Remembering Corinne Benson Johnson
Corinne Johnson died on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at her residence in Kendal at Hanover, NH, at the age of 83. She is survived by her son Ralph Johnson, by her sister and brother-in-law Ann Benson Reece and Norval Reece, as well as by two grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
Corinne grew up in Salem, Mass., graduating from Smith College in 1950. She joined AFSC in 1957, working in a variety of areas, including with youth work camps and international population and family planning programs. From 1972 to 1979 she was director of AFSC's Latin America and Caribbean programs. From 1979 until her retirement in 1997, she was director of the International Division.
On her retirement, friends and colleagues put together a sort of “festschrift” containing many reflections on her qualities, character, career, and contributions to the work of AFSC around the world.
Among her many contributions, a few stand out:
- Corinne was a champion of AFSC engagement with women in programs of AFSC, focusing on innovative development projects to ease women’s burdens and build their leadership skills in the family, community, and institutions. She was also an advocate for women’s leadership in the nonprofit world, for which she was recognized with an award from InterAction, the coalition of nonprofits working internationally, whose policies she helped shape in its early years. She was adamant about building programs based on full consultation with and participation from the communities to be served in the work of AFSC.
- She had a strong role in building the International Division out of what had been separate “International Service” and “International Affairs” units in AFSC. She continually lifted up the mutually reinforcing qualities of, on the one hand, AFSC engagement in on-the-ground relief, economic development, leadership and institutional development, human rights and justice work with, on the other hand, the Quaker International Affairs programs and the Quaker UN offices working on peace-building, quiet diplomacy, and national or international law and policy change. She staunchly advocated for bringing direct international field experience into efforts to change U.S. policies and counter-military interventions.
- Corinne also presided over a major expansion of AFSC international work, through the growth of grant funding from European and U.S. foundations, including the important Dialogues and Exchanges Program so vital to AFSC’s international work to the present.
- She was a famously meticulous writer and editor, who believed in the power of well-crafted words to advance the vision, values, mission, and programs of AFSC.
- Many staff and colleagues counted her as a mentor, crucial in shaping their abilities and passions for this work, whether in AFSC or beyond.