Returned Volunteers and Staff honor Peace Corps Architect Warren Wiggins at Memorial Service
Returned Volunteers and Staff came to the "Bull Run Unitarian Universalists' Church" in Manassas, Virginia from all over the United States on May 4 to attend a Memorial Service honoring Peace Corps Architect Warren Wiggins.
Mrs. Edna Wiggins and her children greeted guests at the door of the church. Inside the church Peace Corps Volunteers and Staff like former Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn, former Peace Corps Country Director for Ethiopia and Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford, former Country Director for Togo and Niger and later Peace Corps Africa Regional Director and President of Africare C. Payne Lucas and his wife, Sierra Leone RPCV and NPCA Chairman Emertisus Pat Reilly and her husband Philippines RPCV Dick Irish, NPCA President and Thailand RPCV Kevin Quigley, and David Arnold, Editor of NPCA's Worldview magazine. Other RPCV and Staff attending included Kevin Lowther of Africare, Gretchen Handwerger, Ruth McKennzie Scott, B. J. Warren, and Carolyn Ramsey.
The Memorial Service began at 1 pm with Gathering Music played by Annease Hastings on the piano. Reverend Lou Mitchell gave the Opening Words and Prayer of Thanksgiving. After the choir and congregation sang "Gather the Spirit", John Bender read a selection from the writings of Warren Wiggins from a boy of 6 who wanted to "lasso the moon" to a young man who served in the Army Air Forces during World War II flying transport planes "over the Hump" in the China-India-Burma theater and received a Distinguished Flying Cross. The choir sang the anthem "Fire of Committment."
Philippines RPCV Dick Irish asked how many members of the memorial service had served either in the Peace Corps or with TransCentury and then gave his personal tribute to Warren Wiggiins remembering how Wiggins gave him his first job at Peace Corps Headquarters after he returned after his service in the Philippines, how he went with Wiggins to the first TransCentury offices in Washington DC, Wiggins' management style, and the first government contracts. Faye Cowan rose and read excerpts from a letter from a group in Sierra Leone who came together through TransCentury and are still working for the goals of social justice twenty years later.
After the BRVV Adult Chior sang "God in my Head," Reverend Nancy McDonald Ladd gave the eulogy to Warren Wiggins recalling his many contributions and the love his family and friends had for him. After the service, the Wiggins famiy invited all the guests to stay for light refreshments in the Fellowship Hall after the memorial service.
Warren Wiggins once said of former Peace Corps Director Jack Hood Vaughn (right with Africare President emeritus C. Payne Lucas): "I worked more with Vaughn than any other person in my life, four separate long-term assignments, back to back. Mostly I have co-workers; Vaughn was a friend. Vaughn and I traveled at length in Bolivia together, the two of us, when we were both in the ICA Mission to Bolivia. He's got a lot of Teddy Roosevelt in him. He was a former prizefighter. On the other hand, he's cautious, conservative and sometimes not terribly involved in some of the broader sweep of things. Vaughn stands up and is counted and is determined. He is a good administrator. he is an excellent person. He is my friend." Read more.
Read the Obituary for Warren Wiggins. In 1961, Mr. Wiggins, who became one of the top leaders of the high-profile agency in its earliest years, was an unknown foreign policy adviser whose brief paper, "The Towering Task," landed in the lap of the Peace Corps' first director, R. Sargent Shriver, just as he was trying to figure out how to turn President John F. Kennedy's campaign promise into a working federal department. The response to it became legendary in the agency as "the midnight ride of Warren Wiggins." Shriver, burrowing through correspondence shortly after midnight on Feb. 6, 1961, was electrified by the treatise, which urged the agency to act boldly. A small agency was more likely to fail because its projects would not be consequential enough, Mr. Wiggins wrote. Using specific examples, with a proposed staff size and budget, Mr. Wiggins suggested that Kennedy act through an executive order for the quickest start. "Shriver from the beginning saw him as someone who had the spirit of moving big and fast," former senator Harris Wofford (D-Pa.), who was there, said in an interview. "The Peace Corps, small and symbolic, might be good public relations, but a Peace Corps that was large and had a major impact on problems in other countries could transform the economic development of the world."
Read excerpts from "A Towering Task." Most of the academic and other institutional approaches to the opportunity of the National Peace Corps suggest tentative pilot projects, involving small numbers of people and consequently a limited political, economic and psychological impact. This cautious approach is proposed by many because of the clear possibility of a fiasco. The organization and administration of a large number of Americans working on a variety of programs and projects in many countries with varying cultures and needs undeniably is an extremely complex and difficult undertaking. It is the prevailing view that if a great many Americans are scattered abroad and if significant numbers of them fail either in their own eyes or in the eyes of the recipient peoples, or if large numbers of the Americans have severe health, emotional or other problems, the resulting criticism will extend far beyond the project per se.
The purpose of this paper is to advocate consideration of a "quantum jump" in the thinking and programming concerning the National Peace Corps. Its postulate is that America ought to consider initiating the program with several thousand Americans participating in the first 12 to 18 months - say, 5,000 to 10,000. The ultimate level of manpower to be utilized in this program will of course depend upon its initial success and difficulties. However, the potential of this program is great and it may prove to be the case that it should be at the 30,000, the 50,000 or possibly even at the 100,000 level. Even this latter higher level Corps over the past 35 would mean that only one out of every 30 youths would serve in the Peace Corps.
Caption: Mrs. Edna Wiggins, widow of Peace Corps Architect Warren Wiggins, with (left to right) Director Jack Vaughn, Senator Harris Wofford, and Peace Corps Online Co-Editor Hugh Pickens near the end of the reception. All Photos: PCOL Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0.