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Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams to address North Central College Commencement

Aaron Williams Portrait

Aaron Williams, director of the Peace Corps, will deliver the address June 9 at the 147th Commencement ceremony of North Central College.

The ceremony will conclude North Central College’s yearlong celebration of its Sesquicentennial, marking 150 years since its founding in 1861.

The Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 9, is expected to draw more than 5,000 parents, alumni and visitors to North Central’s Residence Hall/Recreation Center, 440 S. Brainard St. Tickets are not required but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis so guests are encouraged to arrive early. A procession begins at 9:40 a.m.

North Central Student Governing Association President Emily Rademaker is excited about this year’s Commencement speaker. She’ll begin her own service in the Peace Corps after she graduates in June.

“The opportunity for our student body to hear Mr. Williams speak on campus reflects North Central's commitment to global public service and international learning,” she said. “I could not be more excited for our students.”

Williams is the 18th director of the Peace Corps, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Since its founding in 1961, the Peace Corps has sent more than 200,000 volunteers and trainees to 139 different countries. Williams is one of only four directors in Peace Corps history to have previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer. From 1967-1970, Williams served in the Dominican Republic, first in a training program for rural school teachers and later as a professor of teaching methods. A native of Chicago, Williams earned a bachelor’s degree from Chicago State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin. He is fluent in Spanish.

Williams has pursued a career in the development and implementation of worldwide assistance programs. Williams was a vice president for international business development with RTI International. He was a senior manager at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he attained the rank of Career Minister in the U.S. Senior Foreign Service. He also served as executive vice president of the International Youth Foundation.

As USAID mission director in South Africa, Williams led a billion dollar foreign assistance program during President Nelson Mandela’s administration. He has extensive experience in the design and management of assistance programs in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He received the USAID Distinguished Career Service Award and twice earned the Presidential Award for Distinguished Service.

He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was a member of the USAID Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid. He served on the Obama-Biden transition team, the advisory board of the Ron Brown Scholar Program, the board of directors of CARE and the boards of the Institute for Sustainable Communities, the Pan American Development Foundation and the National Peace Corps Association.

North Central College class of 1990 alumna and Trustee Esther Benjamin is associate director for global operations for the Peace Corps, where she oversees Peace Corps programs in nearly 80 countries.

For more information about Commencement activities, visit or contact the North Central College Office of Alumni Relations at 630-637-5200.

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