Interview with Lawrence Larry Lipton, June 8, 2022
Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project
Interview SummaryLarry Lipton served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (Education) in Nigeria from 1965-1967. Born in Detroit, Michigan, he was raised in Los Angeles, California. Enamored by President John F. Kennedy’s vision and active in civil rights work, Larry joined the Peace Corps when he was 25 to “make a difference.” Peace Corps assigned Larry to Nigeria as a Science and Math teacher. He completed 12 weeks of Peace Corps training in teaching techniques and basic Yoruba at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. After training, Larry flew to Lagos, capital of Nigeria, for a brief Peace Corps orientation. A Nigerian Peace Corps staff member drove him to Oshogbo, his small village of 10,000 in western Nigeria, well known for its palm wine taps. Larry taught Science and Math at a secondary school. He lived in a house a mile from school, where he boiled and filtered his water and used gasoline-fueled Tilly lamps at night - or went to bed early. Six months into his assignment, Larry had a serious motorcycle accident riding his new Peace Corps-issued motorcycle. He recovered but asked for and received a new assignment. Between assignments, a chance meeting led Larry and two other friends to travel around Nigeria with Bill, an exceptional American medical student. Bill’s warm interactions with Nigerians of all backgrounds inspired Larry as he saw how Bill modeled Peace Corps values of passion for service and love of others. Larry later heard that Bill had died tragically in a swimming accident. Larry reflected that nothing happens by chance; his meeting Bill had been a life-changing experience. Larry was reassigned to Ibadan, the largest city in western Africa, where he taught Physics and Physical Science at the Ibadan Technical College. Larry feels he “made a difference” by introducing his students to American small-group learning, and by organizing a student music orchestra where he played his clarinet. After two years of Peace Corps service, Larry traveled to Israel, Jordan, and Spain, followed by family visits in New York and Detroit. He returned to Los Angeles to assist his mother, and while there, he met his wife Sue. The Philadelphia School District was recruiting Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) teachers, so Larry and Sue relocated to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Larry has recently retired after teaching there for 55 years. Larry stayed connected to Peace Corps through the Philadelphia Peace Corps Association, where he served once as president. He and his wife have also attended many large Peace Corps gatherings and invited Nigerian college students to their home for meals.
Interview KeywordPeace Corps (U.S.) Nigeria (Country of service) 1965-1967 (Date of service) Peace Corps Volunteer Job: Education Detroit, Michigan USA (place of birth) Los Angeles, California USA (place of growing up) John F. Kennedy (U.S. President who initiated the Peace Corps in 1961) “make a difference” Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York USA (Peace Corps Volunteer training site) Lagos (capital of Nigeria) Yoruba (Language) Oshogbo, Nigeria (village site of Volunteer’s first assignment) Tilly (gasoline-fueled lamp) motorcycle accident Ibadan, Nigeria (city site of Volunteer’s second assignment) Ibadan Technical College (Volunteer’s second assigned school) “made a difference” Israel, Jordan, and Spain (countries where Volunteer traveled after Peace Corps service) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA School District (Volunteer’s 55-year career teaching job after Peace Corps) Swarthmore, Pennsylvania USA (Volunteer’s school and retirement location) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA Peace Corps Association (Volunteer served once as president)
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Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Lipton, Lawrence Larry Interview by Kathleen Kathy Beckman. 08 Jun. 2022. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Lipton, L.L. (2022, June 08). Interview by K. K. Beckman. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Lipton, Lawrence Larry, interview by Kathleen Kathy Beckman. June 08, 2022, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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