June 1, 1998 - Emory Magazine: Harbert Bernard served in Gabon

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By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, February 02, 2003 - 1:49 am: Edit Post

Harbert Bernard served in Gabon

Harbert Bernard served in Gabon


Only the beginning

Harbert Bernard '89C-'97MBA credits Emory's intimate educational environment and two University mentors with his decision to join the Peace Corps. Bernard served as an English teacher and community development volunteer in Gabon, a small West African country, from 1991 to 1993.

Bernard describes Emory as "a small school where you can have contact with your professors, a place that challenges you to be all you can be." He adds that Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History James L. Roark, himself a former Peace Corps volunteer, and Vice President for Institutional Advancement William H. Fox '79Ph.D., who at the time was dean of campus life, exerted "incredible influence" on him as a student in ways that ultimately led him to the Peace Corps.

"I wanted to do something meaningful at that time in my life, and when I went to work in corporate America, I had a hard time finding where I was adding value to society. I wanted to do something to express my volunteerism, my spirit of helping my fellow man," Bernard says.

Like many Peace Corps volunteers, Bernard says that what he received from his experience far outweighed the contributions he made.

"I went there very idealistically, thinking, 'Here I am to help.' And I tried my best. I'd like to think I was productive, that I was a good teacher and put in a lot of time developing secondary projects. But I learned so much more than I ever gave. . . .

"I learned a lot about people, about relationships. It was amazing to me--it would always take me an hour to walk the half mile to the market, because I stopped and greeted everyone. I had many personal, intimate conversations. It was very joyous. Here in the United States, you're very punctual, very productive; you have to get this report out, you have to be here at this time. It's how our modern economy works, but sometimes I think we as Americans forget about interpersonal relationships."

Bernard's Peace Corps experience has continued to influence his life. He says it gave him the confidence to pursue educational opportunities in Guatemala and Costa Rica as part of his MBA program and has brought a global perspective to his work with AGL Resources, the holding company of Atlanta Gas Light.

He continues his connection to the organization as president of the Atlanta Returned Peace Corps Volunteers group, which is active in such social causes as AIDS, hunger, and homelessness. "The Peace Corps really doesn't end with you leaving [your host country]--it's really just beginning," he says. "You take that social action, that concern for your fellow human beings, back to the U.S."--A.B.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Gabon



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