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Updates from MNRPCV Leaders



Sharon Goodyear   RPCV Jamaica (1973-76)   I remember attending the first organizing meeting of RPCV’s in Mankato in the late 1970’s. I served on the board for 2-3 years and still attend RPCV holiday dinners from time to time. In the beginning, the board met at the Minnesota International Center (MIC), which I organized because of my work at the International Student Advising Office. I have been fortunate to return to Jamaica three times since serving as a volunteer; my last trip was in 2006 and I was able to connect with some women who attended my groups with the Jamaica Federation of Women. My career has been devoted to working in higher education at the University of Minnesota, including work with a large number of international students, the Twin Cities International Program, and currently with law students at William Mitchell College of Law in the Career & Professional Development Office. If anyone would like to contact me, they may email me at Sharon.goodyear@wmitchell.edu.

Nancy Erstad   RPCV Federated States of Micronesia (1970-72)  The group that gathered in Mankato (about 20 – 25 of us I think) took the idea of forming an RPCV group seriously.  We knew the experiences we had as PCV’s shaped our approach to life. We wanted to support volunteers in the field, support RPCV’s as they returned home, to find ways to “bring the world back home”, and to have fun together.  I think much of what MNRPCV does today goes back to what was set up originally. Early on we created the Annual Slide Show (where everyone had only slides), Cross Country Skiing (at Isabella), and the Annual June picnic with optional camping.

A few days after we signed the Articles of Incorporation, I gave birth to son #3.  I was a stay at home mom for several years, doing varying volunteer work.  I went back to school to get my master’s in Organizational leadership and Ethics, and re-entered the work force using my nursing background as an Assisted Living Coordinator. When we lived in Moldova (2002-03 school year) I was selected to help the wife of the Prime Minister practice her English.  When we lived in Kazakhstan (2006-07 school year) I worked with a US Embassy sponsored program for people to practice their English.  Since coming back from Kazakhstan I have been doing Parish Nursing.

Leon Erstad      RPCV Federated States of Micronesia (1970-72)   After Peace, I went to law school and then returned to Minnesota to practice law.  In 1990, we started the law firm, Erstad & Riemer, where I have been practicing ever since.  In 2002 I taught law in Moldova, starting their “law in English” program.  In 2006 I taught law in Kazakhstan.  I’m currently president of the Minnesota Chapter of the Fulbright Alumni Association.



Leon Erstad,   President 1980-81   see above

Robin Picray,   President 1981-82  RPCV Peru (1972-74)  After serving as president, he moved out of Minnesota for 12 years during which time he served 3 years (1984 – 1986) on the board of the National RPCV organization. He moved back to St. Paul in 1994 and since then has worked at U.S. Bank in their Information Security Division.

Rick Charboneau,   President 1985-86   RPCV Costa Rica (1981-83)   In Environmental Education  Family: Wife Darlene, Home: South Minneapolis, Work:  VA Medical Center – Research  Volunteer work: Sierra Club, North Star Ski Touring club, Friends of the Apostle Islands.

Don Merrell,   President 1988-89   RPCV Guatemala (1979-81)  I currently work as a Regional Compliance Manager at Ameriprise Financial and my home address is 819 Thornton Street, SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.  I have a niece who currently is serving in the Peace Corps in El Salvador,  She says that I inspired her to join!  I plan on visiting her in November of next year.  I try to see Judy Marcoullier, Cindy Jurgensen and Curt Rahman at least once a year.

John Nania,   President 1990-91   RPCV Thailand (1981-83)  John ran an independent IT consulting business in Minneapolis for 9 years. During that time he began practicing Falun Dafa, a traditional Chinese meditation practice that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. After the practice began to be persecuted in China in 1999, John volunteered to raise awareness at home and abroad, traveling to places like South Africa, African Union HQ in Ethiopia, Thailand, Iceland, and the UN in Geneva. He went with 35 other Western practitioners of Falun Dafa to Tiananmen Square in 2001 to meditate and hold up a banner saying “Truth-Compassion-Tolerance,” a trip which landed the tale on the Thanksgiving front page of the Star Tribune. He moved to New York in 2004 to work on the other side of making the news. He’s the international Editor-in-Chief of The Epoch Times, English-language editions; the company publishes in 17 languages on the web (www.TheEpochTimes.com).

