Keynote Remarks

Alexander Shakow, international adviser and consultant

My several decades’ long friendship with Kevin derives from our common roots at Swarthmore College and the Peace Corps and our commitment to international development.  

The renowned poet Robert Frost was Marlboro’s first trustee. Thus, it is most fitting that Frost’s complex poem “The Road Not Taken” illustrates the unforeseen and yet, in hindsight, obvious road that Kevin took to reach this platform today. 

The marvelous diversity of Kevin’s life choices may suggest to some people that he cannot hold a job! In fact, each of his jobs turns out to have been an important step on the road that would finally bring Kevin and Marlboro College together. 

And, may I say, it is fortunate indeed that Marlboro’s current group of trustees recognized this destiny as well!

I see Kevin as a visionary, committed to translating revolutionary dreams into realistic movements.  And yet he is a humble person who knows that life experience is a great teacher. 

Kevin’s time at Swarthmore taught him the value of broader, vibrant, and enduring communities where humanity’s best hopes were most likely to succeed.

In this era of the 24/7 news cycle, of dominant social media and other forces which seem, despite globalization, to actually limit real human contact, Kevin’s broad concept of community is needed more than ever. He believes that human interaction at a very personal level is needed to keep us balanced and to foster real peace in this world.

During my long career in international development, I have seen some of these same communities. Fifty years ago, in Indonesia, I learned the enormous benefits that derive from bringing people from different backgrounds and experience into direct personal contact. This kind of contact is all the more essential today.   

An enlightened liberal arts college has enormous power to deepen our understanding of each other, and then to help ensure that these more sensitive, thoughtful people are able to engage with others at home and around the world.  

And, as I understand it, this is a key part of Marlboro’s sense of community as well.

This has been a consistent theme in Kevin’s own road to Marlboro. A few years ago he coauthored a report that highlighted the need to create “social capital” which is built on long-term relationships and is a critical factor in preventing conflict at every level: personal, community, national, and international. 

Moreover, as his dedication to the Peace Corps illustrates, Kevin also believes that volunteer service is one of the most powerful ways of building social capital.

So this, too, is part of the destiny that brings Kevin and Marlboro together, for I gather this ethos is very much a part of Marlboro’s legacy, and of its future.   

Given Kevin’s strong adherence to this philosophy, it would not surprise me if next year the Marlboro campus will be enriched by the presence of more foreign students – from Burma, Thailand, and many other places. 

Kevin has also written that, unlike Thomas Wolfe’s assertion, “you can go home again, if you are at home in the world.” He clearly wants all Marlboro students to be at home in the world.

On his long road to Marlboro, Kevin has gained another very useful skill: his mastery of alumni councils. Like Kevin, I am a veteran of several such groupings, including the Swarthmore College Alumni Council that we each chaired at different times. In my experience it is extremely difficult to know what to do with such alumni groups—except, of course, to encourage them to give generously to their alma mater! But it is not easy to keep alumni engaged and interested in the institution without interfering in it.

Kevin’s creativity and leadership turned the Swarthmore Alumni Council into a useful, active body highlighted by strategic planning, and promotion of internships and mentoring, all of which deepened the relationship between alumni and students. He later took on the large group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and built it into a very effective, highly participatory and lively organization—the National Peace Corps Association.  

Kevin and I share a deep admiration for the late Sargent Shriver, first director of the Peace Corps. Kevin adheres to Shriver’s “servant leader” model, which requires good listening along with consensus-building, staying focused on delivering results while motivating and creating opportunities for people.

To me this sounds like a terrific basis for President Quigley to build his relationship with Marlboro College—and with its broader alumni community. 

And so, my warmest congratulations to both the college and to Kevin for joining together for this great adventure.