When the National Park Service held a signing ceremony to establish a sister park agreement between Pinnacles National Monument and Parque Nacionale Quebrada del Condorito (Canyon of the Little Condor) in Argentina in 2010, Peter Anderson ’66 was there representing Rotary International.
After initiating professional exchanges between his Rotary Club in Morgan Hill, Calif., and a club in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he is an honorary member, Anderson spent three years following the project closely (and translating between Spanish and English) as scientists in both countries worked on restoring populations of condors in the wild..
At the signing ceremony Anderson represented Rotary alongside the directors of both national park systems, the Argentine ambassador, and Congressman Sam Farr, who represents Anderson’s district in the House of Representatives.
It began in 2007 when one of the four California Rotarians on the initial exchange was a biologist from California’s Pinnacles National Monument, a release site for the endangered American condor. During her month in Buenos Aires she met with Argentine biologists, national park representatives, and researchers involved with preserving Andean condors.
In subsequent years she initiated return trips with other biologists from Pinnacles and the National Park Service who were working with the American condors. Anderson twice accompanied these groups to Argentina to keep the Rotary connection and to help bridge the language barrier.
Anderson said that Professor Emeritus Henry Holland, his Spanish teacher at Colby, “would have been proud that I navigated a lot of the off-line discussion between dignitaries with aplomb.” In fact he’s had subsequent assistance learning the language—his wife of 40 years, Elena, is an Argentine American. They now split their time between the two countries since Anderson sold his geotechnical engineering company in 2010.
The Rotary Foundation funds trips to encourage professional exchanges and to deepen mutual appreciation of cultures, and in this case the exchange resulted in a sister park agreement that benefits both humans and endangered condors. “But Rotary looks at it a little beyond that,” Anderson adds. “As long as we can get people together from different countries, other good things happen.”
“If everyone had a chance to spend two weeks or a month in another country under the auspices of Rotary, there would never be another war,” Anderson said. “That’s a major principle of Rotary: peace through world understanding.”
Anderson is at once a firm believer in and an exemplar of the organization’s motto, “Service Above Self.”
“It’s easy,” he said. “You do what you love.” —Laura Meader