Texas Western College and the Peace Corps: Part II

By on June 8, 2012

Texas Western College's Peace Corps Training coordinators in 1961. From left to Right, Dr. W.H. Timmons (Associate Director); Russell C. Printer (Director of Training in Engineering and Surveying); Dr. William S. Strain (Director of Training in Geology) and Dr. C.E. Kelsey Jr. (Director of the Tanganyika project)

(To read Texas Western College and the Peace Corps: Part I, click here)

The Tanganyika (now Tanzania) Peace Corps project, for which forty-four volunteers had done their training at Texas Western College, instantly became a point of pride for the school. In August of 1961, Texas Western College had become the first institution in the country to graduate a unit of Peace Corps volunteers. These volunteers were comprised of geology, surveying, and civil engineering graduates from all over the nation. The development and execution of Texas Western College’s project in East Africa was not only an honor for the college but for the city of El Paso as well. In a letter from El Paso mayor Ralph E. Seitsinger to Texas Western professor and geology coordinator for the Peace Corps training program, Seitsinger wrote: “On behalf of the City Administration and citizens of El Paso, as well as personally, I would like to express our appreciation to you and the others responsible for the fine work done in connection with the Tanganyika project of the United States Peace Corps Training Program at Texas Western College.” The Mayor further stated that “We are indeed proud of the recognition this has brought to El Paso, and happy that our community had this part in contributing to a better understanding among the peoples of the world.”

Although not all the Peace Corps volunteers who went to East Africa were graduates of Texas Western College, the college had the honor of being one of the selected institutions to train and prepare students for developmental work in Africa and throughout the world. The college played a role in establishing President Kennedy’s Peace Corp program, and contributed to its goal of lending a helping hand worldwide. Texas Western College’s president at the time, Joseph M. Ray also expressed his praise for the project’s contributions claiming that the work of the students and program coordinators “was carried out with flying colors.” The United States, Tanganyika, and Texas Western College can surely be seen as all benefitting from the first Peace Corps volunteers’ work in 1961.

Peace Corps trainees on the Texas Western Campus in 1961.

[Sources:Mayor Ralph E. Seitsinger, letter to William S. Strain, August 28, 1961.; Joseph M. Ray, letter to William S. Strain, August 25, 1961.; The Prospector, May 13 and September 30, 1961.]

Bryan Winter is an assistant in the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department of the UTEP Library. He earned a BS in Geography from New Mexico State University, and is currently in his final year as an MA student in History at UTEP.