Jack Conrad,   President 1996-97   RPCV Togo (1987-89) Swaziland (1984-87)  Currently employed as a Sr. Research Scientist at Thomson Reuters. Married to Bobbi Borchardt.  They have two children, Kara, age 9 and Lucas, age 7.   He continues to serve on the Friends of Swaziland Board as Communications chair, and bicycles for charitable organizations like Young Heroes (raising funds for AIDs orphans via the Red Ribbon Ride).

Judy Marcouiller,   President 1997-98   RPCV Liberia (1977-79) and Botswana (1982-84), followed by four years with domestic PC Recruitment (1986-90) and five years as an overseas PC staff member in Sierra Leone and Swaziland (1990-95). Judy was active in the MNRPCV group in the 90′s and coordinated the 1999 NPCA Conference which we hosted in St. Paul; she served as NPCA board member from 1999-2000.After retirement from a State Department/Foreign Service career in 2014, Judy now resides in Minneapolis with her husband Don Garner.

Deb Most,   President 1999-2000, 2004-06   RPCV Latvia (1994-96)   Served on the NPCA Board for 7 years at ths same time as serving on the MNRPCV Board. Still working in the Twin Cities for a non-profit association and of course still volunteering in various ways, shapes and forms. I truly appreciate the time I served on the NPCA Board and the people I met along the way. I really believe this [MNRPCV] is the most interesting group of people in Minnesota.

W. Michael Smith,   President 2000-02   RPCV Liberia (1980-82)   I first became involved with the MNRPCV group in 1984. Mike served on the MNRPCV Board in many capacities helping to promote the Peace Corps 3rd goal within the community from 1992 through 2008. Though not as active with the MNRPCV group as he once was, Michael continues to foster an awareness and acceptance within the larger community of the Global diversity that we all are a part of.

Mary Adams,  President 2002-04, 2006-08    RPCV Latvia (1995-97)   Since my Peace Corps days, I’ve been working for a large credit union in Minneapolis, where I’m part of the Operations team and spend my day working on projects, ATMs, and compliance issues. I’ve also been part of the MNRPCV Toastmaster Club for the last four years, along with being involved with non-profit organizations.  Then if there’s any spare time, it’s working on turning my entire yard into a garden – all with native plants.   Of course, there has to be some traveling in my life… to the off-beat path countries.

Jane Bardon,  President 2008- 2011   RPCV Turkmenistan (2003-05)  I retired from the University of Minnesota in 1995, but I haven’t felt retired since I joined the Peace Corps with my husband, Jack Bardon, in 2003. We have travelled to over 100 countries and are still exploring the world. Continued on MNRPCV Board coordinating Membership/Communications.  Elected to NPCA Board in 2012 as the Upper Midwest Representative. Current term runs to 2016.

Liz Ward,  President 2011-2012    RPCV Costa Rica (1997-1999).  I began my journey with the Peace Corps in 1997.  Since then my career has been focused on management and education in government, higher education, and business.   Currently a small business owner, I enjoy cross-cultural training and consulting.   Having traveled to more than 35 countries in recent years, I have enjoyed meeting with, working with, and making friends with people and groups around the world.  Since the birth of my son in the fall of 2012, my work and involvement in the Peace Corps and community keep me connected to the international scene-during this first year of a new kind of culture shock: motherhood.

Anne Kanyusik Yoakum, President 2012-2014      RPCV Bangladesh (1998-2000) Since my completion of service, I have been a member of several RPCV organizations throughout the country, including the groups in Eastern Michigan, Chicago, Seattle, Washington DC and Minnesota.  The amazing RPCV member groups have helped me to find community during my adventures at home and abroad, and our MNRPCV group is among the best!  I currently practice health care and nonprofit law in the Twin Cities and am an active volunteer with local organizations, particularly those focused on assisting women and immigrant populations and promoting international understanding.  My spouse, Curt, and I love to travel and hope to have the opportunity to serve together in the Peace Corps later in our careers.

 Patrick Gardner Smith President 2014-2016   RPCV Ukraine (2009-2011)