It was 47 years ago that Up with People, a non-sectarian, non-political nonprofit with an emphasis on cultural education and service throughout the globe, was founded.
This month, the Friends of the University of Arizona Libraries is hosting a gala dinner to launch the Up with People Archive Project, bringing the youth organization's history to life where its roots began – in Tucson.
The March 16, 6-9:30 p.m. gala will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the UA Student Memorial Center, 1303 E. University Blvd. Information for reservations and tickets, which are required to attend, is available online.
With more than 1,000 alumni from Arizona and 1,600 host families in Tucson alone, the event, Arizona is Up with People, coincides with Arizona centennial activites, which have been occuring throughout the state.
The event will include entertainment, featuring an international cast of Up with People, along with special guest performers. Proceeds will support the UA Libraries Up with People Archive project.
The project itself is an effort to continue developing a living archive to showcase the contributions and global impact of Up with People. Among other things, the effort will include a digital preservation initiative and an effort to collect additional materials and oral histories from alumni and host families.
Building on a 25 year history with Up with People, the UA served as a staging and orientation ground for thousands of international student participants who traveled in the global service and music program before moving its headquarters to Denver in 1993.
In 2009, the UA Libraries acquired the organizational papers of the global youth performance and cultural exchange group Up with People.
It was then that Blanton Belk, the organization's founder and chairman emeritus, donated his personal papers to the UA's Special Collections, which also holds the papers of his wife, Betty Belk.
"Let me emphasize again how honored we are to be the site of the archives," said Dean of University Libraries Carla J. Stoffle.
Special Collections at the UA Libraries also is the repository for the Up with People Archive and the archives of the Up with People International Alumni Association.
All told, the archives – with some materials in at least four different languages – include a vast array of photographs, print publications, records, musical scores and musical arrangements, programs, bumper stickers, videos and costumes.
"We believe we have great possibilities for keeping the ideals and contributions of the Up with People program alive and in reach of broader audiences, including the scholarly community, where research and teaching will be enhanced by those resources," Stoffle said.
With encouragement of such individuals as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and De Witt Wallace, founder of Reader's Digest, Belk incorporated Up with People in 1968.
Belk also built a board of directors whose members were such notables as Apollo 17 Captain Eugene Cernan, Olympian Jessie Owens and his wife, Ruth Owens, Toyota Chairman Dr. Toyoda, and businessman Peter Coors.
Today, the organization exists to spark people to action in meeting the needs of their communities, countries and the world while building bridges of understanding as a foundation for world peace.
Today, 22,000 alumni span the globe in more than 100 countries with a community service reach of millions in 38 countries and every state in the U.S.
UA President Eugene G. Sander described Up with People as "an important international organization that effectively promotes understanding between cultures and international relationships through education and entertainment."
Sander added: "The University of Arizona considers music, performing arts, international experience and the development of global perspective to be fundamental aspects of the preparation of university students for roles in contemporary society."