Champions of Social Justice

Grace Claxton
Harold Vaughn

Harold Vaughn, Ph.D., B.A.’50, M.A.’56

By Nick Muscavage, B.A.‘16

At UAlbany’s predecessor institution, the New York State College for Teachers (NYSCT), social-studies major Harold Vaughn was known as Sparky – a name that stuck, he surmises, because of his athleticism. But more recently, he has lived up to his nickname by sparking global interest in addressing the issue of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

The great-grandfather of 14 gives the impression that he’s unstoppable. Vaughn spent 25 years as director of International Programs Abroad at Syracuse University, where he earned his doctorate, and another 10 as associate vice chancellor of Academic Affairs at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. His impressive career also includes experience in international education with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

As he turns 90 Sept. 16, Vaughn has taken on a new commitment: spearheading a Rotary Club International project to rehabilitate victims of human trafficking. “It is a global problem,” the Washington, D.C., resident notes. “We’re talking about women and girls who need to begin by regaining their self-respect through a basic-survival training program, and then the training to be able to make a living.”

The project will focus on refugees who are from Southeast Asian countries and living in Thai shelters while awaiting repatriation. “Like refugees everywhere, they are not always welcomed,” says Vaughn. Outreach to victims in Laos and Shan State, Burma, is also planned, with program participants taught survival, employment and manufacturing skills. Eventually, it is anticipated, some will operate their own businesses.

The pilot project was organized by the Rotary Club of Washington, D.C., with its counterpart in Bangkok acting as the host. “We are now looking at a $300,000 two-year budget,” Vaughn explains, adding that one financial variable centers on “the amount of psychological support we need to provide and how to provide it.”

Vaughn is raising funds for the project. He observes: “Trafficking in vulnerable women and girls is evil. Confronting it is not easy. We really have to work on this.”