King Berlew ’51

Here’s my story, largely about my two years in Pakistan. I graduated from Wesleyan in 1951, did well scholastically, was a member of Eclectic (an excellent fraternity in those days) and played in Wesleyan’s greatest football days when the V-12 vets came back and were undefeated for three years. I never made the first team but several of those players went on to pro football. I should mention that my father, Herman D. Berlew, was also a Wesleyan graduate and football captain in 1921, having survived WWI. 

In any event, I went on to Harvard Law School and the Harvard Law Review from 1951-54, married my wonderful wife Jeanne who has been with me for 61 years, and was drafted into the U.S. Army three days after graduation. After basic training, I was sent to clerk typist school (apparently because I was a lawyer). I was also told that I would have my choice of assignment, according to my rank in typing school, that there were very few stateside assignments and that I would not be allowed to bring my wife overseas.

My greatest accomplishment to date is being first in my clerk typist school class! There were no stateside assignments. I chose Salzburg, Austria and my company commander told me I should bring my wife over to Salzburg in order to keep me out of trouble. So I did. We managed to find our way to Vienna for a weekend around April 1, 1955, which by pure chance was the date that the four powers (U.S., Russia, France and the U.K.) signed the treaty that turned Austria back to the Austrians effective at the end of 1955.

Unfortunately, Jeanne was ordered back to the United States when she became pregnant and I spent the rest of my time, together with an Austrian partner, returning property to the Austrian Government. After leaving the Army in 1956, I practiced law with Ropes & Gray in Boston for four or five years, spent one year as legal counsel for AID (Agency for International Development) for Near East South Asia and was assigned by Sargent Shriver to become the Peace Corps director for Pakistan during the two-year period from 1962-64.

My wife and I and our two children (Derek, 4, and Sarah, 3) lived in Lahore, Pakistan but I spent about two-thirds of my time traveling to cities in both West and East Pakistan (a five hour flight over India), first to develop and agree on various projects including nursing, agriculture, community development, bridge-building and teaching. At least once each year I would return to the U.S. to participate briefly in training programs for new volunteers.

For the most part, the Pakistanis were pleased with the Peace Corps projects and welcomed the volunteers with open arms. I would say that more than 90 percent of the volunteers were able to work effectively in the Pakistani environment though it certainly was not easy given the environment, health issues, language diversity (four or five different languages — Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto in the Northwest; Bengali in East Pakistan) and the role of women in Pakistani society. By the middle of 1963, all programs were working reasonably well and more programs were under consideration. Unfortunately, sometime, I think in late 1963 or early 1964, the United States decided to deliver some 20 or 30 fighter/bomber aircraft to India. From that time on, no new Peace Corps programs were welcomed in Pakistan. The ongoing projects continued and were still well received but President Ayub Khan would not allow any new Peace Corps projects, which he knew would not please Sargent Shriver and the Kennedy family. My family and I left Pakistan in mid-1964 and I spent the next two years as associate director of the Peace Corps, responsible for selection, training and volunteer support.

Obviously, my Wesleyan education did not cover Pakistan — in fact there was no Pakistan until 1947 and I was not paying much attention to Pakistani/India issues at that time. I was, however, delving into history (both U.S. and world), government & social sciences and French. I also remember having to take a science course, which turned out to be chemistry, which I somehow survived.

What Wesleyan did do was to help me develop and retain my interest in what was going on in the world despite three years of necessary focus on legal issues at Harvard Law School. If that were not the case, I could well have spent the rest of my career as a U.S. business lawyer. I don’t mean to say that there is anything wrong with being a business lawyer. In fact, I became one again in Boston in 1983, but focused on international business. While a partner with Palmer & Dodge (now Edwards Wildman Palmer) in 1988 and using my international legal contacts, I founded and was the first president of the World Law Group, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year with some 52 firms, 15,500 lawyers and 300 offices worldwide.