Gall, Pirie - Oral History Interview
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Pirie Gall 69 was in the Peace Corps when he applied to SAIS and he was in the Peace Corps because he went to Stanfords overseas campus program (in Italy) during one of his summers there. As such, he had a strong language background and some facility with it. He ended up applying to the Peace Corps to do community development work anywhere in Latin America and he ended up in Nepal. Though he served there, he did not lose his interest in Latin America. His grandfather was a professor of Spanish at the University of Michigan, one of his uncles was a career Foreign Service Officer in Latin America, his brother majored in Spanish at Princeton. With all of this, Latin American influence was strong in his family, particularly with regard to the Spanish language. Not surprisingly, SAIS is where he replied and wanted to attend. Some of the main attractions of SAIS for Pirie were that it was located in Washington, D.C. and that people there engaged in actual development work (practical experience). After applying to SAIS, he was given an opportunity, while he was in Nepal, to do two more years of field work. SAIS accepted his deferment and said that they would likely be even more interested in him after his two years in the field. After four years in South Asia, he then came back to SAIS to concentrate on his Latin American studies. Having been out of the United States during a very turbulent time (1963 to 1967), he was dealing with his own feelings of re-entry. In addition, most of his classmates were coming straight out of undergraduate school. He found it interesting that many wanted to go make policy for a particular agency, yet had not had the field experience that he had gone through for four years in Nepal. Pirie made some very good friends at SAIS, many of whom he stayed in touch with for years. He really valued his language learning experience at SAIS. He recalls having a quadra-lingual Peruvian Spanish teacher who was a simultaneous interpreter (he did it in Spanish, Japanese, German, French and English). Interestingly, Pirie Gall did not get into his Latin American work until later in his career. After SAIS, he worked for a private consulting firm for seven years. It was contracted to several Federal agencies (domestic and international) and through his job, he traveled around the world. He then went to work for Peace Corps as a Program Planning Officer where he worked for five years and traveled around the world to places such as West Africa. After that, he went back into consulting on a free lance basis and later worked for US AID. When asked about his favorite part of his career, he talks about enjoying his work around municipal development in Latin America and he ended up publishing a book about it in 1976. At the time, he enjoyed it because he felt like he was doing something that no one else was doing. What he values most about his SAIS education is what it gave him in terms of a perspective between academics and his real life (practical) experiences. He appreciates that it opened so many doors for him in terms of career possibilities. With regard to advice he has for current students today, he says, Keep your mind open to possibilities and take advantage of the language program at SAIS. He has seen the world as fast changing world and is someone who appreciates having bounced from one thing to another.