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  FOM Newsletter 2013 October
   
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In Memoriam:  Andrew Oerke 

 

by Jack Allison, RPCV Malawi 1966-69

     Immediate Past President, Friends of Malawi

 

Known fondly as Andy during his service as Associate Director and on to Director of Peace Corps/Malawi in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Andrew Oerke was the consummate humanitarian.  After joining the Peace Corps in 1967 as a desk officer for Uganda and Tanzania, he had initially wanted to be a PCV in Africa; however, because he was married with children, he was eventually assigned to Malawi.  His final assignment with the Peace Corps was country director in Jamaica.

 

Andy received his education at Baylor University (BA, '52, MA '59), and remained fiercely loyal to and appreciative of Baylor for fostering his interest in poetry.  He also studied at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, as well as at the Freie Universitat in Berlin on a Fulbright.  His poetry was published in the New Yorker, Mademoiselle, and Poetry.  His most recent books were San Miguel Allende, and The African Stilldancer.  After college Andy served as poet-in-residence at St. Andrew's College in North Carolina.

 

Having been introduced to international community development in the Peace Corps, Andy served as president of Partnership for Productivity (PfP) beginning in 1976, and became a pioneer in microfinance.  In the late 1980s he became CEO of the Greater Caribbean Energy and Environment Foundation (GCEEF), and led that august entity with his long-time partner, Dr. Anitra Thorhaug who served as its president.  Their development work together in Haiti became legendary.

 

Andy's contributions to the establishment and evolution of microfinance have been manifold.  His 'generative model' of microfinance shows considerable promise for developing countries.

 

The Peace Corps family, as well as all those he touched in so many countries, will definitely miss Andy's eternally optimistic, giving, and supportive nature.  He was a gentle leader, a gifted poet, an enthusiastic spokesman, and a faithful friend.  What a fantastic legacy, and what an enduring, marvelous role model for us all!  He is indeed sorely missed...

 

Recently Andy Oerke was asked in an interview what was his greatest achievement.  He responded, "I think it's that I have been able to fail.  My greatest accomplishment was trying to understand what life's all about and transmitting it through poetry and action.  I couldn't do this unless I was willing to fail."