North Central College - Naperville, IL

North Central College honors Peace Corps administrator with Outstanding Alumni Award

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This is the second of five weekly installments profiling individuals who will receive Alumni Awards & Recognition on Nov. 11 during North Central College’s Sesquicentennial Homecoming Celebration.

Oct. 10, 2011—North Central College is honoring Esther Benjamin of Mitchellville, Md., with a 2011 Outstanding Alumni Award.

Benjamin and four others will be honored during the College’s Sesquicentennial Convocation at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville. This year’s event commemorates the 150th anniversary of the first day classes were held at the school on Nov. 11, 1861.

Benjamin serves in President Barack Obama’s administration as associate director for global operations for the Peace Corps, where she oversees Peace Corps programs in nearly 80 countries. Following the 2008 presidential election she served on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team, focusing on foreign assistance.

She previously served as chief financial officer and vice president of business development for the International Youth Foundation, where she oversaw development of global programs and partnerships in 75 countries. She was executive director for resource development at the International Partnership for Microbicides, a global biotechnology organization that develops products to help protect women from HIV in developing countries. She mobilized political and financial support from governments of European donor countries, the United States and Canada, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton appointed Benjamin a White House Fellow, one of the nation’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. She worked with Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman on international policies and programs. In 1994, she was appointed United Nations humanitarian affairs officer, responsible for coordinating humanitarian aid in Somalia. She worked with the World Bank History Project on the Brookings Institution’s 1997 publication, “The World Bank: Its First Half Century.” She also has experience in management consulting with Grant Thornton and with Arthur Andersen.

She is a member of the board of directors of Echoing Green, which supports social entrepreneurs worldwide. She is a fellow with the U.S.-Japan Foundation and the U.S.-Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values. She has been a Council on Foreign Relations term member.

Benjamin was born in Sri Lanka and moved to the United States at age 13. She received a bachelor of arts degree in political science and English from North Central College in 1990. She also holds master’s degrees in international affairs and applied economics from American University. She serves as a North Central College trustee and was awarded the College’s Outstanding Alumna Recognition Award in 2000. American University awarded her the 2009 Cyrus A. Ansary Medal, the university’s highest honor for public service, and its 2009 Outstanding Alumna Award from the School of International Service.

Others being honored on Nov. 11 are Outstanding Alumni Award recipients Col. Stephen Taylor of Lexington Park, Md., and J. Charles Eldridge of Wake Forest, N.C.; Wall of Witness honoree James Will of Arlington Heights; and Alumni Recognition Award recipient Ryan Dowd of Aurora.

North Central College’s yearlong Sesquicentennial Celebration commemorates the 150th anniversary of the first day of classes on Nov. 11, 1861, and the College’s role in helping to shape the fabric of the Naperville community. Throughout its history, North Central College alumni have distinguished themselves as leaders in the arts, sciences, business, education and many other areas of study. Numerous Sesquicentennial events and projects are planned throughout 2011 and into 2012. Visit to learn more.