"My classmates were always talking about the exciting times they had in training sessions to go overseas," Suyat recalls. "It was a big thing then."
It was big enough to lure the Hawaii native to spend two years in the Philippines as a Peace Corps school teacher after graduating from the UW in 1966. He also coached basketball and was something of a local celebrity by reading children's stories on the radio at bedtime.
He continues to spread the good word about the Peace Corps as the corps' associate director for management. In May, he heard some good words during a campus celebration of the Peace Corps' 35th Anniversary, which recognized the UW's long-standing contributions to the corps. Since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, 1,592 UW graduates have served as volunteers. The UW currently ranks as the No. 2 producer of Peace Corps volunteers among universities and colleges nationally.
"The UW's consistency in service to the corps has been truly amazing," says Suyat. "This place is a real pipeline for volunteer service."
While devoted to public service in one capacity or another, Suyat's life has had its share of twists and turns. A self-described "military brat," Suyat attended the UW when his father was stationed at now-defunct Fort Lawton. While some aren't crazy about large campuses, Suyat loved it. "It was really stimulating," he recalls. Some of his most vivid memories are of the Vietnam protests and debates that thrived all over campus.
After his Peace Corps experience, he went to law school in New York before moving back to Hawaii. He served in local and state government, was involved in the Clinton election campaign in 1992 and later served on the Clinton administration transition team as a liaison to the Equal Opportunity Commission. When the new Peace Corps administration sought former corps volunteers, Suyat fit the bill.
As for the UW's pipeline of Peace Corps volunteers, Suyat says the atmosphere on campus encourages public service. "There are certain faculty who people look to and are admired for their approach to volunteer service," he says. "And career counselors are a big help because they know what a career enhancement the Peace Corps are.
"The spirit in Seattle is as strong as ever."--Jon Marmor
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