News releases

CONTACT: Paula Gray, (608) 262-3958,; Damian Wampler, (608) 262-1121,

NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A high resolution photograph is available at


MADISON - The national director of the United States Peace Corps will address mid-year graduates at University of Wisconsin-Madison's winter commencement, Sunday, Dec. 19.

Gaddi Vasquez, the agency's first Hispanic-American director, took office in 2002. The son of migrant farm workers, Vasquez is the first member of his family to earn a college degree. He began his career as a policy officer in Orange, Calif. He has served on the national advisory boards of the Salvation Army and the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, as well as the board of directors of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He is a co-founding chair of the Orange County Hispanic Education Fund and is on the board of directors of Olive Crest, which is dedicated to the protection and development of children and youth who are neglected, abandoned and abused.

UW-Madison and the Peace Corps have a bond like few other institutions. Since the inception of the program in 1961, the university trails only the University of California-Berkeley for the historical lead in total alumni volunteers. As of Nov. 30, more than 2,668 UW-Madison alumni have devoted their time and energy to the cause. UW-Madison led the nation in 2003 with 142 volunteers in the field, topping the nation for 17 consecutive years.

The reasons behind the numbers relate to Madison's civic inclination toward improving the world, says Damian Wampler, a UW-Madison graduate student who serves as the on-campus Peace Corps representative.

"It has everything to do with the atmosphere of the city and the university," says Wampler, who served as a volunteer in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. "Students come here from all over, and they become caught up in the spirit of service. There's always a buzz about the Peace Corps, and this year is no exception."

About 1,600 people will be eligible for degrees this December; the UW-Madison registrar's office reports that exact numbers are compiled daily.

Two ceremonies in the Kohl Center, 601 W. Dayton St., will mark the occasion:
- All Ph.D., MFA, master's and professional degree candidates and bachelor's degree candidates in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the schools of Education, Human Ecology, Medicine and Nursing will participate in the 10 a.m. ceremony.
- Bachelor's degree candidates in the colleges of Engineering and Letters and Science, and the School of Business will celebrate their graduation at 2 p.m.

Vasquez will speak at both ceremonies.

No tickets are required. Candidates and guests should arrive 20 minutes before the start of their ceremony to ensure they are seated at the appointed time. Parking will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on city streets and in university ramps and lots. Complimentary shuttle service will be available from lots adjacent to Camp Randall. No alcoholic beverages are allowed.


- Barbara Wolff, (608) 262-8292,