Diana Hess

Memories of “Dee”

shared by Jackie Mackay
RPCV Kenya 1981-1983

I served in Kenya as a teacher 1981-1983, at the same time as Diane “Dee” Hess. She was a tiny, slender woman with a shock of blonde hair and more energy than any ten people together. Vivacious and popular with rapid fire speech, lots of laughter and even more friends, she was an RWE who worked on woman’s rural development projects in the Machokos district, east of Nairobi. A neighbor gave her a puppy but failed to mention that the mother had died of rabies, endemic in Kenya. The puppy disappeared and she never learned how it had died. Her small stature allowed the rabies to take her swiftly. But her death helped save other volunteers. We had all been vaccinated against rabies. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) came to investigate why the the live vaccine had failed to protect her. It turned out that the vaccine had been improperly stored on its journey and none of us were protected. A simple delay combined with a lack of refrigeration caused her vulnerability. It all seemed so terribly unfair. All the volunteers and the Peace Corps staff in Kenya during that period were profoundly affected by Diana’s death. And laughter came less easily and less often.

Diana Hess Memorial Fund at Johns Hopkins University

Bloomberg School of Public Health

Established in 1983 by family and friends in memory of Ms. Hess, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya devoted to improving public health in Africa. The fund supports students in the Department of International Health preparing for field work in Africa.

For more information, contact the Office of Development, Bloomberg School of Public Health. Phone: 410-955-5194. Email: dev@jhsph.edu.

Diana Hess Memorial Fund at Gettysburg College

Jennifer Kimball Gasperini ’82

To honor the legacy of Diana “Dee” Hess ’82, who died while serving with the Peace Corps in Kenya in 1983, family and friends created a fund named after her to support international service learning through the CPS. Among the fund’s organizers was Jennifer Kimball Gasperini ’82, who wrote about both Hess and her own CPS experiences:

“Dee was a remarkable woman who had big plans for her life. While most of us were just getting through college and didn’t have a clear idea of what we would do with our degrees, Dee was committed to working for the Peace Corps and moving on to the World Bank. She really wanted to make a difference in the global arena and would have had she not had such a tragic death from rabies while serving in the Peace Corps in Kenya. Dee helped broaden all our minds with her experiences and her letters from Africa. She was having a huge impact on a small community outside Nairobi helping the women establish a natural food co-op with their chickens and eggs. Dee’s legacy lives on, no doubt, in that village and its progress towards independence and small business.

“We thought of many different ways we could honor Dee at Gettysburg after her death but none of them felt right until we came up with the fund idea. We love that students are able to step outside their comfortable lives in the US to experience another culture and to see how the majority of the world lives. When you are at college, involved in classes and deadlines and parties, it’s difficult to understand that this arena is very small and that your worries and upsets are nothing compared to those who are just getting by in Central America, for example.

“Each year, I receive letters from the recipients of the fund, detailing their experiences in Nicaragua and how life-changing the event was for them. These letters have been so moving to me and give me the sense that Dee is having an impact on the lives of Gettysburg students, year after year.

To donate, go to www.gettysburg.edu/onlinegiving.


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2 Responses to Diana Hess

  1. carla hess August 27, 2019 at 4:37 pm #

    On this, the 36th anniversary of her death, I’m holding thoughts of my sister in my heart. She’s been gone longer than she was with us, but I miss her every day.

    • Christine Morgan November 12, 2020 at 10:29 am #

      My name is Chris Morgan. Just like Dee, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. Dee was in my training group for RWE. She was just as you described vivacious and full of energy. Getting rabies was foreign to us coming from America as you just didn’t hear of people getting it. I remember going to the hospital to see Dee. I think it is great that you have continued to remember her with the scholarship. Just wanted you to know Dee’s life continues to live through our memories. Prayers to your family. Respectfully, Chris.

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