Douglas Kelley, a Lansing native and Michigan State University alumnus, was in his 20s when he conceived of and piloted the International Development Placement Association, a concept that would later become the Peace Corps.
That was just the start to “so many” legacies he left behind, said Cynthia Kelley, his first wife.
They included becoming the director of a community college campus in northern New York and being an active member and advocate for the Democratic Party.
Kelley “had a restless imagination in what was possible and he would enroll all kinds of people to pull it off,” said Peter Kelley, his son.
He died on January 12, 2022, at age 92.
Setting the stage for the Peace Corps
In the past six decades over 240,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps, volunteering in 142 countries, according to the organization’s website.
But in the 1950s, while Kelley was still a senior in college, he was one of a handful of young scholars who believed there was a need to place people in “modestly paid jobs with indigenous organizations and governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America,” according to Kelley’s own account.
They would be “idealists with zeal for humanitarian service but without the ethnocentric holier-than-thou attitude which for decades had characterized all too many Americans and Europeans in their contacts with the darker-skinned two-thirds of humanity,” Kelley wrote in a memoir.
Cynthia Kelley was a student at Northwestern University when she met him at a meeting for the International Development Placement Association.
“He had a very strong sense of how government should and could help in the individual life of each person and I was very impressed with him,” she said.
Source : Rachel Greco ,”Douglas Kelley, a Lansing native who inspired the Peace Corps, dies at age 92″, Lansing State Journal, January 22, 2022.