November 30, 2003 - Greensboro News Record: School honors The Gambia RPCV James Llewellyn

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Gambia: Peace Corps The Gambia : The Peace Corps in the Gambia: November 30, 2003 - Greensboro News Record: School honors The Gambia RPCV James Llewellyn

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 2:14 pm: Edit Post

School honors The Gambia RPCV James Llewellyn

School honors The Gambia RPCV James Llewellyn

School honors 'phone fixer'


By Tom Steadman Staff Writer
News & Record

GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA -- As a young engineer fresh out of graduate school, he shipped out to Africa, working for pennies a day as a Peace Corps volunteer to improve telephone service in the west Africa nation of The Gambia.

Three decades later, after a long career with AT&T and Lucent Technologies, James Llewellyn took on a new challenge for even less money. In the next two years, he would put in thousands of unpaid hours repairing, configuring and upgrading the phone system at Greensboro College.

The result, said President Craven Williams, was that Greensboro College saved about $500,000 it otherwise would have had to spend on equipment, fees and repairs.

That's why at a college assembly recently, Williams announced the Llewellyn Presidential Scholarship, named in honor of the self-effacing engineer. The four-year scholarship will pay for fees, room, board and tuition, and is worth about $85,000. In essence, it's a full ride except for the cost of textbooks for some lucky student.

Llewellyn said the announcement came as a shock; when Williams asked him to make sure he attended the assembly, Llewellyn had thought he would be receiving a verbal pat on the back. Instead, he got a scholarship in his name, a standing ovation and a Tiffany crystal plaque commemorating the occasion.

James Llewellyn still seems a little surprised by the recognition. As far as he was concerned, his efforts for Greensboro College were just a matter of giving back to the school that had given so much to his daughter.

Llewellyn's oldest child, Donna Llewellyn, attended Greensboro College with help from a scholarship. After graduating with honors, she went to work in the school's financial aid office.

When Donna Llewellyn, along with her younger sister Rachel, roommate Beth Harris and Donna's boyfriend, Ryan Bek, died in the tragic Campus Walk apartment fire in February 2002, Greensboro College was awash with grief. Bek also worked for the school in its computer-technology department. And Donna's mother, Carolyn Llewellyn, works for Greensboro College.

"I always appreciated that the college had given a scholarship to Donna,'' James Llewellyn said. It was through phone calls to her that he learned the school had some bugs in its phone system. There were frequent busy signals, even if no one was on the line.

Soon, he was volunteering his expertise and labor to help the school with its overloaded phone system. Greensboro College would benefit, and Llewellyn would get the chance to see his daughter every day. That's something he couldn't always have during his engineering career, when he traveled frequently.

A Missouri native, Llewellyn earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri at Rolla, then got a master's degree from the University of Kansas before heading to The Gambia with the Peace Corps in 1970.

Then, he says, The Gambia was a peaceful place, where home telephones were rare and news circulated mainly by an informal grapevine.

After two years in The Gambia, Llewellyn returned to Missouri, took a job with Southwestern Bell and began a career that would last until his retirement from Lucent.

In 1986, he took a transfer to Greensboro, where the family's two girls attended public schools and then college. Rachel Llewellyn was a nursing student at UNCG when she died.

Even after the tragedy, James Llewellyn continued his volunteer telephone work at Greensboro College.

Through the years, he eliminated numerous bugs in the system, allowing the school to keep adding lines and numbers, eliminated a continual voice-mail problem and added phone service to two new college facilities -- The Inn at Greensboro College (formerly University Inn) and the Reynolds Family Student Life Center (formerly the Central YMCA).

Greensboro College spokesman Mike Clark said the Llewellyn Scholarship will be used to help develop students who are as interested in civic participation as in academics.

"We want leaders as Donna was,'' Clark said.

The first Llewellyn scholar will start school in August.

Contact Tom Steadman at 574-5583 or

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Story Source: Greensboro News Record

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - The Gambia; Engineering; Service; Scholarships



By steve betts ( - on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 8:56 pm: Edit Post

Dear Madam or Sir,
I attended grade school in Kansas City, Mo, with a James Llewellyn, ca. 1955-58. Later when I moved to Odessa, MO., I found that Jim's family had also moved there. We attended 4 yrs of high school together, graduating from Odessa High in 1965. If the James Llewellyn in your articls is the same person, I would very much like to get in touch with him. We are planning our 40th High School Reunion and want to get the word to as many classmates as possible. I have not seen Jim for over 30-35 years. Jim would be around 57-58 yrs old now. If you think this could be the same person, please forward this message to him in hopes that he will contact me in return.
Thank you so much in advance for reading this and taking the action you deem necessary.
My Email address is:

Sincerely yours,

Steve Betts

OHS Senior Class 1965
129 20th Ave NE
Birmingham, AL 35215

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