This blog was written by Linda Ecker in honor of former Peace Corps Korea Country Director (1970-72) and Peace Director (1972-73), Don Hess. Don passed away on September 15, 2013. He was the first PC Director to initiate training of the Volunteers in their host countries, resulting in effective country-specific training, greater utilization of host country nationals, and cost saving for Peace Corps.
My Tribute to Don Hess
One would be hard-pressed to find a more honorable man than Don Hess. He wasn’t flashy. Perhaps he was not even memorable. But he was a man of his word and one who could be counted on to do the right thing always. One might be tempted to add “as he saw it”, but what more can one ask when it comes to character? Perhaps I did not know him as well as some. To the extent that I knew him, this is what I know.
I remember the first time I saw Don Hess standing in front of my desk at Peace Corps headquarters on H Street, when we were just across from Lafayette Square. He was humble and polite which was refreshing for someone of his professional stature. I came to know him as unfailingly kind. We exchanged weekly letters during his tenure as Country Director, and when he came to Washington as Director of the Peace Corps, his door was always open to me. Granted, it was a heady time for the Korea Desk Officer with both Kevin O’Donnell and Don Hess occupying consecutive eminent positions. The “Korea Mafia” was an often-heard phrase.
I was so happy to see him at the NANEAP gathering in Washington at the 50th Anniversary Celebration. It certainly did not seem then that his “time was limited.” I live in Lancaster now, and I had not known that he was a “Lancaster County boy” and had graduated from Franklin and Marshall College here. I have since learned that he received a Doctor of Humane Letters from F&M in 2011. He had also been a member of the Board of Trustees for the college since 1988. Clearly, he was respected by all who knew him, and I am grateful to have been one of them.
Linda Ecker (RPCV, Nigeria & former PC Korea Desk Officer)