By Ana Carmen Neboisa
Mr. William Dennis Grubb peacefully entered into eternal rest on October 25 at his home in Southwest Washington. The Peace Corps, global development, education, and the church have propelled his lifelong service to help others in nations on five continents.
An Eagle Scout, Mr. Grubb joined the then-new Peace Corps at the age of 19 as one of its first and youngest volunteers, and served in the first cohort of volunteers in Colombia (1961-1963). Sargent Shriver, the first Peace Corps director, called him “one of the first and one of the best” Peace Corps Volunteers. In 1964, Senator Hubert Humphrey said that it was “due largely to your efforts that the appropriation for the Peace Corps was obtainable.” Mr. Grubb served as treasurer and Board member of the National Peace Corps Association and helped train hundreds of Peace Corps Volunteers for Latin America at the University of New Mexico and Peace Corps Volunteers for the Far East at the Southern Illinois University training camps. He advocated on Capitol Hill for funding and legislative issues and helped develop generations of Peace Corps advocates all his life.
An economist by training, he spent 30 years overseas on projects that helped introduce financial reforms in India, Thailand, Ukraine, Romania, and more, and developed opportunities to economically elevate people. He earned degrees from the Southern Illinois University, the American University (AU), and the London School of Economics, studied in Tunisia on a Fulbright Fellowship and served on the board of the Fulbright Association (2009-2013). He advised students, audited classes part of the lifelong learning program, and served on the board of AU Alumni Association (2008-2010).
While pursuing his professional career, he fulfilled his deep sense of civic duty. He worked for the Democratic National Committee during the 1970s-1990s, doing advance work for the presidential campaigns of Lyndon Johnson, George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, Edmund Muskie, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.
A devoted Christian, he ushered at the Washington National Cathedral for many years and was active in St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Southwest DC, especially its Lay Eucharistic Minister and the Bread for Life programs.
While in India in the 1990s, he was a friend of Mother Theresa. Mr. Grubb recalled the time spent with her, saying “I will never forget her serenity and simplicity. She invited me to pray with her in Calcutta, which I did. While praying with her, I learned not to anticipate HIS WORK and to try not to put anything of my own in all of this. I am His instrument, nothing more.”
Traveling to 60 countries, Mr. Grubb saw the world as a place where people are more alike than different, all wanting the same things for their loved ones: freedom and the chance to live a peaceful, decent life. He spent his life contributing to the realization of this ideal.
In a sermon delivered at St. Augustine’s in 2014, Mr. Grubb said, “I have worked in 23 countries, which included some of the world’s poorest nations. I experienced suffering and plain simple happiness first hand. I have left many of these countries leaving behind most of my belongings, as I felt the poor people needed my clothes and shoes more than I did.”