College of Environmental Design alumnus Paul Vitale (MCP ‘63) and his wife Kathleen Vitale (BA Art Practice ‘61) are this year’s winners of the United States Agency for International Development Alumni Association’s (UAA) Alumni of the Year award in the international category, a first for a USAID couple.
Both Vitales have worked together to document traditional hand-woven Mayan textiles, saving the weaving techniques threatened with extinction in war-torn Guatemala. In 2001, the couple inherited a collection of hand-woven textiles from Kathleen’s mother, which led them to travel to remote and dangerous areas of Guatemala to record the disappearing skills and products of traditional Mayan weavers. Their NGO, “Endangered Threads Documentaries,” promotes the videos they have made on these weavers, publicizes their traditional weaving techniques and raises funds to cover costs. Their work has been recognized by the American Association of Anthropology and has shown at museums across the Bay Area and United States.
Paul and Kathleen’s international work began when they both volunteered for the Peace Corps in 1963 after their time at UC Berkeley. Paul’s degree in city planning led him to work in community development in Ecuador and self-help housing in Peru. Kathleen’s background in art history led her to work with local Peruvian artisans. A 25-year USAID career followed for Paul, where he focused on urban and community development in Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Washington.