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Virginia Pearsall Kirkwood ’64 will serve as OWU’s 2009 Commencement speaker. She is shown here with youths in Indonesia. Kirkwood helped to evaluate their organic farm on behalf of World Education, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Virginia Pearsall Kirkwood

Ohio Wesleyan University Alumna to Speak at Commencement
Virginia Pearsall Kirkwood Active in Peace Corps, Special Olympics, More

April 10, 2009

DELAWARE, OH – Virginia Pearsall Kirkwood, a 1964 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, has led a life of service including working as director of the Peace Corps in Thailand, the second largest Peace Corps contingent in the world, and helping to create Special Olympics programs throughout Asia.

Kirkwood, recipient of an Ohio Wesleyan distinguished achievement citation in 2004, will serve as the keynote speaker at the university’s May 10, 2009, commencement ceremony. She recalls Ohio Wesleyan providing “a strong message of giving back” during her time at the university, and has a simple philosophy when it comes to helping others: “If you have a chance to do something good,” Kirkwood says, “just do it.”

Kirkwood was accepted into the Peace Corps during her junior year at Ohio Wesleyan, and served two years in Turkey, where she cared for and raised funds for orphaned children. She then spent time in Thailand; Washington, D.C.; and Singapore before she and her husband, Charles, moved to Shawnee on Delaware, Pa., where they still live.

After moving to the Keystone state, Kirkwood served as chair the Pennsylvania Special Olympics. Because of her experience in Asia, she later helped to create multiple Special Olympics programs in Thailand, Pakistan, Nepal, China, Singapore, and the Philippines.

Kirkwood maintained her Peace Corps ties during this period, and in 1990 became director of the Peace Corps in Thailand. In this role, she introduced an extensive AIDS education program and helped to expand environmental and engineering projects. She served as director until 1993, and remains on the advisory board.

She also remains active as a member of the board of trustees of Boston-based World Education, Inc., which aids educationally disadvantaged children in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, as well as the United States. She serves on the board of the Bangkok-based Kenan Institute Asia, which works to build sustainable competitiveness in Thailand and the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Additionally, she and her husband operate Shawnee Academy and The Beacon School in Pennsylvania. Both schools work with troubled youths no longer able to attend their home school districts.

In addition to her involvement in service organizations, Kirkwood also is a successful businesswoman. She and her husband operate the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort. Kirkwood also is active in the arts, having served as a producer for the Shawnee Playhouse; director for the Mountain Laurel Center for the Arts in Bushkill, Pa.; and even a guitar teacher for the blind during her time in Thailand. She and her husband have five children.

“We are delighted that Ginny Kirkwood is returning to Ohio Wesleyan to address our 2009 graduates,” said Rock Jones, Ph.D., university president. “She is the epitome of leadership, service, and character. Ginny represents the power of a liberal arts education and the best of Ohio Wesleyan.”

OWU’s 2009 Commencement ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. May 10 in Phillips Glen, located behind University Hall, 61 S. Sandusky St. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved indoors into nearby Gordon Field House. The ceremony also will be streamed live at stream.owu.edu.

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 47 states and 50 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.