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The Conversation

For Peace Corps' 60th Anniversary, UH Mānoa Library Exhibit Honors the Volunteers

peace corps exhibit uh manor.jpg
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library
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"Peace Corps’ 60 years through the Life of One Volunteer: Phillip Buck Olsen"

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” That's a phrase often associated with the Peace Corps program.

As it turns 60 this year, we turn to an exhibit on the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus that tips its hat to the program’s storied history — and one Hawaiʻi resident whose life touched so many.

Leilani Dawson, the manuscript archivist at Hamilton Library, shared the story of Phil Olsen, a Peace Corps worker who died during the pandemic. Olsen was once head of the university's Peace Corps training program, which included the Hilo Peace Corps Training Center and various other programs, Dawson said.

"He was really involved with not only the training aspect but also having been one of the earliest volunteers in the Philippines in the early 60s," she said.

"Peace Corps’ 60 years through the Life of One Volunteer: Phillip Buck Olsen" opened last week and runs through mid-October. Items on display were assembled from university archives, Olsen's estate, and the collections of local Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and former staffers of the Hilo Training Center.

Those not affiliated with the University of Hawaiʻi or the East-West Center will need to fill out a request to research appointment form and say that they'd like to see the exhibit. Due to the pandemic, walk-ins are not available, Dawson said.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 21, 2021.

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