In 1967 the University of Missouri and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources hosted 85 Peace Corps trainees for 12 weeks of intensive education in agricultural practices they would then teach citizens of West Bengal, India, during their Peace Corps mission. The mission was called “India Project 37,” as the group was the 37th Peace Corps group to work in India.
MU joined the Peace Corps people-to-people quest in 1964 and became one of the major training centers in the Midwest. Training offered at MU included rural community development and government development, in addition to agricultural practices.
In September 2015, nearly a dozen members of the group, including some spouses, returned to MU for a reunion. One couple traveled from Alaska, another couple came from as far as England. The members have all gone on to very accomplished careers.
What they learned all those years ago on a farm here in the Midwest has never left them. It was fitting then, that they would rekindle their Peace Corps friendships in a place that held so many good memories – the University of Missouri.
Events were planned throughout the weekend, including a tour of CAFNR Research Centers and facilities where they were even able to pick some crops right out of the field for eating. One evening they had a dinner with CAFNR faculty and staff where they gave a presentation on their Peace Corps experience and showed their appreciation for what their training meant to them. Science and Agricultural Journalism Instructor Nina Mukherjee Furstenau had the group help her prepare a Bengali meal.
“Cooking the meal was a challenge and a treat and pairing up the way we did to cook brought everyone together in a working environment which created new relationships and stronger bonding,” said Barry Stevens, one of the original Peace Corps members. Stevens is pictured in the photo above (front middle, blue shirt).
The group has met twice since last September and are working on plans to meet in Calcutta in February 2017 for a two-week tour of India.
Though none of them are Mizzou alums, what they experienced here in ’67 left an indelible mark on their lives, and they feel like a part of the Mizzou family. As true servant leaders, they want to give back to Mizzou and are working to endow a scholarship to support students interested in international agriculture.
“Our ability to provide meaningful international experiences for our students gives them an edge in today’s workforce. Many employers are putting an emphasis on broader world knowledge of agriculture practices and policies,” said CAFNR Associate Dean Bryan Garton. Garton and his staff were instrumental in organizing India 37’s reunion.
Read more about the group training at Mizzou in an article from Missouri Alumnus, January 1967, below.