Peggy's Story - As Told by Lew Pusch

january 2020 peggy pusch sietar usa founder Jan 15, 2020

View Family Photos

Peggy and I met during my freshman orientation week at Johns Hopkins University. She was a junior in high school. We met at the home of one of her classmates whom I had met at the 2nd Presbyterian church. Upon entering high school Peggy asked to be in the

academic program but was told since her father only went to the 8th grade that she was not going to college and she needed to get a job when she finished high school. Thus she was placed in the commercial course and trained to be a secretary. She started as a legal secretary upon graduation in 1954.

We married in August 1955, between my 3rd and 4th years in college. I graduated from Hopkins under-graduate school in 1956 and entered Johns Hopkins Medical School in the fall of '56. Peggy then moved to a job in public relations at the Johns Hopkins Hospital where she learned a lot about hospitals. She gave tours to visiting physicians from many countries, taking them to the observation area above the operating room where they could observe surgery in progress. Then the children started arriving and she moved into a decade of being a stay-at-home mom, raising three children.

After finishing medical school I started a residency program in Pathology at Hopkins. Peggy’s first experience of living overseas happened because when I finished my training, I was drafted into the army medical corps and assigned to an army hospital in Yokohama, Japan, which was receiving wounded from the VietNam war. Peg—always looking to help—volunteered with the Red Cross to write letters for the wounded. 

We were living on a Navy base and she also took courses in Japanese language and culture. The Japanese gentleman who taught these courses did so to find Americans who would help teach English to the Japanese. Peggy was teamed with a young Japanese woman who was an English teacher while Peggy functioned as a native English speaker to assist in the pronunciation of the English words. She and Midori would spend Saturday afternoons with the executives of the Hogichi corporation in Tokyo. I was also asked to have an English conversation with a young Japanese physician who was coming to New York City for additional training. When we returned to the United States, I talked to him and he told me that he had studied the wrong language because the hospital in which he was training was in Spanish Harlem and most of his patients spoke Spanish.

Peggy ended up providing conversation experience in several venues and with a variety of groups. That led to several occasions when we were invited to homes, parties, and given tours of Tokyo and other near-by cities. Unfortunately, we did not learn to have conversations in Japanese because most of the Japanese we met wanted to improve their English. Finally, my tour in the army was drawing to a close but Peggy wanted to stay in Japan longer and was disappointed that I was anxious to return to the United States.

We returned to Syracuse, N.Y. where I took a position at the SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Pathology and Peg was back to being a stay-at-home mom for another two years. Then our youngest child entered school and Peg announced that she “was not going to sit around this house and intended to go to Syracuse University and get a job”—which she did. Her first position was as an administrator for a program in the Newhouse Communication center for international radio and TV broadcasters who spent a month at Syracuse University and then spent two months traveling to various US cities to meet peers in broadcasting.  One of her tasks was to make all their travel arrangements.

Peg then moved to the international student office as an advisor. SU also sent her to 3 other universities to observe their international student programs. She met several individuals who were important for her learning about the needs of foreign students. Peg was an avid reader and began educating herself about intercultural communications and developing her own library on the topic.

At this time she met David Hoopes and George Renwick on her travels who asked her to join their consulting group working with companies sending Americans abroad and/or bring foreign nationals into the country. Their group was asked by the New York State Department of Education to write a prospectus on bilingual education. They talked to faculty in departments of education to learn about bilingual education and incidentally learned that these educators had great difficulty finding publishers willing to publish their writings. The three of them decided to start a publishing company. David and George would read the submitted manuscripts and Peggy took over managing the business, contacting printers, selecting paper, and contacting book designers. When printed, the books were shipped to our house, stored in the basement and garage, and our teenage children would come home from school, box and address them, then take them to the Post Office. Thus the intercultural Press was on its way. Peg also read all the books printed and often was the tie breaker when David and George disagreed on printing a manuscript.

Peg loved professional organizations and they loved her back. She started attending the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) in the late 1970's, first as a participant, then as an intern, and finally as a faculty member. Peg was later appointed as associate director of the Intercultural Communications Institute (ICI) in Portland, OR. Starting while she worked at SU she became a member of NAFSA (the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors) and became active in regional programs and active on national committees, which led to serving on the Board of Directors, which eventuated in her being elected national president in 1995. In that same year, NAFSA sent her to the European Association for International Education (EAIE) where she presented a workshop. Afterward Jeanine Hermans from the Netherlands asked Peggy if she might work with Peggy over the following year and perhaps the two of them could do a program together. This led to Peggy and Jeanine developing their three-day workshop and putting it on every year for 10 years in a different European city each year. Also, as you might guess, Peggy became an active member in EAIE

In 1984 I accepted a position at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. Peggy groused about having to move and needing to reinvent herself again. We also moved the Intercultural Press to Maine which required a separate truck to carry the books. In Maine she set up the Press in half of a strip mall and hired new staff, all the while continuing her work in NAFSA and ICI. Peggy had been an active member in SIETAR International for many years but while in Maine, she became seriously involved in the division of  SIETAR International into its constituent country specific SIETARs, which led to the formation of SIETAR USA. She was a founder and first president of SIETAR USA. 

Then she was asked to work with the International Partnership for Service Learning (IPSL) where she became a Board member and then president of the Board. In Maine she also moved into community service becoming president of the Board for the Portland Stage Company, a professional theatre who hired actors in New York City; president of the World Affairs Council of Maine and active on the Board of the Spurwink Schools for developmentally-challenged young people These schools trained young people for employment in businesses at large

In 2009 Peggy had a stroke following which she felt she no longer could keep up the pace for her usual activities. Over the ensuing 10 years, her health gradually deteriorated and she died just before Christmas, December 22, 2019. She is survived by her husband of 65 years, three children: Carrie, Rob and James, four grandchildren: Darryl, Ambre, Kira, and Ethan and two great grandchildren: Arthur, and Francis.

Lew Pusch
January 2020