Kevin O'Donnell Distinguished Friend of Korea Award
한국의 친구들 주최 케빈오단넬 기념상 수상자 모집안내
Call for Nominations - closing date is July 15, 2017
Award Recipient Selection Process
The first award was presented to Kathy Stephens on September 24th, 2016 at the annual meeting of Friends of Korea. Maura O'Donnell, Kevin O'Donnell's daughter made the presentation on behalf of Friends of Korea. Click here to see photos.
Call for 2017 Nominations
Any current FOK member may recommend recipients for this recognition to the Award Committee appointed by the FOK Board of Directors on the recommendation of the president. The president and executive officers serve ex-officio. The Award Committee will meet as needed to consider nominations and forwards recommendations to the board.
Nominees may be eminent scholars, scientists, artists, professionals or other individuals who have advanced their disciplines in important ways, or organizations that have made particularly distinguished contributions to society in areas such as public service, business, religion, government or the arts, that have strengthened the bonds between Koreans and Americans. Friends of Korea strives for a robust pool of unique recipients from many backgrounds. We encourage nominations of accomplished individuals with strong connections to Korea. There will be no more than one award per year.
Click here for the nomination form with all the information you need to make a nomination. Thank you.
The Kevin O’Donnell Distinguished Friend of Korea Award is one way Friends of Korea recognizes individuals distinguished by their accomplishments that are consistent with the overarching mission of Friends of Korea: to foster cultural awareness and friendship between Americans and Koreans. The award is a lasting tribute to the remembrance and celebration of the extraordinary contributions made by Kevin O’Donnell, U.S. Peace Corps’ first country director in Korea and the fourth director of the Peace Corps.
In 1966, O'Donnell accepted an assignment from the Peace Corps to be country director for South Korea and to start the program. O'Donnell's assignment was to establish educational programs in English, math, science, and physical education. Because each host nation has such different needs and wants, there was no single recipe for establishing a program. Unlike his U.S. embassy and military counterparts, O'Donnell had to rely on the local Korean economy for staff, housing, and office space. The language was difficult to master, the culture an enigma to most Americans. "You went in and you sank or swam," said O'Donnell.
He found that managing Peace Corps volunteers was different from working in private industry. "By and large, people who applied to the Peace Corps had energy and ability, and my biggest job was to point them in the right direction and then get the hell out of the way," O'Donnell said. O'Donnell's leadership of the Peace Corps in Korea was recognized by President Park Chung Hee, who awarded O'Donnell the Order of Civil Merit as O'Donnell completed four years as country director.
Forty years later, the Korea Society in New York recognized the tremendous role and impact of the Peace Corps during its 15-year commitment in Korea with the 2008 James A. Van Fleet Award, given to prominent Korean and American individuals or organizations for outstanding contributions to U.S-Korea relationships. Kevin O'Donnell, as the first country director of Peace Corps Korea, accepted the award on behalf of the volunteers. In the words of Don Hess, the country director who followed Kevin, "He left an indelible imprint on the lives of staff and the shape of programs and people there."