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Remembering Warren Wiggins

by Dick Irish (Philippines 1962–64;
Staff: PC/Washington 1964–66)

For other articles on Peace Corps history 

Warren Wiggins was one of the architects of the Peace Corps and became the agency’s first associate director of program development. Later he wasPrinter friendly version appointed deputy director.
     Following stints as a PCV and on Peace Corps
staff in Washington Dick Irish co-founded TransCentury with Warren Wiggins and worked with Warren until 1990. Dick wrote this reminiscence of Warren Wiggins which he is kind enough to let me publish. — jc 

MY FIRST MEMORY 0f Warren Willard Wiggins was in San Francisco in late 1961. At the time, I was married, long-listed for the Foreign Service, comfortably employed with a Dictaphone and a company car . . . and bored stiff. I was one of America’s “Angry Young Men.” Prone on the living room couch one Saturday afternoon, I was watching on black-and-white TV — complete with rabbit ears — a Dodger/Giants baseball game. At the same time, I was scanning the San Francisco Chronicle for news about the JFK Administration, hoping to find some rays of hope.

WWW and JFK

     I was angry because Americans seemed insufferably self-complacent; an aura of national self-congratulation pervaded the land. My eye caught a small item in the “National News” section of the paper; a certain Warren Wiggins announced that Peace Corps Volunteers would work overseas and be paid no more than their counterparts, eat and live with the people, and acquire a foreign language or dialect — not just French or Spanish.
     
I gave a whoop, heard by my wife Sally in the next room AND shouted, “Someone is finally thinking in Washington!”
     
The next day Sally found more information about the Peace Corps at San Francisco State University where she was a student and announced that we were joining. And like a lot of Volunteers of that era — and maybe all eras — joining the Peace Corps changed our lives.
     
My next encounter with Warren was late 1964; by then I had served two years as a Volunteer and worked as a lowly staff member in the DC headquarters literally running the mail room — dignified as, “The Production and Distribution Department.” After nine months, I was promoted and told it was my job to recruit former Peace Corps Volunteers for staff jobs in Washington and overseas. I was successful because Warren Wiggins, then Deputy Director, gave priority to any staff nomination so long as he or she was a former Vol.
     
During my nearly three year tenure on Peace Corps staff, Warren was always the go-to guy, the fellow who solved problems; a brilliant bureaucrat, he found ways to make the “system” work. After shaking his hand when I was leaving the Peace Corps, he said, “I like your work; I hope to be in touch.” A year later I heard from him: He told me he was a victim of his own policy — the Five Year Flush — and would soon leave the Peace Corps. Would I join him helping build a new kind of company, a sort of Peace Corps–by-other means?
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