Teachers College’s Peace Corps Fellows Program today is the product of long and fruitful relationships.

TC alumna Amity Buxton (Ph.D. ’62, M.A. ’52) is a longtime friend of the program. As the founder of the Teacher’s Active Learning Center, Buxton has provided a treasure trove of rare educational books for the Peace Corps Fellows resource library that focus on interdisciplinary, activated learning and alternative assessment. Buxton also supports the program’s mentoring initiative and Intensive Summer Institute. With her expertise on current research, hands-on learning and best practices for teachers, she also serves as a mentor for Peace Corps Fellows Program Director Elaine Perlman (M.A. ’92), regularly providing her with guidance and encouragement.  [Read a profile of Amity Buxton.]

Trustee Emeritus Elliot Jaffe, and his wife, Roslyn Jaffe, have been longtime supporters of the Peace Corps Fellows Program, and their daughter-in-law, Helen Jaffe, who joined TC’s Board of Trustees in 2017, has followed in their footsteps. [Read a story about the Jaffes.]

Helen Jaffe

BUILDING ON A TRADITION Since joining TC's Board in 2017, Trustee Helen Jaffe has been a committed supporter of the Peace Corps Fellows Program. (Photo: TC Archives)

In 2019, TC celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Jaffe family’s support for the TC Jaffe Peace Corps Fellows. With a $2 million gift that year, the Jaffes’ total support to the College reached $5.4 million, with their support for the Jaffe Peace Corps Fellows coming on three levels: via generous “enrichment grants” that enable Fellows to purchase books and classroom supplies, and take their students on field trips or initiate projects; the Jaffe Cultural Arts Program, through which the Fellows bring students to performances at Lincoln Center; and the full tuition scholarship support through the Jaffe Fellowships. In all, the Jaffes have supported more than 780 Jaffe Peace Corps Fellows since 1989.

“The impact of the Jaffe family has always been enormous, but now, with the ability to recruit Jaffe Fellows who couldn’t otherwise afford tuition, we are increasingly able to draw the best and brightest to TC and New York City classrooms,” says Perlman.

The other relationship at the heart of the Peace Corps Fellows Program is the one between TC and the Peace Corps itself. The two organizations have been intertwined since the early 1960s, when TC launched a teacher training program in East Africa that was an inspiration and model for President Kennedy’s Peace Corps. TC and the Peace Corps rekindled their relationship in 1985 when TC offered Returned Peace Corps volunteers tuition scholarships to fulfill their commitment to service at home in local communities, thus creating the inaugural program for Fellows USA, later known as the Coverdell Fellows Program.

A video celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Coverdell Fellow prominently features TC's program.

Earlier in 2020, before the pandemic hit, the Peace Corps Office in Washington D.C. had scheduled a celebration to celebrate the 35th year of graduate school support for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. The event had to be put on hold, but a video that was created for the occasion notes that programs in the mode of TC’s have now expanded to more than 120 universities in more than 20 different fields of study. In the video, TC’s Peace Corps Fellows Program, the very first Coverdell Fellows Program, is prominently featured. And Beryl Levinger, the founder of the Coverdell Fellows Program, says that this growth reflects “a commitment to public service that has been nurtured by Peace Corps and augmented through rigorous graduate education.”

Adds Perlman: “The Jaffe Fellows’ commitment to service is rooted in what they learn in their Teachers College classes and directly apply within their own classrooms for the benefit of the thousands of students they serve during their teaching careers.”