alumni Have Helped Change the World

Since the creation of the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 3,000 UW alumni have volunteered their services, ranking Wisconsin number two on the all-time producer list behind University of California-Berkely.

Thomas Peterson '60, Marjorie Pfankuch '58, Scott Pearson' 61, and Michael Woldenberg '56 were among the first UW alumni to accept posts with the Peace Corps in locations such as Ghana, the Philippines, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Nearly a decade later, the Wisconsin Alumni Association gave voice to some of those alumni volunteers in its May 1969 edition of Wisconsin Alumnus:

"Whatever happened to good old Seth Rockwell? Well, most of his fellow graduates of the Class of 1967 have gone on to pretty good jobs, but Seth is still plugging away for $75 a month. So are Arthur Eith, Lynne (Puttman) Santangelo, Terry and Carol (Gelhaus) Peterson and a lot of others.

Besides not making much money, they have something else in common: all are Peace Corps Volunteers, a not-too-unusual occupation for University of Wisconsin graduates. In the past eight years, 501 Badgers have joined the Peace Corps, putting Wisconsin second only to the University of California-Berkeley as a source of volunteers.

But why Wisconsin? Sally Tallman, coordinator of Student Volunteer Services and Peace Corps liaison officer at the University, put it this way: "The image the University projects draws students not just from the Big Ten area, but from all over the United States and the world. And the kind of student who is attracted by this reputation tends to go on with involvement after he has left school.

Seth Rockwell exemplifies this perhaps as well as anyone. He describes himself, when an undergraduate, as "disturbed by what I saw among people my own age—the searching aimlessness demonstrated on one hand by conspicuous consumption and on the other hand by the drug culture. Also, Id studied African history and I wanted to see Africa; see just what went on in an undeveloped country."

(Read the entire article "$75 a Month, Plus Pride" by Charles F. Schulz.)

UPDATE: In February 2014, the University of Wisconsin-Madison regained the distinction as the nation's top producer of current Peace Corps volunteers, with 90 alumni serving overseas. UW-Madison held the top spot on the Peace Corps' annual top schools rankings from 2001 to 2006 and has consistently ranked among the top 10 in subsequent years, while working to reclaim the No. 1 position.

Featured News and Stories