John Witherspoon with friend Coda.

Name: John Witherspoon
U-M Affiliation: Alumni

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?

1975-1977

Where did you serve (which country/countries)?

Honduras

What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

I was a forester for the Honduras Forest Development Corporation. COHDEFOR was a semi-autonomous government corporation that managed all forest land, suppressed wildland fires, conducted foresty research and cooperated with international organizations such as UN-FAO, US-AID, and the Peace Corps.

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

Yes, there were two and they were both faculty members of SNRE. Dr. Gary Fowler was my faculty advisor and guided my course selection as a forestry major, ultimately my graduation from the University. The second was Dr. John Bassett, professor of forest management at the time. Dr. Bassett really guided and inspired me to my seeking a position with the Peace Corps after graduation.

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

The opportunity to live and learn basic field forestry skills while doing so in the Spanish language. I really learned human acceptance and equality in Latin American culture even though I was "different."

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

My Peace Corps service gave me the opportunity to have a fulfulling career with the USDA Forest Service. I had the opportunity to serve on numerous international assignments which would have never happened otherwise.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

I learned to work with people of different backgrounds, different viewpoints and to accomplish personal goals. These were skills that served me well throughout my professional career.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

GO FOR IT! It could very well be the best experience you ever have in your life.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

You learn to accept and enjoy the great differences in humankind. Cultural awareness, learning a second language and serving in developing countries is a life changing experience.

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

I am a better human being for my time in Honduras with the Peace Corps. I continue to volunteer in many different ways even today.

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