David Eckerson, Class of 1966, Inducted in 2009
As a high school senior, Eckerson envisioned a career in law. However, careers have a tendency to follow the passions that lie within one’s heart. Such is the path of Dave Eckerson. At the time, little did he know his participation on the AFS Americans Abroad Selection Committee was a first step toward a lifelong career of working tirelessly to reduce poverty and improve lives around the world.
Earning a B.A. in Social Science from Hiram College in Ohio, he followed his interests and obtained an M.A. in Culture and Values from the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Then in 1972, he went as a Peace Corps volunteer to a landlocked West African nation, what was the Republic of Upper Volta and is now Burkina Faso.
"Once you live in an African village for two years in a mud hut without running water and electricity, see the needs of those around you, and how you are able to better their lives, it’s hard not to want to continue along the path of international development," he reflected.
With slow dedicated steps he walked his career path, managing a first-ever CDC (Center for Disease Control) disease and demographic survey in Africa, implementing community based sustainable health and nutrition programs, engaging in natural resource management, health care delivery, water and sanitation improvement, and micro-finance programs.
Through positions primarily in the public sector, but also through corporate endeavors, Eckerson has lived and worked in underdeveloped communities in Haiti and other Caribbean countries, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia.
With time spent in administrative capacity in Washington D.C. as Director of the Office of Human Resources, he transformed a paper based office of 75 professionals ineffectively serving 8,000 staff worldwide to a higher performing, more productive IT driven operation. During his times stateside he has pursued Master equivalencies in Epidemiology and American Studies at the CDC in Atlanta and the Foreign Services Institute in Arlington respectively.
While life in high school can be indicative of future success, it is not always accurate. A barely passing grade in French class could not foretell Eckerson’s current fluency in French, Haitian Creole, and Mossi, a West African tribal dialect. Such language proficiency comes in handy in his current position as Mission Director to Uganda, USAID in which he manages $350 million taxpayer dollars and a staff of 100 American and Ugandan professionals.
"Every day I go to work at a job I love, and every day I see examples of how the generosity of the American people improves the lives of Ugandans."
Eckerson resides in Kampala, Uganda with his wife, Connie Hansen who has followed this path of service with him for 32 years. Together they have proudly raised their children to be citizens of the world and continue to travel and explore the cultures of the other countries with them when possible.
His daughter is a Fulbright scholar in Caracas, Venezuela. One son recently graduated and is completing an internship with the Washington Nationals baseball team’s minor league affiliate. Another son attends college in Virginia.
When he takes a break from ensuring American’s money overseas is well spent, Eckerson golfs (a pastime he learned in Ethiopia), and plays pinochle with die-hard card aficionados in Uganda. All the while, Eckerson maintains his American roots as an avid Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals baseball fan. He’s been known to get up in the middle of the African night to catch a good game on TV.