Excerpts From Imagonna–WVU Influence

Excerpts from Imagonna, my Peace Corps memoir hopefully soon to be published.

Student days at West Virginia University were a major influence in my decision to volunteer for the Peace Corps. At WVU, I was active in Wesley Foundation, the Methodist student center. Hunting through some old files I found a speech in which I hoped that students coming to Wesley Foundation, “…would be the kind of radical that Christ was and lend sanity to our society.” I encouraged them to, “Ask your fellow citizens if it is right to pollute our streams and air, if it is right to strip off the tops of mountains….is it right to endanger the health of every living creature and plant by placing radioactive hazards in the atmosphere, or for one man to live in economic splendor while others starve” And I asked them to ponder on what Christ meant when he told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor.

….And I found this little observation made in the mid 1950s, when I was a student at WVU:

            It may be a long way from perfection at this time but the effort to integrate West Virginia schools was wonderfully evident in Morgantown this week. While Black and White youngsters in groups of five raced up and down the basketball court, their supporters could be seen, white and black, cheering them on and afterwards giggling up the street together. It’s going to be a long haul before we finally arrive but with the kids not noticing the difference maybe the rest of us will eventually absorb some of their compassion for one another.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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